Types of Retaining Walls

As a homeowner, you know that there are always projects to be done around the house. If you’re like most people, one of your top priorities is keeping your property secure and looking its best.


There are many different ways to do that, but one of the most important is to use retaining walls. Retaining walls can add beauty and functionality to your property. With so many retaining wall types, it’s important to know which one is right for you.

At Xpress engineering, we specialize in helping homeowners design the perfect retaining wall for their needs. We’ve put together a list of the most popular types of retaining walls to help you make an informed decision. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular options.

Cantilever Retaining Walls

Cantilever Retaining Walls

Cantilever retaining walls are very strong and can support considerable weight. They are often used in situations with significant horizontal pressure from the soil behind them. A cantilever retaining wall requires very little support from the ground behind it. They can be built on slopes and in other difficult-to-reach areas. They do not require external supports and consequently they provide an open unobstructed excavation and a relatively simple staged construction process.

Cantilever retaining walls are relatively easy to build, generally requiring no specialized equipment or training. They are the most common type of retaining wall for most home and business applications. Cantilever retaining walls are the type of retaining wall that we design for our Xpress Engineering clients.   Learn more.

There are relatively few disadvantages for cantilevered retaining walls. However, they should not be used for walls taller than 18 feet, and they are not recommended for use next to an adjacent building.

Another potential problem is that cracks can develop in the concrete as it cures, weakening the overall structure. However, such problems can be minimized or eliminated by careful design and construction, but they should be considered when choosing a cantilever retaining wall for your project.

Gravity Retaining Walls

A gravity retaining wall is a structure that holds back soil or rock from a slope by using lateral earth pressure. It relies on the weight of the retaining wall materials to provide stability needed to resist the force behind it. Gravity retaining walls can be made from various materials, including stone, concrete, brick, or concrete blocks.

When selecting a material for a gravity wall, it’s important to consider the weight of the material, as well as the slope of the terrain. For smaller projects, such as private homes or gardens, wood may be a better option. However, concrete is most commonly used for larger retaining wall projects, such as public parks or commercial buildings.

gravity retaining walls

The design of a gravity retaining wall must also consider the hydrostatic pressure exerted on a gravity wall by the soil behind it. This pressure must be countered by the weight of the materials used in the wall. Gravity retaining walls are an essential part of many construction projects and can be an effective way to prevent soil erosion and protect against landslides.

Semigravity Retaining Walls

Retaining walls are often used to create level terraces in sloping yards, define garden spaces, or add visual interest. There are many different types of retaining walls, but semigravity retaining walls are one of the more popular choices.

Semigravity retaining walls are made from concrete, stone, or brick, and they get their name because they rely partially on their weight to stay in place. In addition, they usually have soil reinforcement that helps to increase their stability.

While semigravity retaining walls are very strong, they can also be quite attractive, and they can be used in a variety of different settings. Whether you’re looking to add interest to your landscape or need a functional retaining wall for a practical purpose, semigravity retaining walls are an excellent option.

Counterfort Retaining Walls

Counterfort Retaining Walls

Counterfort retaining walls are high walls built to hold lateral pressure other materials from moving. They are made of concrete, stone, or metal and have a series of vertical slabs, called counterforts, extending from the top of the wall to the bottom. Counterforts are spaced evenly along the length of the wall and provide support by resisting the forces of the soil behind the wall.

Because counterfort retaining wall are strong, and can be used in various residential and commercial properties. In addition to their strength, counterfort retaining wall have several other benefits. They are relatively easy to construct, and they can be designed to blend in with their surroundings. As a result, they are an attractive and effective way to protect your property from soil erosion.

Cantilevered retaining walls are usually reinforced in concrete, stone, or timber and can be either pre-stressed or post-tensioned. Pre-stressing is often used with steel rods or cables placed in the concrete before it sets. Post-tensioning involves placing tendons after the concrete has been set. The choice of technique depends on the site conditions and the desired appearance of the finished retaining wall.

Gabion Retaining Walls

Gabion retaining wall is one of the market’s most popular types of retaining walls today. These are rectangular wire mesh boxes filled with rocks and other suitable materials. They are very strong, durable, and can be used in various applications. Gabion retaining wall is made from galvanized steel wire woven into a mesh. Gravity retaining wall depends on its weight only to resist lateral earth pressure.

The mesh is then filled with rocks or stone and held in place with wire ties. They are also relatively easy to install and do not require any special skills or tools. Gabion retaining wall can be use to support various loads, including soil, sand, gravel, and even concrete. In addition, gabion retaining wall is easy to create terraces, stairs, and other landscape features.

Gabion Retaining Walls

Anchored Retaining Walls

Anchored retaining walls are one of the most practical and versatile solutions for managing soil erosion and runoff. By definition, a retaining wall is any structure that is used to hold back or support an adjacent sloping mass of soil. In most cases, they are made of concrete, stone, or brick.

However, they can also be made from wood, metal, or plastic. Regardless of material, all anchored retaining walls share one key feature: they are anchored into the ground at regular intervals using cables, rods, or beams. It helps to ensure that the wall will not shift or collapse under the weight of the soil it supports.

Anchored retaining walls are commonly used in residential and commercial landscaping to create level areas on the sloped property. They can also be used to create raised garden beds, terraces, and other features. In addition, they can be used to manage storm water runoff and prevent soil erosion.

By intercepting runoff before it has a chance to travel down a slope, an anchored retaining wall can help to keep the ground around it stable and free from erosion. As a result, these walls are an essential tool for anyone who wants to protect their property from the damaging effects of runoff and erosion.

Crib Retaining Walls

A crib retaining wall is used to support soil on a slope. It comprises a series of interlocking boxes filled with other coarse granular materials like soil. These interlocking boxes are stacked on top of one another. This type of retaining wall is typically used in landscaping and gardening applications, but a crib retaining wall is also sometimes used to support larger structures such as bridges and buildings.

One of the advantages of crib walls is that they can be built using various materials, including wood, stone, and concrete. As a result, they can be easily customized to match the surrounding environment. Basic types of crib retaining walls include reinforced precast, and timber retaining walls.

Crib Retaining Walls

Crib walls are relatively easy to construct and do not require heavy machinery. However, one downside of crib walls is that they can be prone to collapse if not properly maintained. For this reason, it is important to have a professional assess the stability of a crib wall before considering using this design for your application.

Closing Thoughts

With everything said, it’s clear that various types of retaining walls can be used in different situations. The most common type for most landscape applications is the cantilever retaining wall. It’s hard to go wrong with a cantilever wall for any modest sized application. However, especially for walls taller than 8 feet you may wish to consider other types of retaining walls, such as anchored, gravity or crib types. Any of these may be appropriate to achieve your landscaping goals while protecting your property from soil erosion and runoff. Just be sure to consult with a professional before beginning any construction project.

Professional Engineering Retaining Wall Design – Fast and Affordable

Whichever material you choose for your retaining wall, keep in mind that most local building codes require an engineering design for any retaining wall of 4 feet or more in height. And even for shorter walls, a design from a trained structural engineer is highly recommended to insure the security and longevity of your wall.

We can provide a certified engineer design for you within 24 hours (M-F) for just $350 in most cases. Submit your Design Request here, or contact us if you have any questions or unique requirements.