I have seen quite the variety of retaining walls throughout the Greater Victoria area, some good, some very bad. Custom stairs and rock walls are integral to this landscape construction project.

What is a retaining wall?

Retaining walls are usually created when there is a desire to manage or hold back soils or other hardscape materials. A retaining wall can be anywhere from 6” to in excess of 60’ high. I have seen them constructed of everything from used tires to blast rock to engineered retaining wall systems. Concrete blocks are commonly used in Greater Victoria so I will touch on this type of construction in this article.

A retaining wall can result in significant changes to yours and a neighbouring property. Drainage, safety concerns and cost are only a few important things to consider before constructing a retaining wall.

Altered Drainage:

A retaining wall can act as a wall to any natural water drainage which can have a positive effect or a negative effect on a property. When considering a retaining wall system, ensure your contractor has considered drainage, its effect on the wall system and its effect on the two properties. The placement of a drainage system behind a retaining wall is not uncommon and it can alleviate many problems before they develop!

Safety Concerns:

The safety of a retaining wall system is probably the most important aspect to consider. If the retaining wall system should fail, it could result in significant financial loss. More importantly, it could result in serious injury! Here is some important points to remember with cement block retaining wall systems;

  • Was the block constructed using a single pour of concrete or was it constructed of excess concrete over many pours?
    • The structural integrity of the concrete is assured with a single pour.
  • Is the construction of the block engineered?
    • Only a few product in this market provide internal and corrosion free reinforcement. Internal reinforcement will allow for greater wall height without the need for expensive reinforcement grid. Ask for proof the blocks are engineered.


An engineered retaining wall system might be slightly higher in value than a non-engineered block but consider the cost of damages caused by a falling wall on a neighbouring property! In the end, building it right the first time is always a cost savings.

Colin Eaton,

Garden City Tree and Landscape Ltd. www.victoriagardencity.ca