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How Long Do Retaining Walls Last?

Table of Contents

Retaining walls are an indispensable part of landscaping and construction. Their main purpose is to hold back soil and prevent erosion. However, just like every other structure, their lifespan is determined by various factors. In this guide, we’ll uncover the major influencers on the durability and lifespan of retaining walls.

Material Selection: The Foundation of Longevity

When deliberating on how long retaining walls last, the material type chosen stands as a pivotal factor.

Timber Retaining Walls

While they can be aesthetically pleasing, timber retaining walls don’t have the same endurance as some other materials. With the continuous exposure to moisture and external elements, wood will break down and deteriorate. Generally, the expected lifespan of timber walls ranges from 25 to 35 years.

Block Walls

Block walls, particularly the dry stack block variety made from pre-manufactured concrete, are commonly seen in various landscapes. These walls have a slight disadvantage due to the porous nature of the concrete. This characteristic allows moisture, and at times salt, to seep in, accelerating the deterioration process. Typically, block walls can be expected to last anywhere from 35 to 50 years.

Concrete and Boulder Walls

Standing at the pinnacle of durability, poured concrete walls and boulder walls boast the longest lifespan. Their robustness ensures they can endure the test of time, often lasting 50 years and beyond.

Expertise: The Craftsmanship Behind the Wall

The expertise of the installer plays an equally critical role in determining how long a retaining wall lasts.

A poorly installed retaining wall, regardless of its material, may collapse prematurely. Conversely, walls constructed with precision, using the right techniques and materials, can outlast their expected lifespans.

For instance, when constructing a timber wall, choosing the right backfill material can keep the backside dry, thus preventing rapid deterioration. Similarly, with boulder walls, the expertise lies in determining the correct angle, selecting the right rocks, and using the appropriate fabric, all of which are instrumental in influencing the wall’s longevity.

Environmental Considerations

The environment, with its unpredictable weather patterns and lighting conditions, holds sway over the duration for which a retaining wall will stand firm. Conditions such as massive rainstorms, frost heave, or prolonged exposure to extreme sunlight can impact the material, causing it to weaken over time.

Unexpected Stresses: The X-Factors

Sometimes, unforeseen circumstances can take a toll on the longevity of a retaining wall. Events like broken pipes leading to flooding, vehicular accidents, or other unexpected physical stresses can severely damage the structure. It’s essential to ensure the wall is equipped to handle such unexpected conditions or to promptly address any situations that could harm its structural integrity.


Retaining walls, despite their robust nature, are subject to wear and tear. While factors like material type and installation expertise significantly influence their longevity, external factors such as environmental conditions and unexpected events can play a decisive role.

Should you have any questions or require assistance with your retaining wall project, please do not hesitate to contact Natural Environments Corporation today. Our team of experts is here to guide and support you every step of the way.




Our landscaping services in Minneapolis St. Paul – Twin Cities include landscape design, retaining walls, boulder retaining walls, stone walls, rip rap, shoreline erosion control, patios, driveways, helical piers and more.


Phone: (763) 544-8002
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