Retaining walls are an attractive and functional addition to any landscape design. Whether you have a naturally sloped property, or are contouring your landscape to create visual interest, retaining walls will create a clear delineation between property levels, can be used to create flat, usable terraces and will help to prevent erosion.
There are a variety of retaining wall materials available. Two of the most popular are interlocking concrete and natural stone. Each has its own pros and cons so the key is to choose the retaining wall material that will work best, based on your landscape plan.
Here are some of the pros and cons of interlocking concrete vs. natural stone retaining wall materials.
Pros and Cons of Concrete Retaining Walls
These stones have become an increasingly popular retaining wall option due to their affordability, ease of use and versatility. In most cases, concrete blocks have an interlocking lip at the base, allowing them to fit together and stay together easily. Sometimes they are secured via nylon pins. Because they are man-made, concrete blocks can be formed into virtually any shape, size or color. They can also be used to create rounded retaining wall borders. If you have a retaining wall that is higher than 4-feet tall, you will want to explore other options involving a civil engineer. Interlocking concrete blocks don’t have footings, which are necessary to stabilize taller retaining walls.
- Easy to install
- Can be found in multiple color options
- Available in a wide range of shapes
- Can create round borders and edges
- Excellent for drainage
- Can be modified easily
- They can’t be used solely in walls 4 feet or higher without proper engineering and permits
- While the designs are versatile, they don’t replicate natural stone
- The actual material cost per sqaure is more expensive than natural stone, but you save money in installation costs
Pros and Cons of Natural Stone Retaining Walls
Natural stone retaining walls have been used for thousands of years so there is an inherent element of tradition in their appearance. Because stones can be found in a variety of shapes, colors and textures, there is also a creative element involved in using natural stones. The best natural stones are those made from heavier, denser rocks such as granite or field stone. Natural stones are more expensive, and can be more labor intensive to set correctly. They are best used for shorter and narrower sections of retaining walls to maximize stability. Drainage is always an issue since moisture can infiltrate the spaces and gaps between stones, compromising the integrity of the wall.
- They’re Beautiful
- Ideal for a more rustic/country setting
- They don’t require special connections or mortar to hold them together
- Stones are a natural solution for inherent grade transitions
- Drainage can become a problem over time
- Labor intensive
- Not as effective for taller or larger retaining walls
Best Retaining Wall Materials for Your Project
If you are deliberating about which retaining wall materials to use for your landscape design, it is best to consult a masonry supply store. A masonry supply store can make recommendations depending on the type of walls you will be using. In many cases, interlocking concrete and natural stone can be used in different areas of the same project. Both products are guaranteed to provide attractive and functional retaining walls that will last for years to come.