Types of Wood Retaining Walls

Updated February 21, 2017

Retaining walls help reinforce areas, especially garden beds created on slopes or hills. One type of retaining wall is the wood retaining wall as opposed to the common block or concrete retaining walls. Wood fits naturally into your environment, and you generally have your choice between three different wood retaining wall types: sleepers, treated wood and timber. Wood, however, does not last as long as stone, and you must properly install and treat it.


Timber are boards used in building, commonly for framing, and you can purchase it finished or raw. Raw timber is rough and is often made from natural hardwoods that are resistant to the elements. Finished timber is usually made from softwood like fir, pine and cedar, and it usually has some type of coating or treatment added to it to protect the wood from the elements and rotting. You can also purchase painting timber to give it a more decorative flare. Use timber retaining walls for controlling a steep slope or for erosion control, and you can also use this wood to create flower beds or supports for steps.


Railroad or landscaping ties are long, thick and rectangular pieces of wood; real sleepers or railway sleepers were used as railroad track bases. According to Retaining Walls USA, sleepers are good alternatives to brick, concrete and stone since these pieces of wood are very strong and can hold a lot of weight. Generally, sleepers are laid on top of some type of drainable material, like sand or gravel, and then they are connected together via rebar to hold the ties in place. If you do not have proper drainage for sleepers, the ties will rot. Real sleepers have creosote, which is a type of wood tar with which the wood was treated. Always use gloves if your ties are coated in creosote since it can burn or cause a rash to break out on your skin, mouth and throat.

Standard Wood

You can use any type of wood for retaining walls, including pine and cedar sheets. But you always need to treat regular wood for it to withstand outside elements. Also look for wood that is naturally resistant to rot and terminates, especially if you live in a damp climate. Wood retaining walls are easier for do-it-yourselfers to assemble over the other types of wood retaining walls according to Retaining Walls USA. You can add natural stains to this wood or paint it, and you can customise the retaining wall design based on your preferences.

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About the Author

Misty Faucheux became a freelance writer in 1998 and has been an editor since 2004. She has written for a variety of websites and blogs, specializing in topics ranging from digital photography to computer systems to digital media. Faucheux received a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Loyola University New Orleans.