What is a concrete retaining wall?

This article aims to answer the question “what is a concrete retaining wall?”. It also aims to highlight the tools, materials and steps needed to build one. The article will also mention the pros and cons of concrete retaining walls.

What is a concrete retaining wall?

Concrete retaining walls are made of concrete blocks, useful for preventing erosion, eliminating a steep slope, creating a planting space, or levelling an ideal patio area.

In addition to being simple to set up and several colour and texture options, these systems are also competitively priced. In this post, you’ll learn how to put one together in only a few hours.

What tools do I need to build a concrete retaining wall?

  • Hammer
  • 4 ft. level
  • Block chisel
  • Brick tongs
  • Caulk gun
  • Shovel
  • Tamper
  • Tape measure
  • Transit
  • Trowel
  • Wheelbarrow

What materials do I need to build a concrete retaining wall?

  • Compactable gravel
  • Concrete adhesive
  • Concrete blocks
  • Crushed gravel
  • Sand

How to make a concrete retaining wall?

  1. The first step is to plan the layout of the walls.
  2. Grubbing is Ralston’s term for the process of removing existing vegetation, topsoil, and other material that may be obstructing buildings.
  3. The footings must be laid out and dug.
  4. The fourth step is to create shapes.
  5. To strengthen the structure, Ralston puts a rebar every sixteen inches on the centre.
  6. Pour the footings and the wall into the sixth stage of construction. In cases when the wall is taller than four feet, separate footings need to be laid.
  7. Allow the concrete to harden.
  8. Every 4-6 feet, place a contraction joint. When a joint is in a state of flexion, it is called a contraction joint.
  9. Install a drainage and waterproofing system after removing the forms.
  10. It’s time to put the finishing touches on the wall.
  11. Installing patios, stairs, and other hardscape features is also necessary.

Is it important to have a proper structural design for concrete retaining walls?

Yes, the structural design is equally as vital to building a retaining wall as proper proportioning. Construction-friendly proportions facilitate concrete laying and structural strengthening.

How thick should a concrete retaining wall be?

The thickness of concrete retaining walls is very important since the minimum reinforcement cover influences wall dimensions (usually member thickness). A few inches of additional thickness may be added to the wall’s measurements, depending on the severity of the exposure, the soil’s reactivity, etc.

For the appropriate placement of concrete, the top of the stem of anycast concrete retaining wall should not be less than 12 inches in height.

What is the ideal footing size for a concrete retaining wall?

A minimum of two feet should be maintained in the depth of the foundation slab. In northern regions, the seasonal frost line might be significantly deeper. Thus it’s important to keep it below that level at all times.

It’s common for the length of the foundation slab to be between 50 and 70 per cent of the overall wall height (bottom of base to top of the stem).

The stem thickness at the base of cantilever and counterfort walls is typically 10% of the overall wall height, as is the thickness of the foundation slab. At least 30 per cent to 70 per cent of the entire wall height is required for counterfort retaining walls.

As a precaution against slipping, a footing key may be incorporated in certain circumstances. As a general rule, the footing key extends below the bottom of the base.

What should be the requirements of a concrete retaining wall?

An effective retaining wall must have an outlet for the water that accumulates behind it. With no pressure-relief mechanism, the wall would fracture or buckle if the earth did not support it. 

Some of the water is escorted out via weep holes, 3/4-inch pipes installed along the top of the first course. The gravel-coated plastic drainpipe is another component of the system. Flowing through the gravel, water from the wall seeps into the drainpipe, where it is securely removed.

Freestanding walls are not required to have the same strength requirements as retaining walls. A three-block interval should be followed by installing a rebar in your footings, as stipulated by your local regulations. Make sure that all the rebar is covered with mortar at this point.

Why should concrete be chosen over other materials for a retaining wall?

  • Concrete retaining walls are less costly to construct than natural stone ones
  • Concrete retaining walls may be completed more rapidly as well due to the lighter weight
  • Concrete retaining walls require lower labour intensity of concrete.
  • Incorporating a wide range of colours and styles into your design is possible with concrete, which is suitable for both residential and commercial properties.

How can I make a textured look on my concrete retaining wall?

You can get a textured look on your concrete retaining walls and make them more appealing by applying a coat of stucco on them. Using the proper adhesive, attach tiny slabs of smooth, natural stone to the wall top if required as a “cover.”

There are several ways that stucco may assist a concrete wall to retain less moisture and absorb moisture more rapidly. Stucco may be applied to a concrete wall. However, any previous paint must first be cleaned.

This may be done by applying stucco on the outside of the concrete wall. If desired, you may cover the top of the wall with smooth, natural stone slabs by applying the proper adhesive to the wall. 

There are several ways that stucco may assist a concrete wall to retain less moisture and absorb moisture more rapidly. Stucco may be used to cover a concrete wall. However, any previous paint must first be cleaned.

What are the advantages of a concrete retaining wall?

  • Retaining walls made of concrete are very durable. Their elasticity and compressive strength is superior to those of block walls.
  • Non-toxic concrete retaining walls don’t emit harmful chemicals or allergies. There is a substantial amount of recycled or locally derived natural resources in concrete wall construction, including clay, limestone, fly ash and slag.
  • Retaining walls may be built with a minimum of trouble if they are made of concrete.
  • It is critical to build a water-resistant construction that is as sturdy as feasible. I don’t care how horrible the weather is. There are no seams in concrete retaining walls, making them substantially denser than cinder block foundations. 
  • Concrete retaining walls are more fire-resistant than cinder blocks.
  • Retaining walls made of concrete provide for more architectural freedom. Regardless of the basis, they have the option to switch it up at the last minute. In the beginning, builders begin with a liquid form and develop a mould into any shape or design. Cinder brick walls make this difficult.
  • There is less upkeep with concrete retaining walls. Fire-resistant and more durable, they have less joints and are better at withstanding lateral pressure. Exterior waterproofing can prevent water leaks and cracks for the first five to ten years.

What are the disadvantages of concrete retaining walls?

  • An efficient support system and proper drainage are essential for a concrete retaining wall. It’s not a do-it-yourself effort that can succeed.
  • Concrete pouring and casting is not a do-it-yourself project. An expert contractor can help you prevent cracking or bulging, which may damage the structure and need expensive and time-consuming significant repairs if not addressed immediately. When using precast panels, you’ll need specific lifting and installation equipment.
  • Concrete block retaining walls can only be built to a maximum height of four feet since they lack a foundation (though this is not true of other concrete walls).
  • This kind of retaining wall is difficult to remove if you ever decide to modify the location of your wall or the style of your garden. Heavy machinery will be required to demolish and remove the rubble.


The tensile strength of concrete is unmatched by any other material. The materials used in the construction of retaining walls must have high tensile strengths to withstand the forces of nature, such as wind and water. They get stronger over time as they heal.

Concrete retaining walls have a long lifespan. Many well-built walls, on the other hand, may survive for more than a century.

Your concrete retaining walls are built to withstand the elements. Wind, rain, floods and even road salts are no match for these tyres. These walls are, in fact, fireproof. Neither rust nor decay is a problem with these items.

Maintaining your concrete retaining walls is a cinch. A yearly power wash or cleaning is all they need to look their finest. Concrete contractors should conduct regular inspections of their work to check for cracks, wear, and other issues. We Do Concrete Cheap can repair or patch your wall using mortar to keep it looking new.

Concrete walls, on the other hand, are designed to survive for decades or perhaps a century. So if you ever want to move or demolish the wall, you’ll need big machinery and a way to remove the hefty rubble. ‘

Frequently asked questions (FAQS): Concrete retaining walls

How long will a concrete retaining wall last?

A concrete retaining wall can last between fifty and one hundred years. It will be impossible for the wall to naturally move if you use a concrete foundation. How long do you think my retaining wall will hold up for me? The average life expectancy of a permanent wall construction is 50 to 100 years.

What is a poured concrete retaining wall?

There are a variety of ways to customise poured concrete retaining walls, including colour, texture and even incorporated items. Concrete retaining walls are more customizable than any other kind of wall material when placed correctly. In cases when the wall is taller than four feet, separate footings need to be laid. Cure the concrete.

Can you use concrete as a retaining wall?

With a concrete retaining wall, you can add both elegance and stability to your yard. In just six simple steps, you can create your own. After digging down a slope for a walkway, patio, or other landscaping project, concrete blocks may be used to form walls to keep the soil in place. Freestanding walls are not required to have the same strength requirements as retaining walls.

How much does it cost to build a concrete retaining wall?

With interlocking blocks, the typical cost of a concrete retaining wall is $20 to $30 per square foot, but with poured concrete, the cost is $30 to $40 per square foot. From $27 to $35 per square foot, a natural stone retaining wall is available. Cost per square foot: $16 to $28 for wood retaining walls

How thick does a concrete retaining wall should be?

The most frequent rules of thumb used by designers to determine the wall’s geometry include: The base width is equal to half to a third of the wall’s height. It should be no less than 12 inches thick at the bottom of the wall. For every foot of wall height, add 14 inch to the stem thickness.

Is concrete good for retaining walls?

A long-lasting, weather-resistant, good-looking retaining wall is a terrific, practical, cost-effective answer to soil erosion. And concrete is a fantastic material for making retaining walls that will last for many years.


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