Concrete masonry retaining walls are the best looking and longest lasting of all retaining walls. This is because CMUs come in such a wide variety of textures and colors, and can also be painted, sealed with stucco, or enhanced with a veneer of rock, stone, brick or other materials. The properties of the blocks themselves allows for the creation of beautiful, enduring retaining walls.

What is a CMU?

A CMU, or Concrete Masonry Unit, includes the well-known “cinder block” and many other variations, as shown, though not including “cement bricks”. Concrete bricks are not hollow, thereby limiting reinforcement during construction. CMU’s are standard rectangular cast concrete blocks made of cement, aggregate and sand. These blocks are stacked (normally with mortar) to create the retaining wall, and are easy to install. They’re fireproof, durable and require little to no maintenance.

Reinforced steel bars (rebar) are often integrated into the CMUs during construction to add strength. This reinforcement improves the wall’s strength and weight-bearing capacity.

Concrete blocks come in various sizes and shapes making it possible to engineer retaining walls to suit your design preferences and landscape. Solid concrete blocks, such as “paver blocks” limit reinforcement possibilities, and as a result may not be recommended for certain situations. Xpress Engineering does not currently offer designs for retaining walls built with solid concrete (aka “paver”) blocks or bricks.

CMU walls are normally built on top of a poured concrete foundation. The blocks are cemented onto the foundation and then onto one another. Staggered vertical joints give the retaining wall added strength. Cap blocks are generally used to finish the top of the wall.

Learn more about Xpress Engineering’s affordable Engineering Retaining Wall Designs for CMU Block Retaining Walls or Request a Retaining Wall Design for your own project.

The advantages of CMU blocks for retaining walls

  • Lightweight – because the blocks are hollow, they’re light and easy to install
  • Reinforced – steel reinforcing bars offer extra strength to an already strong wall. Concrete is poured into the holes that contain the rebar, creating a solid and durable wall.
  • Water resistant – Concrete blocks are ideal in high humidity areas as they are water resistant
  • Cost effective – CMU blocks are relatively cheap
  • Versatile – concrete blocks come in a variety of colors and shapes. This means that you can match the wall with the surrounding environment or the existing building. Pigments can be added to the block and mortar so you can blend the colors or choose to go with a sharp contrast.
  • Easy maintenance – CMUs are strong and easy to maintain. All they need is an occasional wash.

Improve your outdoor living along with the value of your property with a block retaining wall. We specialize in engineering beautiful retaining walls that should last a lifetime. Give us a call.