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How Much Does a Railroad Tie Retaining Wall Cost?

How Much Does a Railroad Tie Retaining Wall Cost?

Retaining walls are usually built by homeowners who want additional landscape features for their yard and are often used to keep soil in place along hillsides for erosion control. They can be freestanding or attached to an existing structure. Retaining walls work well with limited space, and they allow homeowners to maximize their use of the ground area.

Railroad tie retaining walls are among the least expensive options at $25 to $30 per square foot owing to their relatively cheap material. However, the overall price of building a retaining wall is determined by several factors, including size, height, amount of material required, and structural design requirements.

For this article, I’ll discuss how much a railroad tie retaining wall costs compared to building with other materials. I’ll also explain the factors affecting those costs. 

Costs of a Railroad Tie Retaining Wall Compared to Other Materials

As I just mentioned, railroad tie retaining walls typically cost between $25 and $30 per square foot. Again, this is one of the least expensive materials compared to wood, bricks, natural stones, or concrete blocks.

Because of its low price point relative to other building materials, a railroad tie retaining wall is a popular choice when building or repairing a home’s landscape borders. Exterior grade pressure-treated wood may be another option to use when creating a retaining wall, but it isn’t as affordable as using recycled railroad ties.

Material TypeCost (per sqft)
Railroad ties$25-$30
Natural stone$27-$35
Cedar timbers$16-$28

Railroad Tie Retaining Wall Cost Estimate

Assuming that the homeowner purchases ties, sand, gravel, and concrete mix at retail price and pays a contractor for all labor, here is a specific cost breakdown of completing a railroad tie retaining wall project.

  • Railroad Ties: $25 per 8-foot tie (x number of total ties for length + width of the project).
  • Sand/gravel/concrete mix: $10-$20 per 80-pound bag x required depth. 
  • Labor: $50-$75 per hour (x number of hours for the project).

Costs go up if you hire a contractor to do the work; their prices vary based on location and other factors. For example, adding stairs requires even more materials and more time, ultimately increasing the total cost by about $100-$200 per stairway.

Natural Stone and Brick Retaining Walls Cost Estimate

Natural stone walls can cost anywhere between $27 and $35 per square foot, while the price of a brick wall averages $40 to $70. Bricks can be more expensive than stones because they’re usually hand-made with clay, produced in batches, and fired for quality assurance before pouring them into molds.

Natural stone walls are another popular choice when building freestanding or retaining walls. Many homeowners choose a natural stone because it’s aesthetically pleasing and durable for exterior use. Exterior grade pressure-treated wood may also be used for this project, but it isn’t as affordable as railroad ties.

Brick walls are another option for homeowners who want to construct their own landscape borders. Brick retaining walls can make an attractive addition to any garden landscape. They’re also relatively easy to construct and can be completed on the weekend.

Wood and Concrete Retaining Wall Cost Estimate

Interlocking cedar landscape timbers is another option when looking for a wood-based material. They can be cut to fit specific lengths and are buttressed, making them stronger than other types of wooden retaining walls.

Cedar landscape timbers aren’t as expensive as solid wood walls, but they cost similar to buildings, with pre-assembled railroad ties at $16 to $28 per square foot. 

The cost of concrete blocks varies depending on the size of the blocks used and the brand purchased. It also depends on which type of mortar is used to hold them together. The labor required should also be considered when determining how much a wall will cost. 

Concrete border walls take more time to construct than other types of materials, so there’s usually a higher cost associated with labor. The cost for this retaining wall is typically up to $100 per square foot for poured concrete.

If you’re interested in more, we wrote an article that explores all of the factors of wood vs. concrete for retaining walls.

How To Save on the Cost of Building a Retaining Wall

When building a retaining wall, homeowners need to get the best possible price. To do this, they can try breaking up their project into sections and getting multiple estimates from local contractors. This provides a better idea of the overall costs before work begins. 

Additionally, getting multiple bids from contractors will allow you to shop around for the lowest price.

Retaining wall cost depends on several factors, including the materials used for construction, where you live, and local building codes requiring permits for your project. If you hire a contractor, be sure to get an estimate that includes everything in writing, so you know all costs upfront.

To get the lowest possible cost when building a retaining wall, homeowners can also choose to do the work themselves, cutting the additional labor cost. We wrote an entire guide on the cheapest options here.

How To DIY a Railroad Tie Retaining Wall

If you have the skills and DIY experience, you can save hundreds of dollars or more on labor costs when hiring a professional to build your retaining wall.

We covered the cheapest ways to build a retaining wall in an article here.


Building a railroad tie retaining wall is one of the cheaper options when compared to concrete, natural stone, brick, and some other materials. However, if you hire a contractor to do the work for you, the cost will increase based on labor costs in your area. 

To cut a few costs, homeowners may choose to build the retaining wall on their own, which will save them hundreds of dollars. Still, hiring a contractor may save time and effort for this type of project. 

If you still have questions, head on over to our retaining wall resource to learn more.


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