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How-To Guide: Building A Cheap Retaining Wall

A retaining wall isn’t just a mere structure in your yard or garden but a testament to the blend of function and aesthetics. As a homeowner, you might come across a point when a retaining wall could be the perfect solution to your landscaping needs. It addresses critical issues like soil erosion and surface runoff and helps create a usable flat area in a sloped property. However, considering the expenses involved in constructing one might be daunting. But don’t fret! This guide will walk you through building a cheap retaining wall, enhancing your property’s visual appeal without burning a hole in your pocket. 

Working Within Your Budget

A budget-friendly retaining wall doesn’t necessarily mean you compromise on the quality or aesthetics of the construction. On the contrary, it’s about making intelligent choices—selecting the right materials, utilizing space wisely, and adopting an efficient construction methodology. With a touch of creativity and a willingness to get your hands dirty, it’s entirely possible to construct an attractive and robust retaining wall on a budget. 

So, let’s dive into the world of affordable retaining walls, unravel the process, and learn how you can add this valuable feature to your landscape without overspending. This comprehensive guide will cover the types of retaining walls, planning and design considerations, necessary tools and materials, cheap DIY retaining wall ideas, and a step-by-step guide to building one.

Types of Retaining Walls 

Retaining walls come in many shapes and sizes, and the materials used can greatly affect both the cost and the aesthetic appeal. Here are a few types you might consider: 

Armour Stone Retaining Wall: These walls, made of large, durable stones, provide a natural, rugged look. They can withstand harsh conditions but might be pricier than other options. 

Boulder Retaining Wall: Similar to Armour stone walls, boulder walls utilize large rocks but with a somewhat less uniform appearance. 

Natural Stone Retaining Wall: This wall type offers a traditional aesthetic, making use of various types of stones for a unique, organic look. 

Building a Cheap Retaining Wall: DIY 

Creating a retaining wall doesn’t have to break the bank. With a little time, effort, and creativity, you can build an attractive and sturdy wall that suits your budget. 

Importance of Planning and Design 

Every successful project begins with a solid plan. Consider your yard’s layout, your wall’s intended function, and how the design will blend with your existing landscape. 

Selecting the Right Location 

Choosing the right spot is vital for ensuring your wall’s longevity and functionality. Consider factors like slope, soil type, and water drainage. 

Gathering the Necessary Tools and Materials 

The right tools make a world of difference. Basic items like shovels, levels, and masonry chisels can be handy. For materials, consider options like repurposed bricks, concrete blocks, or even recycled materials for a truly cost-effective solution. 

Cheap DIY Retaining Wall Ideas 

In the world of DIY, creativity is your best asset. Consider options like a retaining wall made of stacked wooden crates or one created from a mosaic of broken concrete pieces. 

Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Cheap Retaining Wall 

Building a retaining wall can seem daunting, but we’ve broken it down into manageable steps: 

Step 1: Site Preparation 

Start by clearing your chosen area of debris, plants, or rocks. Level the area as much as possible for a solid foundation. 

Step 2: Marking the Area 

Next, mark the boundaries of your wall using stakes and a string line. This will give you a visual guide to work from. 

Step 3: Digging the Trench 

Now it’s time to dig. Your trench should be deep and wide enough to accommodate your chosen wall materials, plus some extra room for a base layer of gravel. 

Step 4: Laying the Foundation 

A foundation layer of gravel and sand will ensure your wall is level and has adequate drainage. Tamp down this layer until it’s firm and even. 

Step 5: Installing the First Row of Blocks/Stones 

Start placing your blocks or stones, checking each one with a level. This first row is crucial, as it will guide the placement of the rest of your wall. 

Step 6: Installing Additional Rows 

Continue building upwards, making sure to stagger the seams of your blocks or stones for added stability. Check for levelness regularly. 

Step 7: Implementing Adequate Drainage 

Drainage is crucial for preventing water buildup that could damage your wall. Consider installing a perforated drain pipe behind your wall covered with gravel. 

Step 8: Installing Retaining Wall Caps 

Once your wall has reached the desired height, cap it off with flat stones or special cap blocks. This gives your wall a finished look and adds extra protection from the elements. 

Step 9: Finishing Touches 

Finally, backfill your wall with soil or gravel and tidy up the area. You can add landscaping features like plants or mulch for the final touch. 

Safety Considerations During Construction 

Always prioritize safety when working on construction projects. Use safety gear like gloves, safety glasses, and sturdy footwear. Take breaks and avoid overexertion. 

Pros and Cons of DIY versus Professional Services 

Building a retaining wall can be a rewarding DIY project. It gives you control over the design, materials, and budget. However, large or complex walls might require the skill and experience of professional landscapers. 

Bremner Construction: Your Partner for Affordable Retaining Walls in Waterloo 

If you’re considering a retaining wall for your property, Bremner Construction can help. We offer expert advice, quality workmanship, and competitive prices. Let us make your landscaping dreams a reality. 


Building a cheap retaining wall is a feasible DIY project that can transform your outdoor space. With a bit of patience, planning, and elbow grease, you’ll have a beautiful and functional retaining wall that stands the test of time.

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