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5 Advantages of Using Modular Block for Your Retaining Wall

Friday, January 8th, 2010

© Clint Pino, Cornerstone Retaining Walls, Inc.

Most people think of retaining walls as a functional way to retain soil.  In truth, retaining walls have a myriad of uses.  From a visual standpoint, retaining walls add beauty and visual interest.  From a practical standpoint, retaining walls help control erosion and create more usable space.

However, not all retaining walls are created equal.  Modular block retaining walls, also known as segmental retaining walls, have several added advantages over other material, such as natural stone or timber.  Let’s take a look at them.

1. Options, Options, Options

Once upon a time using modular block for your retaining wall meant you had one choice – a uniform gray block that looked like concrete.  Luckily, those days are gone forever.  Retaining wall block now comes in a wide variety of shapes, colors, sizes, textures and patterns.

Modular block can now replicate the beauty of natural stone or duplicate the look of brick or cobblestone.  The creative block designs and patterns can help you achieve almost any look you desire.  Rustic, old world, classic and antique are a few popular styles.

2. Ease of Installation

One of the most highlighted advantages of using modular block is the ease of installation.  Since the blocks are specifically manufactured to fit together, building the wall is often as easy as stacking one block on top of the other.

In comparison, natural stone or rock retaining walls require the time consuming effort of trying to fit random pieces together.  This makes them highly labor-intensive and costly to install.

Another advantage of retaining wall block is that many designs automatically setback when stacked.  (A setback adds a slight inward slant to the wall which helps to reinforce it.  It is also known as the batter of the retaining wall.)  This built-in system eliminates the time and guesswork needed to properly setback rock or natural stone retaining walls.

3. Easily Integrated

Block can be chosen to compliment your other hardscape material such as pavers and brick.  In addition, retaining wall block can be used to create other beautiful landscape features such as planters, steps, pillars and patio enclosures.

4. Environmentally Friendly

Simply stated, retaining wall block is not chemically-treated and will not harm the environment.  Timber, in turn, has lost its popularity due to the chemicals it releases into the ground which can be harmful to the surrounding vegetation.

5. Long Lasting

It’s been said that the Great Wall of China was built utilizing some of the same methods that are used to build segmental retaining walls today.  Therefore, a well-built segmental retaining wall has the potential to last hundreds of years.  Compare this to the average life span of 15 to 20 years for timber retaining walls and it is easy to see why block is the better choice.

Regardless of what material you choose, the use of a solid foundation, appropriate backfill, proper drainage and good compaction will all contribute towards a retaining wall that will be around for you to enjoy for many, many years.

Cornerstone Retaining Walls, Inc. is located in Evergreen, CO.  Paver installation is now offered in addition to retaining wall construction.  View pictures and get more information at or call Clint at 303-564-4175.