The Ultimate Guide to Retaining Walls For Homeowners


  • Author Jay Gonzalez
  • Published May 29, 2021
  • Word count 631

Retaining walls are used in residential construction for a variety of reasons. They are a great way to add value and beauty to your home. They can help solve drainage problems, create usable outdoor space, and provide structure for your yard.

Retaining walls help keep earth back from the house, and can also be used to create specific outdoor living spaces like patios or gardens. So what is a retaining wall? A retaining wall is an engineered structure that holds back earth from your home.

Types of Retaining Walls

There are four types of retaining walls: gravity, piled, cantilevered, and anchored. These all have different pros and cons depending on the situation they're being used in.

Sloped Yards

A retaining wall in your sloped back yard is an extremely useful way to maximize the space you have while also improving its function. Retaining walls are usually built ahead of a slope, so that over time, the soil on the uphill side is compressed against it and builds up at a more or less even rate.

This helps prevent "spills" which can happen if there's too much loose dirt at lower angles behind the retaining wall. Terracing can be used as well for some occasional extra height, but doesn't come close to compensating for what a true retaining wall does.

Retaining walls don't just create usable backyard space (which is desirable for all kinds of reasons) - they actually protect your property from potential damage and erosion from rainwater.

Hire a Professional

The downside of building a retaining wall is that it's not always easy or cheap to do - you usually need some kind of professional contractor, digging equipment and know-how to get the job done properly. But if your property has an uneven slope which may be vulnerable (as in prone to slides) it's worth the investment.

Retaining walls should never be built without professional advice because poorly designed or constructed ones may fail prematurely due to lack of anchor points or not enough weighting material such as gravel behind them to hold them down.


There are many materials you can use to build them: wood, masonry block or brick as well as natural stones.

The most common type of residential retaining wall is built with concrete.

Construction Process

They are generally installed following these steps:

Check the local building code to make sure it's acceptable in your town.

-Provide a drainage or filtration system for erosion, rainwater, etc.

-Excavate and fill in the needed space with compactable material like gravel

-Lay out masonry blocks so that they're about half an inch apart and running from the bottom up

-Begin at one corner with mortaring up the first row of blocks about halfway with mortar, then finish off by filling in around them as you continue moving across until it's complete on both sides

-Cut and polish edges

Retaining walls should be able to withstand pressure from both sides and not tip over when there is an earthquake.

They also serve as a divider between the different outdoor living spaces that may exist in your yard such as patios and gardens.

A good retaining wall should be able to keep the earth from sliding or flowing down your property.

A professional contractor will take all of these things into consideration to ensure your retaining wall is structurally sound and durable.

Retaining walls are a great way to solve the challenge of maintaining an even grade for your property. It's important to know the different types of retaining walls and what each one is used for.

Gravity, cantilever, anchored are all options you can use in your residential project when deciding on a wall type. Consulting with a professional will ensure you select the best option for your particular needs.

Retaining Wall Pros of San Diego is a full service hardscaping company specializing in retaining walls. We serve the San Diego area and have been in business for over 10 years.

We are the one stop shop for all San Diego Retaining Walls. Whether you need to repair an old wall, build a new one or just want some advice on what will work best with your landscaping, we can help.

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