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Retaining Wall Cost Considerations

Friday, June 11th, 2010

© Clint Pino, Cornerstone Retaining Walls, Inc.

“How much does a retaining wall cost?”  It’s a question I get asked often, but there’s no cut and dried answer.  Due to the fact that there are so many variables in retaining wall construction, it is impossible to quote a “one size fits all” price.  Every situation is unique and every retaining wall is different.

Let’s take a look at the various factors that determine what a retaining wall will cost.


Some of the most popular materials used to build retaining walls are timber, modular block and natural stone.  Each varies greatly in price, depending on the size, the style, and the source or the manufacturer.  One thing to keep in mind is that – while one material may be cheaper than the others – it may actually cost more in labor to install.

Most retaining walls require the use of drain pipes and backfill materials, such as crushed rock or gravel.  In certain situations, soil may need to be brought in.

Grid or tiebacks should be utilized in retaining walls taller than 3 feet to add stability and strength.  Cement, glue, clips, pins or nails may be also needed for added reinforcement.

Machinery and Labor Costs

Excavation – Most retaining walls will require some sort of excavation, either by hand or by machine.  A trench needs to be dug in order to bury the first course of the wall below ground level.  For tall retaining walls, additional courses may need to be buried to help keep the wall stable and secure.  Those walls will require more extensive excavation.

Compaction – Every so often, the backfill of the retaining wall needs to be compacted.  This stabilizes the wall and helps prevent it from shifting.  Compaction is best done with a machine called a compactor.

Labor – As a general rule, natural stone retaining walls cost more to build than timber and modular block walls.  This is due to the time and effort it takes to fit random pieces of stone together and properly set back the wall.  Modular block takes less time as the block is manufactured to fit together and the set back is often built in.

Other Cost Considerations

Tiered retaining walls or walls that integrate pillars, steps or curves will incur higher labor costs because they are more time intensive to build.

Building permits may be required by your city or county.  Certain circumstances, such as a wall exceeding a certain height or a retaining wall designed to support a driveway, may require engineering.

Access also needs to be taken into consideration.  A building site where materials can easily be delivered and moved around by machinery will cost less than a site where materials need to be transported in with a wheelbarrow.

Retaining Wall Cost Quote

As you can see, a multitude of factors determine the cost of a retaining wall.  When you receive a quote, make sure that the builder has taken all the above variables into consideration.  Doing so will help ensure that there are no surprises when the bill arrives.

Cornerstone Retaining Walls, Inc. is located in Evergreen, CO.  You can get more information at or call Clint at 303-564-4175.