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Retaining Wall Materials – choosing the right product


A retaining wall is an outdoor wall that is used to hold or ‘retain’ the soil behind it in place. Retaining walls can be as small as a few rows of bricks or timber installed on a level surface to create a small garden, or on a larger scale, a retaining wall can be many metres tall and will require the services of structural engineer to design it. Obviously retaining walls, incorrectly constructed, can be very dangerous. For this reason you should always seek professional advice if you need to build a sizeable retaining wall.

Council Regulations for Retaining Walls

Every state in Australia has different council regulations for the height at which you need permission to build a retaining wall. If you need council permission, you will need to engage a structural engineer to design the wall.  They will ensure the wall is safe and secure, and look at issues including drainage and soil pressure. Council permission may also be required if your retaining wall is close to a property boundary and in some areas it might be required where erosion or the position of water catchments is nearby.

Retaining Wall Materials

Retaining walls can be made from many different materials including treated timber, concrete blocks, stone and brick.

Concrete Blocks

Concrete masonry blocks are a good practical choice when it comes to selecting retaining wall materials for your home.  They are the most commonly used retaining wall product on the market these days.  If you are looking for ideas when it comes to selecting colours for your new retaining wall, just take a drive around a recently developed land estate in the Hunter region and you will see how popular they are.

Blocks are often made to replicate the look of stone and they come in a huge range of colours, or you could choose to build your wall from concrete besser blocks if you intend to cement render and paint the wall.


Image: Jarrad Mitchell Constructions – masonry block retaining wall.

Treated Timber

Railway sleepers and treated timber can also be an attractive option for retaining walls and it’s often a less expensive option, but you need to be aware that timber will decay over time, so this option will not be as long lasting or hard wearing as concrete blocks or stone. However, for low-level garden beds, timber is often a good option.

Natural Stone

Natural stone is a hardwearing option that looks great, but stone is generally not a material to consider working with yourself unless you are very handy. Due to the earthy tones of natural sandstone it’s often a popular choice for home owners who are looking for a walling product in mixed cream and brown tones. Don’t forget that you will need to factor in the cost of using a professional stonemason if you decide to choose this option and natural stone is more expensive.


Brick retaining walls can be left as is, or rendered, depending on the look you are after. Again this is a job best left to experts, as drainage must be considered. Brick retaining walls are often favoured in heritage areas and well established suburbs, however it can be difficult to match bricks if you are building a new retaining wall to suit an existing home.

Other Considerations When Building a Retaining Wall

Proper drainage is an absolute must when constructing a retaining wall. The wall needs to be able to withstand the pressure of the earth against it after heavy periods of rain. If this is not undertaken correctly you run the risk of the wall collapsing or falling over, something you definitely don’t want to happen.

Don’t forget the excavation necessary for larger retaining walls. How much excavation is needed will depend partly on the type of material you choose and the size of the retaining wall you need built.

So, while DIY is certainly an option when you construct a retaining wall, it can be well worth contacting a professional to help you work out what exactly you need and to ensure you get the job done safely and professionally. Don’t take any chances, if you are unsure if you can build a retaining wall yourself just call in the experts.

Our Tip – Concrete retaining blocks are probably the best option if you are looking for strength and fast, easy assembly. Always check your local council requirements before you start any work.

If you need a new retaining wall installed Jarrad Mitchell Constructions  can help. We will come out to your site and go through your options with you.

Call Jarrad on 0431 952 685

by Jarrad Lowe – Jarrad Mitchell Constructions, Licensed Builder Servicing Newcastle & the Hunter Valley.

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June 7, 2016 |

2 thoughts on “Retaining Wall Materials – choosing the right product

  1. Annika Larson says:

    My husband and I are relandscaping our yard, and we are looking at having a retaining wall installed. This can add dimension to a yard. We want to make sure we choose the right material. As you said, natural stones look great, but you will need a professional for this. We will consider this.

  2. Sam Wilkins says:

    I like how mentioned that the risks of having a retaining wall collapse under the weight of heavy rain along with earth are significantly decreased by having a professional install the wall. My husband is a DIY fanatic and wants to in a wall himself. However, with my kids running around I can’t risk any mistakes on his part. We’ll have to contact a professional and keep my husband away from the project.

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