How Much Does Installing A Retaining Wall Cost? (2023)

A retaining wall holds back an embankment of soil from an adjacent lower area. Retaining walls control erosion and create flat areas for use. Masonry, wood and stone are the most popular retaining walls because of their cost-effectiveness, availability and ease of installation.


THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

Compare Quotes From Top-rated Local Contractors

Free, No-commitment Estimates

On average, building a retaining wall costs $23 per square foot. For the more budget-conscious, retaining wall prices average at $19 per square foot. On the upper end, retaining wall costs are around $50 per square foot.

Average Retaining Wall Cost

Materials Cost Per Square Foot
Average Cost$23
Highest Cost$50
Lowest Cost$19
* Costs per square foot

Retaining Wall Cost Per Square Foot

As with other building materials such as pavers or roofing, square footage is a convenient way to compare the cost of different types of retaining wall materials. The length of the retaining wall multiplied by its height helps you calculate its total square footage.

The height of the retaining wall is a major factor in determining the total cost of the retaining wall. Higher retaining walls become exponentially more costly, especially after they surpass permit and inspection limits.

For example, a retaining wall that is 50 feet long and two feet high is vastly different from another retaining wall that is 20 feet long but five feet high. Though both walls are 100 square feet, the first wall is so low that nearly any type of material can be used, even ordinary pressure-treated lumber. The second wall requires more robust materials such as large retaining wall blocks and may even require design plans reviewed by a structural engineer.

Retaining Wall Cost by Material Type

The type of materials used for the retaining wall is a two-tier factor in the overall cost of the retaining wall.

First, there is the cost of the materials alone. This cost is dependent on location, season, market variations and local building conventions. Natural stone is commonly found in the Pacific Northwest, the Northwest and the Northeast of the United States, so it is less expensive in those areas.

Second, the type of materials determines other factors such as the method of building, the need for deeper footers, labor force and more. Stone rockeries require cranes, which may entail crane rental and even costs to control traffic. Railroad ties, often permeated with toxic creosote, may require special permitting in some areas or may not even be allowed.

In some areas of the Midwest and Southwest, natural stone is not as common, so it must be shipped long distances. Not only that but there are fewer contractors and laborers who are familiar with the product in those areas.

Block Retaining Walls

Retaining block walls will cost $16 per square foot for the average professional installation. That’s $1,600 for a 100 square foot retaining wall—basic, with no extras and under four feet.

On the upper end of the scale, for larger 16-inch decorative blocks and for extras like cap pavers and wall curves, expect to pay up to $30 per square foot. Averaged out, retaining wall blocks cost about $23 per square foot.

Wood Retaining Walls

For wood retaining walls, you can expect to pay between $16 and $28 per square foot for a professionally installed wall. Taking on the job by yourself can bring the cost down to as low as $10 per square foot. On the whole, wood retaining walls cost about $19 per square foot.

Natural Stone Retaining Walls

Depending on the type of stone used and the distance from the property to the supplier or quarry, natural stone retaining walls can cost from $25 to $75 per square foot. On the average, natural stone retaining walls cost about $50 per square foot.

Steel or Metal Retaining Walls

Steel or metal retaining walls may be your best bet for a durable and resilient retaining wall. A steel or metal retaining wall typically starts at$65 per square footand could go up to$150 per square foot, depending on the metal or steel type. For instance, a COR-TEN® steel retaining wall costs$35 to $135 per square foot,an I-beam retaining wall costs$35 to $150 per square footand a sheet-piling retaining wall costs$15 to $50 per square foot.

Type of Retaining Wall MaterialCost Per Square Foot
Retaining Wall Block$16 - $30
Wood$10 - $28
Natural Stone$25 - $75

Retaining Wall Block Costs

Retaining wall block has become one of the most popular types of materials to build retaining walls. With its front lip and tipped back profile, it is one of the few materials designed expressly for retaining walls.

Retaining wall block will not degrade, nor does it require much in the way of maintenance other than occasional cleaning. Also, the masonry materials in retaining wall block are inexpensive to source and to produce. The greatest cost of retaining wall block is shipping since it is so heavy.

Larger size decorative retaining wall blocks are more expensive than smaller blocks. Large blocks are capable of holding back more soil and can be built higher. Not only that, their faces can be textured for decorative purposes.

The cost of the retaining wall block forms the majority of the total cost of the retaining wall. Decorative 17-inch block costs about $570 per pallet, which covers nearly 35 square feet of wall face: about $12 per block.

On the lower end of pricing, plain gray concrete retaining wall block, also 17 inches, can cost about four times less than decorative block: as little as $3.40 per block.

Retaining Wall Labor Cost

Along with the cost of materials, the second half of the pricing equation—and sometimes the most important half—is the cost of labor to build the retaining wall.

Generally, contractors will provide you with a quote that includes labor. Labor to build a retaining wall costs from $50 to $75 per hour. If the project requires consultation with a structural engineer, hourly charges range from $100 to $200 per hour.

Labor costs for building retaining walls vary according to the type of wall, season and the current demand for labor.

Masonry retaining block and wood retaining walls can employ some unskilled and semi-skilled workers for hauling gravel, digging out footers and carrying blocks. Wood retaining wall projects, too, are often driven by skilled workers who can oversee less skilled, inexpensive laborers.

Setting rockery walls that are safe and aesthetically pleasing is an art form as much as it is a trade, and this is best left in the hands of skilled, higher-paid workers.

Factors That Affect the Cost of a Retaining Wall

Like with any home improvement project, building a retaining wall’s overall cost will depend on several factors, such as:

Size and Length

The size of your retaining wall is the most significant factor affecting the overall cost. Depending on the retaining wall’s height, length and width, the cost can range anywhere from$40 to $345 per linear foot.


When building a retaining wall, it’s essential to consider the terrain and soil composition of the land. For instance, a retaining wall will be more challenging if your property has uneven terrain, increasing labor costs by 50% or more.


The cost of installing a retaining wall depends on which material you choose. For instance, budget-friendly and lightweight materials like vinyl cost$5 to$10 per linear foot,while high-end materials like steel or natural stone can cost anywhere from$15 to$150 per linear foot.


The labor required to build a retaining wall can be extensive. Therefore, labor costs can quickly add up. Depending on the project’s complexity, the wall’s size and material type, labor costs can range from$15 to $40per square foot. However, on average, most contractors charge between$50 and $75 per hour.


Considering a retaining wall is meant to stop erosion and facilitate drainage, proper drainage is vital to extending its lifespan. Whether your contractor uses drainage pipes, gravel and weep holes or a criblock design, ensuring proper drainage at the time of installation will help prevent the need for expensive repairs.

If your existing retaining wall is experiencing drainage issues, you can expect to pay anywhere between$80 and $120 per linear square footfor excavation to correct the problem.

Soil Type

The soil type on your land is another critical factor calculated in your retaining wall estimate, primarily because some retaining walls work better in certain soil types than others. For instance, if your soil is more clay-like, it will not be able to support the weight of heavier retaining wall materials. If your property has a rocky terrain, preliminary work may be required to clear it, or extra work may be required to dig through it and compact it. Therefore, the more labor required, the more the price of the retaining wall will increase.

Additional Costs and Considerations

The cost of retaining walls can vary greatly, depending on how long the wall is and how difficult it is to construct. Therefore, you should contact several contractors before deciding which one to hire. However, here are some additional considerations when pricing out a retaining wall installation:

Time of Year

While retaining walls can be installed at any time of the year, it may cost more for construction and labor costs to dig below the frost line when the ground is frozen. If possible, schedule a site visit during the spring or fall months so a contractor can assess your project and provide a quote before it’s too cold in your area.


Retaining walls are tricky structures that need to be built and waterproofed correctly. When water seeps between the wall joints, it can cause structural damage and eventually lead to serious problems. Even though waterproofing typically costs between$2 and $10 per square foot,it’s necessary to ensure longevity.


If you’re considering building a retaining wall in your yard, be sure to check your local regulations before doing so. In many areas, a permit is required if the wall is over 3 or 4 feet tall. Plus, permits can be an additional cost, ranging from $50 to $450.

Benefits of Installing a Retaining Wall

Building a retaining wall is often an excellent investment, as it can provide many advantages. They can be used to stop erosion, prevent landslides, stabilize hilly landscapes, provide flood control, add functional space to your yard and increase the overall value of your home.

Yard Expansion

Sloping or hilly land can be an eye-catching addition to your property, but the challenges of designing and maintaining a natural landscape can be overwhelming. By creating a retaining wall or series of walls, you can transform your landscape into a flat area that can be used as a garden or patio.

Curb Appeal

Your yard is a great space to invest in, and a retaining wall will allow you to utilize the space with stunning results. Whether you’re looking for a small area for seating or want something that also functions as an additional structural feature outside the home, retaining walls can increase the value of your home by up to 15%.

Stops Erosion

Retaining walls can be used for many purposes, including keeping sloping land in good condition. They can help prevent soil erosion by acting as a visual barrier and are often used to build up the area around septic tanks.

Creates Water Barrier

Retaining walls are a popular feature in your yard to help with water management. A retaining wall can prevent erosion and hold back the water if your home is near a shoreline or body of water and requires additional protection. Also, if you have storm water that tends to pool around your home’s foundation, a retaining wall can catch it and equalize the height of your yard.

When to Install a Retaining Wall

Install a retaining wall when a slope is encroaching on your property and you need to carve out space for a patio, pool, addition or any other area that requires flat level ground.

Soil slopes that exceed 35 degrees can become unstable and dangerous and need to be retained. This depends on the type of soil that you have.

Retaining walls can be built at nearly any time of the year, in nearly any climatic condition. If the ground is frozen, it can be difficult to dig to reach below the frost line.

Bottom Line

The type of retaining wall that you choose depends as much on your needs as on your budget. If you need to replace a retaining wall that is in danger of falling down or if you have a slope dangerously encroaching on your property, building a functional, safe retaining wall of any type is critical.

But if you are undertaking an elective home improvement project, you may want to make a decision based on the appearance of the wall and on your budget. Walls that are low enough can even be built by do-it-yourselfers.

To arrive at the average costs in this article, editorial team members surveyed a range of providers on national and local levels. All averaged figures were correct at the time of publication and may be subject to change.


THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

Compare Quotes From Top-rated Local Contractors

Free, No-commitment Estimates

Your Home. Your Decisions. Our Support.

Get expert advice on your home, design tips, how much to pay for pros and hiring experts, delivered to you daily.

Thanks & Welcome to the Forbes Home Improvement Community!

{{ newsletterState.emailErrorMsg }}

I agree to receive the Forbes Home newsletter via e-mail. Please see our Privacy Policy for more information and details on how to opt out.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Madonna Wisozk

Last Updated: 15/12/2023

Views: 6001

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (68 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Madonna Wisozk

Birthday: 2001-02-23

Address: 656 Gerhold Summit, Sidneyberg, FL 78179-2512

Phone: +6742282696652

Job: Customer Banking Liaison

Hobby: Flower arranging, Yo-yoing, Tai chi, Rowing, Macrame, Urban exploration, Knife making

Introduction: My name is Madonna Wisozk, I am a attractive, healthy, thoughtful, faithful, open, vivacious, zany person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.