What is a retaining wall?

Retaining walls are used to retain soil, land or structures. Retaining walls retain soil between different elevations where the landscape needs to be altered. A good base for retaining walls is made of compacted soil which is crucial for a solid retaining wall structure.

There are several different types of retaining walls from gravity retaining walls to segmental retaining walls. Now that you know what a retaining wall is, keep reading to learn more about the uses of retaining walls and how they work.


What do reinforced retaining walls do?

The overall purpose of a retaining wall is to hold soil behind them. However, they are also useful to prevent soil erosion and make flat areas on uneven land create. For example, the land you work on might be a hill that has been cut into, adding a retaining wall here can help level the land on your construction site.

There are different variations of retaining walls, all of which use different methods to retain soil. Some use the wall's own weight, while others rely on earth-bound anchors.

The design of the wall is impacted by different aspects including soil stability, stability of the wall, the strength of the wall, and potential damage to nearby structures due to the construction of the wall.


Different types of retaining walls

Retaining walls exist in many forms as they can be used for varying purposes. The cost of retaining walls will vary depending on the material used. There are four main types including Gravity, Piling wall, Cantilevered wall, and Anchored wall

  1. Gravity retaining walls hold back the soil using their weight and are mostly used on small slopes.
  2. Piling retaining walls utilise a long pole that is driven far into the ground to act as a support for the walls.
  3. Cantilever retaining walls are very similar to a gravity retaining wall however they also include a base slab that goes into the ground.
  4. Anchored retaining walls are often anchored to the soil which helps resist pressure and support the structure.


What are retaining walls made of?

There are several materials used to make retaining walls and each has its advantages and disadvantages. Common materials used to make retaining walls include:


A timber retaining wall is advantageous as it is aesthetically pleasing, allows for easy installation, can be made from environmentally friendly materials, and is cost-effective.

Timber is more perceptive to termites or rotting, it has a shorter lifespan, does not apply to complex or large projects, and is not flexible.

Wet or Dry Stone

Wet or dry stone is a popular choice as it allows for a more aesthetic look which might be better suited for some projects. It allows for a natural or mosaic look as it utilises various stones, shapes, and textures. This material is most commonly used in smaller spaces as opposed to large scale projects. It is durable as it does not contain mortar which causes cracking, and the retaining wall will not need pointing or rendering.

A disadvantage of this material is that to install this wall you would require a skilled tradesperson and the installation process is labour intensive resulting in an increased cost. Additionally, it is not a viable choice for large scale projects.


Brick is beneficial as it improves fire protection and is non-combustible. It also provides resistance against pests and weather. Installation of it is less expensive in terms of materials and labour in comparison to wood retaining walls.

Brick cannot be installed during heavy rain and intense cold conditions due to mortar being significantly impacted by the weather. Installation of this material calls for adequate planning and organisation. Plasterwork is needed towards the end of the installation which increases expenses.

Concrete blocks

There are three types of retaining walls: concrete block retaining walls, precast concrete panels, or poured concrete retaining walls. This is an optimal choice of material as it is able to secure large amounts of water and earth. It is also highly durable as it is rustproof, rotproof, and fireproof making it an excellent choice for those looking to build a retaining wall. Maintenance of the wall is easy as it only requires cleaning annually and is an eco-friendly option as concrete is non-toxic and includes a large percentage of natural substances.

A major limitation to this option is that it can only be constructed to a maximum height of four feet as it does not have a footing. The wall is also difficult to remove and must be designed to ensure effective support and adequate drainage.


Find the perfect retaining wall today

Evidently, retaining walls are an essential aspect of any project as they help create support for the structure to be created. From segmental retaining walls to a gravity wall the option really is endless.

However, if you aren't a retaining wall expert yourself then don't worry, you still have a couple of options that you can look into. Get in touch with our expert team at 1300 691 912, or projects@iseekplant.com.au with your specifications, or find an expert contractor yourself on iseekplant's marketplace.