Wooden retaining walls - what kind of wood should you use?

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Compared to concrete retaining walls, choosing wood is usually easier and more cost-effective to use. However, will using wood be enough for your project? What are its benefits, and what type of wood would be best? What is the usual installation process?

If you are interested to install a retaining wall on your property, here are the things you need to know about using wood as your main material.

What is the best wood material to use for retaining walls?





Some of us often underestimate the appeal of wood structures. However, the right type of material can be used for a variety of projects which could last for years.

Here are the types of wood you can choose from for the installation of your retaining wall:


Timbers are the wood that is often used in many construction projects. Since it is a type of wood that is specially grown and prepared for carpentry work, it can be processed into planks, slabs, and beams for an easier installation process. 

The Landscaping Network says that “the simple construction and low costs that make timber retaining walls the most common choice for do-it-yourself home improvement.” (1) There are many types of trees that are used for retaining walls, which could be:

a)    Cedar

Cedar is the most popular type of timber being used for retaining walls. This is because they are cheaper compared to other lumbers and are quite easy to maintain.

However, since they secrete a number of oils, it may be troublesome to have them waterproofed and sprayed to prevent insect infestations and premature rotting.

b)    Cypress

Cypress is a flexible type of lumber that is durable and water-resistant. It is a popular material that can last for a long time and is flexible for the design you need for your wall.

c)     Redwood

Redwood is known for its appeal and strength. Since it is highly resistant to a variety of insects and rot, many homeowners like using redwood for their retaining walls.

d)    Teak

Teak is wonderful for properties in the hot climate because of its heat-resistance capability. Like other types of lumber, teak is durable and attractive.

e)    Douglas Fir

For many pros in the industry, it is non-arguable that Douglas Fir is the best timber you can use for retaining walls. The reason for this is that it is very sturdy and durable to the point that it is used for many purposes – furniture, construction of walls, bridges, homes, and more.

If you have the budget and are near an area that sells Douglas Fir, you will not go wrong with choosing it as your main material. Make sure to get the variant that is already pressure-treated so that you will not need to do it on your own.

The benefits of using wood

Is using wood the best material for your needs? To answer this question, you should be aware of the real pros and cons concerning the material.

The pros

1.     Beauty

Although concrete is flexible in its design, some people would still choose wood for its cozy appeal. This is often the case for the people who own homes with lumber accents, as a wood retaining wall will highly complement their buildings and make them pop.

2.     Affordable

Many types of lumber are more cost-effective to use, especially when compared to the prices of stone and brick.

3.     Flexible

Wooden walls could be installed anywhere. As long as you do not need them to support tons of heavy soil, you can use them for landscaping, gardening, and segmentation.

4.     Efficient

Carefully designing and installing a retaining wall made of wood would not usually take several days to complete. It could be a fun little project you can do during the weekend.

5.     Customizable

Whether your area is challenging or you have a specific design in mind, the possibility of customizing your wooden retaining wall is endless. Plus, you can also use other materials such as concrete to make it more durable for long-term use.

The cons

1.     Time-limited

How long does a wood retaining wall last? If we compare it to other materials such as brick, stone, and poured concrete which can easily last from 50 to even 100 years, wood will be a bad contender. However, this does not actually mean that it will crumble after the rainy season.

When properly installed using the right design and materials, wood retaining walls can last for 20 years or more.

2.     Prone to rotting and insects

It is not a secret how wood is susceptible to rot and insects. Hence, if not properly maintained, it is possible that it will be the reason why your wall will fail prematurely.

Fortunately, special chemicals make it possible to treat and waterproof the material, making it more durable and safer against the threat of moisture and fungi.

The steps of retaining wall installation

If you want to try DIY-ing your very own retaining wall, here are the usual steps you should prepare for and expect to do.

1.    Securing permits
2.    Designing the retaining wall
3.    Marking the area
4.    Digging the soil
5.    Adding gravel
6.    Installing the wall

Installing a beautifully crafted wooden retaining wall

“Without craftsmanship, inspiration is a mere reed shaken in the wind.”

Wood retaining walls will never go out of style. Because of their quaint and welcoming charm, installing one in your backyard will always be a good investment.

For more tips and assistance with having a retaining wall on your property, ask help from the expert Retaining Wall Contractors of Raleigh NC.


  1. Wood Retaining Walls | Landscaping Network


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