Planning a Retaining Wall: What’s Best For Your Home

The knowledge you need to be a better homeowner. When choosing blocks for a retaining wall, some types of block allow more options.

When you’re choosing concrete block for a retaining wall, keep in mind that some types of block allow more design options than others. There are two key differences:

  • Some block systems allow graceful curves, even tight curves. Others allow only large-radius curves—or no curves at all.
  •  Some systems include a variety of options such as capstones to top off the walls, blocks intended for above-ground “seating” walls, matching stair blocks or patio pavers. Others primarily offer plain blocks.

Designing a wall and selecting block can get complicated. To start, snap a few photos of the wall site and sketch a rough plan. Then visit a garden center that specializes in hardscaping. That’s where you’ll get the best advice and widest selection. Most stores have several types of block on display. Be prepared for huge cost differences. Some block systems cost as little as $4 per sq. ft. of wall surface. Others, depending on the features you choose, can cost $20 or more.


retaining wall landscaping patio concrete brickFamily Handyman

Ashlar walls contain blocks of different sizes, shapes and sometimes, colors. These blocks were tumbled, which breaks off the sharp edges.


retaining wall brickFamily Handyman

Blocks of a single size and shape are easier to work with than ashlar blocks. This is “straight face” block, but tumbled is available too.


split blocks retaining wallFamily Handyman

Because the corners are split off, these blocks are best for tight curves. They’re easy to stack and usually less expensive. Not every project has to be big (or extremely expensive) to add value to your home. These 14 done-in-a-weekend projects, for example, are high in return.

Popular Videos