Retaining Walls

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From flower-filled terraces to an elegant border around the pool, retaining walls can do wonders for landscaping efforts while providing valuable erosion control. They serve various purposes and can add a sophisticated touch to yards and roadsides alike. At Nitterhouse Masonry Products, we have a wide range of supplies available to help you build the ideal retaining wall, whether that’s for your yard or a client’s.

Let’s take a look at the basics of retaining walls and how they can make a significant difference in your yard or your next project.

What Does a Retaining Wall Do?

A retaining wall has a crucial role to play. It can have a strictly functional capacity — to keep soil in place — or a more aesthetic one, shaping and adding visual interest to a yard. These walls stabilize the steep grades in a landscape by holding the soil in place. Retaining walls often fulfill the purpose of keeping erosion at bay, but many people choose to create terraced yards and planting beds, shaping beautiful landscapes with more usable areas.

The side of a retaining wall facing a hill gets completely covered with soil to the top of the wall. On the other side, the ground is level with the wall’s base. You can learn more about the different types of retaining walls and the basics of how they work in our tips and advice section.

There is also a critical distinction to make between engineered retaining walls and non-engineered walls. While they may seem simple, retaining walls are intricate structures that have to stand up to the effects of gravity at all times. To prevent wall failure and any potential damages or injuries that could occur, always have a retaining wall engineered and installed by a licensed contractor. In some instances, such as walls higher than four feet or walls around parking lots, you’ll need a licensed engineer, too.

Retaining Wall Façades

The retaining wall’s purpose and setting influence the materials used to build it. Fortunately, there are many different options.

  • Concrete retaining wall blocks: Engineered retaining wall blocks, often made of concrete, offer strength and durability, along with speedy assembly. The retaining wall blocks stack up neatly with interlocking edges and allow for fastening with pins or clips. They have consistent and even sizing, helping them look professional and well-built. Plus, they come in a wide range of shapes, textures and colors to support various designs. These versatile blocks are an excellent choice for retaining walls in nearly any setting.
  • Bricks: Bricks for retaining walls lend a cozy, rustic appearance with a few different installation options. The most common method is to create a “core” of concrete masonry unit blocks surrounded by a brick veneer that can vary in thickness. Brick comes in a wide range of styles and colors, so a brick retaining wall can take on various appearances, from the classic red brick with white mortar to dark gray bricks with gray mortar.
  • Natural stone: Natural stone provides a unique look that varies based on the stone chosen. Materials like limestone and sandstone can appear elegant and refined, but something like river rock creates a more casual appearance. Natural stones take longer to install because of the need to find tight-fitting stones that offer stability. Securing these stones with mortar creates a durable connection. A natural stone retaining wall can add a very earthy feel and make your retaining wall feel like part of the environment.
  • Wood and timber: Timber makes for a natural, rustic and cost-effective retaining wall, though it won’t last nearly as long as masonry walls. Landscape timbers typically come in eight-foot-long pieces held in place with long spikes or screws. When using them for a retaining wall, you’ll need to ensure they have the appropriate treatment rating of at least UC4 for ground contact. Any cut ends will also need a preservative seal. Treated wood adds protection from rot, deterioration and destructive insects.

Each option has its place, and your preferences and the wall’s purpose will determine which is best. If you’re still not sure, ask a contractor or landscaper. They’re usually knowledgeable on what’s trending in your area and can help you figure out which one might look best for your unique space.

Estimating Costs of Retaining Walls

To figure the cost of your retaining wall, you’ll have to consider a few different aspects of your setup. The average cost is between about $3,000 and $8,500, or $20 to $60 per square foot, but many factors will affect the price:

  • Materials
  • Leveling and grading required
  • Wall size
  • Labor fees
  • Equipment costs
  • Design and architectural services
  • Water drainage systems
  • Reinforcements required

Your retaining wall’s setting can make a considerable difference in cost. The extent of leveling needed and the possibility of reinforcements will add to the price. Reinforcements might be necessary in earthquake-prone areas or walls that may need to support foot traffic, such as an outdoor gathering area.

Size is another significant factor in pricing. To get an idea of how much your retaining wall will cost, grab your tape measure and measure the length and height of the area you want to place the wall. Add half a foot to your height measurement to account for footers placed underground, which are necessary for some larger walls. Then, multiply the height and length measurement for your total square footage.

When figuring out your cost, keep in mind that retaining walls offer an excellent return on investment, as landscaping contributes significantly to curb appeal. According to a study by the National Association of Realtors, professionals estimate homeowners can recoup 83% of a landscaping upgrade’s value when selling the home.

Nitterhouse Masonry’s Retaining Wall Products

The material you choose can make or break the appearance of a retaining wall, which is why Nitterhouse Masonry offers a wide range of beautiful and functional retaining wall products, many of which are Allan Block products. Allan Block uses segmental and mortarless blocks with built-in engineering for straightforward construction without the need for footers. This trusted, cost-saving brand has a variety of blocks available and comes in many gorgeous finishes. Other products we carry include anchoring systems and reinforcement fabric, also from reliable manufacturers.

Whichever type of product you choose, know that you’re getting the benefit of Nitterhouse Masonry’s extensive expertise and customer service.

Allan Block Classic Retaining Wall Collection

For a timeless, sophisticated appearance, look no further than the reliable and clean AB Classic Retaining Wall blocks. Like many of our AB blocks, they come in a wide range of colors and block shapes, with seven beautiful blends of deep red, cool and light grays and warm tans.

Allan Block Fence Collection

The AB Fence collection includes post and panel blocks, along with wall and column caps. This mortarless, two-sided fence system also doubles as an ideal retaining wall material with a refined, crisp appearance. It offers a sturdy, classic look and is available in a warm earthen blend and a cool gray limestone blend.

Forix Block

Forix blocks are a type of engineered precast modular block with an 18-by-46-inch face and depth options of three or six feet. They’re hefty in size but lightweight for lower manufacturing and freight costs. Their triangular geometry creates an arching effect with the stone backfill, adding downward pressure that helps keep the block units in place. Multiple block options allow for a wall that turns on a radius or takes a sharper 90-degree corner. The blocks also provide free draining and stone infill.

One of the benefits of Forix blocks is that they allow you to design a wall that’s taller than conventional gravity height walls with the help of a GeoGrid reinforcement. You can use these units with or without caps, and they have automatic vertical alignment control through lugs on the bottoms.

Allan Block Aztec Collection

For a sophisticated, Peruvian-inspired design, the AB Aztec collection of blocks offers a fresh, sleek look. They come in a darker limestone blend and a warmer sandstone blend. These blocks have a smooth, molded face for a subtle, unique appearance.

Sleeve-It

The Sleeve-It system is a rail integration device that offers easy compliance with building codes by providing a fencepost anchoring system for retaining walls. The simple design creates stable fence footings in the wall and increases usable real estate atop the wall. Sleeve-It is also excellent for shortening construction time when creating walls with summit fencing.

The steps for installation are pretty straightforward and start with placing the cantilevered units near the elevation of the top of the wall. Then, fill and compact the soil up to the top of the sleeve and cover it with the lid. The fencepost installer can remove the lid when they’re ready to install the post and fill the sleeve with concrete. If you’re working with segmented retaining walls, Sleeve-It eliminates the need for a three-foot offset for rails and fences added after construction.

GeoGrid Fabric

The GeoGrid reinforcement fabric from Strata offers an eco-friendly, affordable and easy-to-install solution for supporting your retaining wall. This bidirectional and synthetic polyester mesh has exceptional strength and a flexible build. It comes in four-foot by 40-foot rolls and is ideal for walls higher than three feet tall. Durability comes standard, as this fabric can withstand the laborious installation process and aggressive soil environments.

It’s appropriate to use GeoGrid fabric in the following circumstances:

  • When the wall slopes.
  • If there are downward pressures imposed above the wall.
  • When the retaining wall’s purpose is to create additional usable space.
  • For retaining walls used to hold the soil around swimming pools.

Ecology Block

If you’re looking for an economical and eco-friendly alternative to traditional wall systems, our Ecology blocks consist of concrete with 5,000 pounds per square inch of strength. They have a groove in the bottom and a tongue on top for a firm and secure fit while stacking. They feature an attractive and paintable texture without sacrificing exceptional durability. Plus, it’s possible to dismantle and reuse the blocks when needed for an environmentally friendly solution.

Allan Block Europa Collection

The AB Europa Collection combines the elegant look of weathered stone with the versatility of modern retaining wall blocks. They come in various block styles for individual use or blended with AB Abbey Blend Pattern blocks. Color options include seven attractive blends. Use uniformly sized blocks for an evenly spaced wall or mix and match sizes for a more natural, hand-laid appearance.

Benefits of Retaining Walls

Retaining walls are an excellent addition to many homes and businesses, allowing the owners to accomplish a wide range of decorative and functional goals. With retaining walls, you can achieve the following.

  • Protect your property from erosion: If you have a steep slope or area of your property that’s at risk for erosion, a terrace or retaining wall is a great way to prevent it while adding curbside appeal. By reducing erosion issues, you can also prevent sinkholes from forming and keep your yard in top condition.
  • Add attractive yard features: Everyone wants to make their yard as beautiful and welcoming as possible. Terraces are a classy, attractive feature that looks great when paired with gardens and other decorative components.
  • Add functionality to your space: Whether you want to turn parts of your yard into a garden, outdoor gathering space or tiered walkway with steps for easier movement, a retaining wall can often help. These additions can significantly impact what you can do with your space, offering strength and beauty in one project. You can create much more usable space with more flat surfaces, suitable for everything from plants to patio furniture.
  • Prevent flooding: If your space is vulnerable to flooding, a retaining wall can also keep your yard protected from those effects. Ensure rising water levels don’t harm your garden and turf with a protective wall.
  • Minimize maintenance: One of the reasons homeowners like retaining walls is because they are virtually maintenance-free. There’s no need for mowing a tricky slope or fertilizing a lawn.
  • Raise your home’s value: Landscaping projects are an excellent way to boost your home’s value and curb appeal. Plus, you’re protecting your investment by reducing the chances of erosion, which could pose a significant challenge and costs down the road.

Whatever your reasons, retaining walls are a superior choice. If you’re looking to do it yourself, stick to walls underneath three feet. If your project will exceed that height, trust professional installers for the best results. And remember the value of high-quality materials — the right retaining wall products can be the difference between creating the wall you’ve pictured and one that falls flat.

Contact Nitterhouse Masonry Products for Retaining Wall Materials

Whether you’re building a retaining wall yourself or looking for the ideal materials for a project you’re hiring a contractor for, Nitterhouse Masonry has the products for the job. Our collection of Allan Block products, reinforcement solutions and other retaining wall materials make it easy to find the right items for your next project through a trusted partner.

Browse through our retaining wall products at the links above, and reach out to us if you have any questions!