Done right, they can also become an outdoor design feature by helping to foster flow, house greenery or create rooms in a landscape. With the right materials and finish, a retaining wall will become seamlessly integrated into the garden.

Before you build a retaining wall

Consider the following:

  • Are permits or drawings from a structural engineer required?
  • Do you need concrete footings?
  • Is the soil compact?
  • Is there an efficient drainage system?
  • Have you ensured that the substrate/wall is suitable for cladding?
  • Have you chosen a durable finish for external use?

Popular types of retaining walls

There are a variety of different retaining walls. In this guide, we look at three of the most popular: natural stone, concrete and timber. Considering these will help you decide which will best fit your garden.

Natural stone retaining walls

Retaining Walls Stone 01
Retaining wall clad in Roda Linear Walling by Lexis Design

This is arguably the most attractive option, blending seamlessly with the landscape. There is a wide choice of stone types, enabling you to select a material that best suits your architecture and outdoor space.

You can also choose natural split stone pieces or cladding a substrate in linear walling or stone wall panels. Natural stone can be clad on various walls such as brick or concrete. While more costly, we believe the end result is unrivalled. You could opt for an organic look using stone such as Crackenback® Free Form, or an an aged, elegant feel with Clancy™ Random Ashlar.

Concrete Retaining Walls

Byron Bean Bags
Rendered concrete retaining wall with Byron Bean Bags

Concrete retaining walls can be built from blocks or poured concrete, which are both highly durable and less expensive than stone. Concrete bricks can start as little as $3.00 or up to $25.00 for an interlocking system.

While concrete retaining walls can be left in their natural state, a finish will integrate the structural element well into the garden setting. You can render concrete in a smooth or textured finish in various colours to create a modern appearance. For an aged, textural look, the material can be painted and products such as Bauwerk Colour Lime Wash Paint or Porters Paints Liquid Zinc can be very effective. Alternatively, a concrete wall can be built with a material like timber that will leave a textural impression or clad with stone.

Timber Retaining Walls

Retaining Walls Timber
Stained timber retaining wall by Harrison’s Landscaping in collaboration with Hare + Klein

Timber retaining walls are popular for the material’s natural beauty and cost effectiveness. It’s also ideal for those who prefer DIY, as it can be efficiently installed using just a few tools.

Timber can be a gorgeous material in the garden. However, to last long it must be treated properly for outdoor use. Treated pine, timber sleepers or hardwood are most ideal for retaining wall applications. Timber sleepers can last up to 20 years, but all timber will rot eventually. It also isn’t as strong as a masonry built stone or concrete wall, but can be just as beautiful.

Feature image: Clancy™ Random Ashlar retaining walls by Outdoor Establishments.