10 Retaining Wall Ideas and Designs

Updated: Apr. 21, 2024

Retaining walls can level a sloped yard, prevent erosion and look beautiful! Check out these distinctive retaining wall ideas.

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Wood Retaining Wall

The beautiful color of this cedar wood retaining wall by @tedmade.woodwork shows off the plants on both sides. A wood retaining wall is a more cost-effective choice than stone or concrete, but lacks the same longevity. The biggest concern is water, which will rot the wood if you don’t take the proper precautions. Use waterproof sheeting and gravel backfill to ensure proper drainage.

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Living Retaining Wall

While not a traditional retaining wall, this planted boulder erosion control incline, professionally installed by Rock Walls of Melbourne, Australia, blends in seamlessly with the rest of the backyard landscape.

The wall is made of large stacked basalt boulders, with trailing greenery interspersed to bring it to life. You might not have boulder-moving equipment handy, but consider adding climbing plants to an existing wall for a similar look.

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Concrete Railroad Tie Retaining Wall

Love the look of wood but prefer the strength of concrete? Consider concrete railroad ties. This retaining wall by @modern.landscape.solutions features precast concrete blocks that resemble timber railroad ties. A rustic look without the risk of wood rot — the best of both worlds.

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Steel Retaining Wall

Multiple layers created with steel retaining walls make this modern front yard landscape by @octopusgardendesign even more stunning. Steel is a great choice not only for its sleek look, but because it usually doesn’t require digging out foundations. That makes it easier to install than concrete or heavy-duty wood walls.

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Sandstone Block Retaining Wall

The color and tone variations in this sandstone block wall by @outsideindulgence_landscaping prove you can’t beat the look of natural materials. This example is a professional installation with chic copper lights. But for a DIY approach, you can buy sandstone blocks from a landscape supplier and build a wall using this stacking technique, along with landscape fabric and leveling pea gravel.

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Faux Stone Block Retaining Wall

Here’s a retaining wall made by @blueisle out of concrete blocks that look like stone. Retaining walls help create more usable flat space in a sloped yard, and concrete materials ensure it’s built to last. Building a block wall yourself isn’t exactly easy, but the steps are straightforward. Just be ready for some heavy lifting.

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Rectangular Boulder Retaining Wall

A gorgeous boulder retaining wall connects the upper and lower patios in this outdoor space by @newnature93. A wall made from natural stone has an organic look that makes it feel like it was always meant to be part of your yard. Often, local stone suppliers stock rectangular stackable boulders that are perfect for retaining wall projects.

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Wet Stack Boulder Retaining Wall

Although rectangular boulders allow for easy stacking, you can also make a retaining wall with round boulders via a wet stack technique, i.e. binding the stones together with mortar.

Two large boulders became end pieces in this beauty of a wall by @ranch_revival, with round boulders wet-stacked with Type-S mortar. To finish the look, they created a flat cap with steel-reinforced dyed concrete.

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Paver Retaining Wall

Pavers are a great choice for a retaining wall because of the many color options, and they’re easy to find; several types are available at most home supply stores. This professional example by @paversolutions includes an impressive running water feature. Here’s how to build a simple retaining wall with pavers, as well as a circular patio.

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Geometric Painted Retaining Wall

If your existing retaining wall needs a face lift, do like @jasmine_bible design and grab a gallon of paint. She transformed her tired timber walls into a modern focal point with black paint. Using painter’s tape, she created a fresh geometric design that’s anything but boring.

Feeling inspired? Just be sure to use exterior paint to ensure fade resistance and protection from the elements.