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Selecting a Retaining Wall “Natural to Manufactured”

by | Jun 30, 2012 | Market News

There are numerous materials one can use to retain a slope. The four types of retaining wall materials covered will be timber, glacial or fieldstone boulder, modular block, and wallstone. These types of walls can transform unusable areas in your yard to useable. They can create flat spaces for patios, play areas, planting beds or keeping areas in your yard from eroding and causing damage and costly repair.     
Timber walls were much more popular 20-30 years ago. Timbers are still available and are a cost effective way to retain soil. The two main colors are green or brown and come in sizes of 5” x 6” x 8’ or 6” x 6” x 8’. They can fit a formal or a casual landscape. The timbers are overlapped on top of the row of timbers below spiked together. They are a fairly simple wall to build and an excellent choice for the first time wall builder. The typical life span is between 15 to 25 years.
Glacial or fieldstone boulder walls are the longest lasting types of walls and are very popular. Glacial or fieldstone boulders are very common in the Upper Midwest and colors can range from gray, beige, to rose. These types of walls offer a more natural look and have a non-formal feel to them. The sizes of the boulders can range from 8-12” and up to 4-5’. They tend to be more difficult to build because of the irregular shapes and the weight of the boulders may require heavy equipment. The final product can look like an art piece. 
Modular block or segmental retaining walls are made up of manufactured concrete units. They come in variety of colors and sizes and are a very durable product. The block being manufactured today is much more attractive than the block of 20-30 years ago. The walls can be finished off with a similar colored or contrasting color cap. This type of wall installation can be handled by a homeowner.
Wallstone is a natural stone and in the category of cost is one of the more expensive ones to install. Chilton is a type of wallstone and one of the more popular ones on the market. The stone has a range of thicknesses: 2-3”, 3-4”, 4-5”, and 5-6”. The depth is 6 or 8” and lengths are random. The color range is gray, brown to rose and the face is snapped or weathered. This type of wall should not be attempted by a beginner and is much more difficult to install compared to the other types of walls.

There is a great deal of information on the internet on construction techniques for each type of the above listed walls. Pahl’s can also handle your wall needs and any of your questions. If you have a yard with hills, maybe a retaining wall is a perfect solution and can make your yard more usable for you and your family.

Pahl's Modular Block Retaining Wall


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  1. Ed Jacobs

    I would love to see some photos illustrating the different types you mention, as well as some additional pros and cons to each type of material, other than cost (e.g. ease of installation). Thanks.

    • Pahl's Market

      Unfortunately, I cannot reply to this blog post with photos. The main types of walls we install at Pahl’s are boulder walls, modular block retaining walls and natural stone walls.

      The easiest and most cost effective for us is fieldstone boulders. They are the most natural looking for this area and with the equipment we use the easiest. Fieldstone boulders are very common too.

      Modular block retaining walls come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, sizes, textures, etc. They are all made in a mold so are pretty consistent and easy to install especially for the homeowner. Anything over 4′ feet you normally need to have engineered, pull a permit and put in geo grid behind it. You cn add caps to the top to decorate it too.

      Natural stone walls are gorgeous but also usually the most expensive. They are inconsistent in size and can be more difficult to work with and equipment is almost always needed to install these.

      We usually base our decision on what the house is made of, the surrounding landscape and the clients budget. I hope this helps. Feel free to contact our landscape department for additional information.


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