Tired of fighting a literal uphill battle in your backyard? Sloping soil can be a mess to look at, not to mention all of the erosion, water runoff, and consistent need for upkeep. Luckily, one solution built to last are retaining walls.
Retaining walls are a great way to enhance the look of your garden while also providing structural support for the landscape. They are becoming increasingly popular across Sydney and can add to the overall design of sloping areas.
Since they are largely custom built, retaining walls come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. Due to this, there tends to be a lot of variance in terms of their price. While it is possible to get an hourly rate, it’s much more common to pay for a retaining wall on a square metre basis.
You’ll pay between $250 – 550 per square metre for a retaining wall in Sydney. This price includes both supply and installation, though you will typically get a quote that breaks each out for you. The exact cost will depend on various factors which we will examine in detail below.
How do I know if I need a retaining wall?
Sure, you might want to add a wall for the design intrigue, but that is not a typical use case. There are many innovative design options available when installing a retaining wall. But generally, there are three primary situations where you may need a retaining wall for your yard. These are:
Control current downhill erosion and uneven terrain
Protect your home if it is downhill from a soil fault line
Where your home is on the bottom of a hill/slope to prevent flooding and erosion threatening the foundations
Of course, there are many more benefits to the retaining wall aside from preventing or stemming erosion. You can use them to enhance your garden and even place flower beds on top. The level ground a retaining wall creates can be perfect for placing a deck or structure on top of or nearby, giving you more usable outdoor space.
If you’re unsure whether or not you need a retaining wall, then it’s best to consult a landscaper or structural engineer for more informed advice. You can’t really guess whether or not you need them. It’s more a function of math and geometry.
Factors impacting retaining wall costs
How much is it worth to reign in your yard with a long-lasting retaining wall? Well, before you can price it out, it can help to understand everything that affects that price in the first place. To give you a better idea of what to expect with your quote, take all of the following into account:
Material – The primary materials are timber, concrete blocks, concrete sleepers, and natural stone. Keep in mind that while timber is cheaper than other materials but does not last as long.
Surface Area – These are often priced on a square metre basis. So the bigger the retaining wall, the more you’re going to have to pay.
Layout – A solid wall made of the same design and material for the entire span is one thing. A long and intricate retaining wall with different depths and dimensions will take longer to complete and require more skill. Add steps, and it will also cost more.
Style – Retaining walls can come in a large variety of patterns and styles. Particularly stone retaining walls, which may require an experienced professional to get it done correctly.
Preparation work – This is sometimes included as part of the labour cost. For the retaining wall to work, the ground has to be perfectly level. If there are difficulties in the terrain, the cost may increase.
Fees and Licencing – You may have to consult a landscaping expert or a structural engineer with regard to the retaining walls. In Sydney, you need permission to build a retaining wall higher than 0.6 metres.
These are the major factors in terms of the costs of retaining walls in Sydney. Other potential factors include who you go to for the project and whether or not they are undertaken as part of a wider landscaping project. You might get a slight discount if it’s done in tandem with other work through the same landscaping expert.
The combined cost of retaining walls in Sydney
All things considered, you can expect to pay around $250 – 550 per square metre for a retaining wall in Sydney, on average. But to get a little more granular, you can explore the table below for the typical price ranges for different retaining wall materials.
Labour and material costs are usually roughly equal, except for very expensive retaining walls made from natural stone. In terms of labour, you might pay between $50 – 75 per hour, though it is more common to get a fixed price for supply and labour instead of an hourly rate.
Supply & Installation Cost (per m2)
$150 – 350
$250 – 450
$150 – 300
$350 – 750
$300 – 550
Concrete Besser Blocks
$350 – 600
The cost of retaining wall materials in Sydney
If you’re just wondering about the hard costs for materials, we’ve compiled that information for you, too. The following table outlines the average cost of various retaining wall materials in Sydney. These are rough estimates, and you’ll have to contact a professional service for more precise quotes.
Retaining Wall Material
Price Per Square Metre
$100 – 150
$200 – 250
$50 – 150
$100 – 250
$110 – 150
$80 – 120
$40 – 320
$120 – 180
$30 – 220
Are there any additional pricing factors to consider?
Yes. While the typical price will be around $250 – 550 per square metre for the majority of retaining walls in Sydney, there can easily be some confusion in the quotes and estimates.
Some contractors will charge you for supply and installation but will have a separate charge for excavation and drainage. These costs can vary quite a lot, and you may pay an hourly rate here with a fixed rate per square metre for the retaining wall. This can obviously add to the overall costs.
Also, be mindful that many contractors might charge a lot more depending on the height of the wall. For example, you could end up paying $300 per metre for the first metre but $450 for the second and $650 for the third! This is due to the added complexity of building higher retaining walls. Measurements are more intricate, and the preparation work needs to be more accurate. Not to mention it can be a lot of work to lift all those materials!
There may also be a cost for transportation. If you require rocks to build the wall, they will need to be sourced and brought to your property. Additionally, the contractor will need to use a bobcat or similar construction vehicles to move heavy materials. You’ll certainly want to call up your local specialists for an itemised list of all potential costs so you can have a clearer expectation.
Where can I find the exact costs for retaining walls in Sydney?
There are two primary options here. The first would be to contact a specialist directly who can give you an estimate. When they have looked at your property, you can get a detailed quote.
Alternatively, you can look at an online retaining wall cost calculator to give you an idea. These online calculators take inputs such as material, height, length, and multiple customisation options so you get a clearer idea of costs. It’s not perfect, but it should definitely give you a more concrete understanding of the costs for various retaining walls in Sydney as you build your budget.
Do retaining walls need to be repaired or replaced?
This will depend on the type of retaining wall. Concrete sleepers certainly have a lot more longevity and almost no maintenance in comparison to timber retaining walls. However, even the best retaining walls will need to be replaced at some stage.
Retaining walls will need to be repaired or replaced when you notice any cracking, leaking, sagging, or bulging. The main reason to erect retaining walls is to prevent soil erosion in order to preserve the integrity of the landscape. If they start to lean, even slightly, it’s a sign they are (literally) cracking under pressure.
Whether a repair or replacement is more relevant depends on the extent of the damage. For instance, small cracks can be filled in to stop seepage, but large and deep cracks are signs of deeper structural problems, and the wall, or at least a portion of it, will need to be replaced.
What retaining wall delivers the best value for money?
Many homeowners tend toward concrete sleepers for a higher return on their retaining wall investment. This is because concrete is a relatively inexpensive material but still delivers huge benefits in terms of longevity. They also require little maintenance and can be painted or finished to look attractive or blend into the landscape. They are also one of the most popular options in Sydney.
Of course, a natural stone retaining wall can also conceivably deliver the best value for money, provided it is done correctly. Despite the increased upfront cost, it can increase your home value, and nothing looks better than natural stone. You have to consider the cost in tandem with the increase in longevity, maintenance, and equity.
Timber retaining walls might cost less, but they may only last half as long. If you really want to cut down on costs and save cash for the short term, treated pine is a good option. Just remember you will be replacing it much sooner than other options.
Can I install retaining walls myself to reduce costs?
If you are experienced in these kinds of landscaping and DIY projects, then you might be able to install timber or concrete sleepers. The risk is that if the ground is not perfectly adjusted, the retaining wall won’t be of any benefit. You need to take the right measurements into account so that the retaining wall actually prevents soil erosion.
It’s not recommended to install concrete sleepers yourself as you will have a difficult time removing the sleepers if anything goes wrong. There is less room for error. For natural stone, it’s never recommended to try to install retaining walls yourself because it’s such a specialised area.
Despite a simple appearance, retaining walls require quite a bit of planning. Soil is heavy, and the walls need to retain their shape over the years. Consider that a basic retaining wall (1.5 metres x 4 metres) will have to support about 20 tonnes of soil. The higher the wall, the greater the risk of a miscalculation. You’ll end up with a wall that breaks, costing you a small fortune to fix.
How can I reduce the cost of retaining walls?
Careful design and planning can assist in reducing the cost of retaining walls in Sydney. Ideally, retaining walls would be undertaken in the initial stages of designing your landscape. The walls can then be built with the wider garden in mind under the management of a skilled landscaping professional. An expert can really help you to pinpoint what it is you’re looking for and also highlight anything that is not structurally possible or legally allowed without the right permits.
At the end of the day, it depends on your preferences. You can reduce costs by going for treated pine at a combined cost in Sydney of around $250 per square metre including supply and installation. You’ll get around 10 years out of them before you need a replacement.
Concrete sleepers might cost closer to $400 per square metre, and you’ll get 15 – 20 years out of them. In many ways, it’s just a tradeoff depending on what you’re looking for and what your financial situation is. Where possible, always keep retaining walls small and short. This will allow you to afford better quality materials.
Create elegant retaining walls in Sydney
If you’re looking for affordable retaining walls in Sydney and a perfect landscape to match, then Manna Landscapes are the perfect solution. With 30 years of experience in Sydney and a passion for building beautiful landscapes, you’ll be assured of the right retaining walls for your outdoor space.
We can also work within your budget and financial preferences to ensure that you pay what you want to pay and so that costs stay under control.
With Manna Landscapes, it’s possible to get the best of both worlds with structurally sound retaining walls that complement both your garden and your bank account.