Many people find a perfectly level lawn to be lacking in visual excitement. Sometimes this can be addressed by interesting softscape flower beds, pruned trees, and accent lighting. Other hardscape features like a fountain, water or fire pit can also provide more three-dimensional interest.

Sometimes landscaping block can be used to create raised beds for flowers and other interesting softscape elements. These blocks can even be used to craft things like an outdoor entertainment space with built-in seating.

A yard that has changes in pitch and elevation might benefit from one or more retaining walls. In a certain light, they provide physical structure for holding things like softscape planting beds. They are especially helpful and may even be necessary if your hard or new landscaping concept has significant changes in elevation.

In certain scenarios, a retaining wall is the only option for preventing eventual shifts in soil or problems with erosion. This type of retaining wall needs to be professionally designed and constructed to effectively resist the lateral pressure of the soil through changes caused by rain as well as seasonal weather.

Irregularities in your turf and soil may also benefit or even require a retaining wall. This is especially true with new construction homes where the yard is essentially starting with a blank slate. These retaining walls are created to hold back soil while also providing a customized look to the otherwise irregular landscape shape.

CM’s designers and specialists might also recommend some form of retaining wall for steps used to connect your front door to the public sidewalk below. Railings and other features can then be integrated for added safety. This helps hold your hard in its ideal shape while also serving a functional purpose. Some municipalities require retaining walls of this nature depending on the changes in elevation between your yard and the existing easement or a sidewalk or roadway.

Most retaining walls are made from landscaping blocks that are held together in some way. However, this is not the only option for a retaining wall.

Modular Block Retaining Walls

Changes in the slope or grade of your lawn can place gradual tension on the various soil layers. Over time they can become prone to erosion and other unfavorable shifts. Modular block retaining walls are a very popular option for most homeowners as well as commercial properties that need a retaining wall.

They are generally made from manufactured concrete masonry blocks. This type of material has a long-standing reputation for success and durability. CM’s designers often recommend conventional concrete blocks for their strength and to give permanence to landscaped areas. There are also precast blocks which are available in different widths and also will provide the strength to support high and even multi-story walls. Once a modular block retaining wall has been professionally installed it requires little to no annual maintenance

Boulder Or Natural Rock Retaining Walls

Some homeowners find precast blocks to be a little boring or just too geometric for the organic feel of their intended landscaping concept. In situations like this, the property owner might be interested in retaining walls made from boulders or natural rock.

Since they are literally sourced directly from nature, this type of retaining wall certain feels organic. With most structures of this nature, concrete is needed as an effective mortar to bind the boulders and rocks together into a firm aggregate. If there are significant changes in your lawn’s elevation additional bracing measure may be needed.

Wood Retaining Walls

Wood retaining walls have a long-standing reputation for providing a warm organic look to landscaping features. They are relatively low in cost. CM’s design team can help you understand the features and benefits of various woods.

Still, it’s important to keep in mind that wood is an organic material with a relatively porous nature, which means it can be subject to changes in moisture. Over time wood can also be susceptible to issues with rot, termites and other pests. There is also the potential for wood to gradually harbor soil microbes. Fortunately, there are specific types of wood that are well-known for minimizing these potential problems.


Redwood has superior resistance to moisture, insects, and long-term concerns with rot. Yet it is a relatively low-density wood which means you will need to use thick stock, which could increase the price. It’s also worth noting that certain states have legislation in place that can affect the price, availability and use of redwood.

Pressure Treated Fir

Pressure treated fir and other timber materials can also be used in retaining wall construction. They offer superior hardness and durability. The wood itself has been impregnated with special chemicals that preserve it. In recent years the arsenic and other chemicals in green-treated wood have come under increased scrutiny. In response manufacturers have started offering so-called “Brown-Treated” wood which has a less toxic chemical profile.

New pressure treated woods use a mixture known as ACQ which the Environmental Protection Agency states is safe for use in retaining walls. They have not been shown to leach chemicals into the soil of planting and gardening beds.

Rail Ties

As the name implies rail ties are merely recycled or upcycled railroad ties. They have been specially treated with creosote, which is an asphaltic product that does a very good job of preventing rot and deterring insects. Since they have already been exposed to weather for years if not decades the wood is already seasoned and will undergo few changes with time.

Rail ties can be used to create walkways, driveway borders, planters and steps. When it comes to cost, they are very similar to bricks and blocks. However, they do help save with man hours and costs associated with labor.