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Retaining Wall Types

There are five primary types of retaining walls built in the United States today. From best to worst, they are as follows:

Each retaining wall type has its own style of construction which is based upon the application and determined by an engineer. Always verify that a local engineer is involved with the planning and construction process including site visits. The engineer will inspect the progress at various stages to ensure the retaining wall will be certified with a stamped letter. These steps are within the building regulations mandated by most cities and counties; however, very few actually follow through with enforcement, abdicating responsibility to the homeowner.


Call the county or city engineering department to verify the building codes and requirements before signing an agreement with a contractor. If the contractor fails to apply for a building permit or acquires one with incorrect or invalid information, you will receive a stop-work-order and a costly fine.

If a plan prepared by a civil or structural engineer is required to apply for the building permit, be sure the retaining wall company you hire has such an engineer on staff. If they do not, a local engineer must be engaged who will conduct site visits at your property before, during and after the project is complete. As these ongoing site visits add up, it costs less in the long run to hire a retaining wall company with its own engineer. Professional retaining wall builders will also schedule their own engineer’s site visits to coincide with the building steps so progress never stops. Consider these points carefully when comparing estimates.

At the completion of the retaining wall construction project, an engineer’s letter with a stamp should be produced with the property address of your new wall. Keep the engineer’s letter handy should you sell your property as it will add value.