Retaining Wall Block Types

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Intended to hold back a section of earth, retaining walls built with blocks rely on gravity to keep them in place. Retaining wall blocks are an attractive option for homeowners because they are more economical, attractive and quicker to install than poured concrete walls.


Also known as segmental retaining walls, block retaining walls consist of concrete masonry units. They are uniform in shape, weight and size, so they stack easily. The type of block you choose depends on the overall look you want for your wall and how you want to tie the blocks together.

Color and Texture

  • Manufacturers can produce concrete in many shades, offering a wide range of natural color pallets, including browns and grays. They also offer textures on the facade of the block to mimic weathered stones or appear to be a series of smaller blocks.

    The size of each block can be narrow or wide, offering even more choices. Some blocks have an open area where you can plant greenery to add life and softness to your wall.

Design and Layout

  • There are special blocks that finish the top of a wall or end a corner with a clean, professional appearance. The basic block is versatile in that you can lay blocks in curves, corners, steps, freestanding walls and columns to create an interesting landscape and still achieve a functional retaining wall. You can work terrain or obstructions into the design.

    While you should get a professional engineer to design your wall if it is very high, most installations can be done by a homeowner because they require no heavy equipment or mortar.

Technical Features

  • In addition to gravity, blocks sometimes use tongue and groove or pinning features to lock them into place and prevent sliding. This provides a stronger structure but can make it a little more difficult to disassemble. One of the advantages of a block retaining wall is that you can tear it down and reuse the material if you change your mind.

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