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which type of retaining wall is the best

Dear Dave,

We have an area that needs a retaining wall, 25 feet long and 4 feet high, and we would like some advice on what might be the best route to take. We have access to railroad ties but we aren’t sure if those will have as good of resale value for the property as a rock or stone retaining wall. What are your thoughts on this?

Much Appreciated,

Jim and Ruth – Loma, CO

Jim and Ruth,

There are many issues to uncover and consider here.  First, you are thinking resale and I always love it when people think resale!  What you do to your home while you live there will significantly impact the value of your home either positively or negatively.  By focusing on resale, it does not guarantee anything, however it will help ensure your actions have a positive impact on your bottom line when you do decide to sell.

A retaining wall can be a definite value add to a property from both the function side and the aesthetic looks of our landscaping. The most important thing, in my mind, is to have it done by a professional, so it looks like it was done by a professional. Case in point, I added a pond to my property five years ago and around ¾ of the pond we had a boulder retaining wall that went from ground level at a 90 degree angle up the side of the pond to the top edge. It looked awful! I had a visitor ask me one time, “Why did you build an elephant watering hole?” Yikes! Needless to say, we did not feel very good about our “pond”.  This spring, we hired a landscape professional, Keith Lowdermilk of Lowdermilk Landscaping, to re-do some of our landscaping. While he was looking over the job, he asked if he could “re-do” our retaining wall around our pond. He thought he could make it look better. We said, “Absolutely!” After all, it was a total eye sore and we don’t even own an elephant! Long story short, he completely rebuilt the retaining wall around our pond and now it is a highlighted feature of our landscaping rather than something we were trying to hide. The cost was ridiculously reasonable, especially considering the end result. He used the same boulders we had and simply re-stacked and reshaped the contour and the finished product is amazing! The moral of the story – don’t be afraid to hire a professional!

Regardless of the medium used, railroad ties, boulders, or rocks, I think it can be a valuable addition. Try to pick a medium that is in line with the style of your home. If you have a more country or cottage feel, then maybe a railroad tie wall would look best. However, if your home is newer and is stucco and stone then maybe something with boulders would look best. From a pure cost perspective, if you have the inside track on some cost savings on railroad ties, I suggest you go that route. As I learned, spend a bit extra and go with a professional to help you design the wall and potentially also install it.

Do it right the first time and it will really pay off and look great! Remember, not everything is about resale – you are going to have to look at it for many years and if it is done right, you will look at it as a feature and not an eyesore. My bet is you (and your back!) won’t regret it. Hope this helps.

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team



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