The Pros And Cons Of Five Retaining Walls Materials

Choosing a retaining wall material for your commercial project can come down to a few important factors such as look, durability, maintenance, access and cost.

We will take a look at the pros and cons of five of our favourite retaining walls ideal for commercial projects. We hope at the end of your reading you have a better grasp on which retaining wall would best suit your project. Just note there are also structural and regulatory considerations for retaining walls that you need to make sure you consider. Ensure that you have checked with your landscape architect and engineer what is best for your project.


A Timber sleeper retaining wall can be the most cost-effective retaining wall option but has its pros and cons. Pros include: low cost, easy installation, and gives a natural look – especially if using a nice hardwood or recycled railway sleepers. Due to being timber, the main con is it is susceptible to pests, rot and has a shorter lifespan due to this. Timber retaining walls have a lifespan of around 15-20 years or more if properly treated and care for compared to other products which are considerably longer.
We don’t recommend timber sleeper retaining walls in bushfire-prone areas.


Gabion walls cans be used in landscapes as retaining walls, bench seats or accent walls. The word gabion is derived form the Italian word for ‘cage’ and is a wire container that holds rocks, forming a strong, flexible and permeable retaining.

They have little to no maintenance and they are easy to install. The cost depends on the grade of wire used for the cage, and the types of rock used to fill the cage. Unlike a traditional concrete retaining wall, gabion walls are flexible and are able to move with the earth.

Concrete Sleeper

The concrete sleeper retaining wall is similar to the timber but uses concrete sleepers and steel posts instead of timber. Because of these durable materials, the lifespan of a concrete sleeper retaining wall is significantly longer. Being concrete, they are fireproof, rot-proof and durable. However, they are susceptible to rust if not maintained periodically. The concrete sleepers come in a variety of colours and texture finishes. Perfect if you’re looking to blend into a painted fence.

Sandstone Block

The sandstone block is a great mid cost and aesthetically pleasing option. Sandstone blocks are resistant to weathering and erosion, proving long-term stability. Installation of sandstone is simple in the fact it is placing blocks, however sandstone blocks can be heavy, requiring careful planning and construction.

Concrete Block

The installation process may be more complex and you may need professional expertise, eg. Engineering. This can increase costs and is one of the reason why the concrete block retaining wall is usually more expensive than the other types of retaining. The concrete block retaining wall is the most durable and are available in different sizes, finishes and shaped allowing for creative design options.

Ultimately, the choice of retaining wall material depends on factors like budget, aesthetics, strength requirements, and the expertise available for installation. It’s crucial to carefully evaluate these factors before making a decision:

  1. Local regulations – check local regulations and zoning codes for any restrictions or requirements regarding retaining walls.
  2. Site Conditions – The condition of the site including soil type, existing services and structures can impact the choice of material and location.
    Complete a Dial Before You Dig to check existing service locations prior to any work being completed.
  3. Budget – Consider your budget, not just of material cost but installation and potential engineering costs as well as long term maintenance costs.

Orterra can provide valuable insights and ensure that your design is both aesthetically pleasing to fit within your project constraints. Contact us today!