Block Retaining Walls

Are you looking for contractors to add a block retaining wall to your commercial property? The Airtight Construction team has the installation experience, structural design resources and design knowledge for any type of retaining wall systems you may be looking for. We can design attractive and structurally sound retaining walls using retaining wall blocks, concrete, or stone, for a solution that gets the job done and looks great, too.

Are retaining walls used commercially?

Concrete block retaining wall designs are a popular choice, especially on commercial properties. They’re a fantastic way to do things like protect a road, establish visual links in a specific flow of flowerbeds or alter the landscape.

They are also used to reduce a steep slope for safety and usability. They help to stabilize areas of loose ground that might subside, and can even be used to expand a commercial lot to allow for better use of the ground or develop the space to build a project correctly.

Why use cinder blocks for retaining walls?

There are many types of retaining wall blocks, and the Airtight Construction team has built every type imaginable. Today we’re looking specifically at the concrete block retaining wall. These are sometimes called Concrete Masonry Units (CMUs) or cinder blocks, and they are perfect for commercial retaining walls.

You’ve likely seen this type of retaining wall already, and not realized it. CMU retaining wall blocks are extensively used on commercial properties. They’re strong, versatile, and attractive to the eye. They can also be dressed up with stone, wall caps, quarried stone, and other natural features to landscape your location beautifully, making them one of the most versatile wall systems available..

Types of cinder blocks used in retaining walls

Cinder blocks are available in smaller and larger block sizes and some are even pre-colored, or with decorative faces. We can add decorative colors or face textures after installation, including chiseled stone, to enhance the design and complement existing structures and landscapes.

Larger blocks, obviously, can hold more soil and stack higher. They’re usually used where the wall must be functional, not just pretty as with garden walls. They are very customizable.

Small blocks work best in lighter settings, such as non-load-bearing landscape walls, and where you like the look of the block enough to leave it as is. They’re great for more ornamental walls, too.

Designing and building concrete retaining walls that are both safe and aesthetically pleasing is an art form as well as a skill, which is why you need safe skilled workers to handle the project.

Ideal retaining wall blocks

Some people refer to cinder block retaining walls as a masonry walls, but most reserve that phrase to refer to bricks. While bricks can be used successfully in a retaining wall, or even in freestanding landscape walls, they’re weaker and have less tensile strength and lifespan than cinder blocks for retaining walls. They are more commonly used for residential projects. Different types of landscape walls exist for different purposes.

We often use concrete wall blocks stacked on each other to provide a strong, attractive wall design called a gravity retaining wall. This is a sturdy and strong retaining wall style that’s used in a wide variety of commercial applications. It can be used in a straight line, or curved, very effectively.

Ideal Retaining Walls

Retaining walls for commercial properties

What makes this style of retaining walls so popular? They don’t degrade and need very little maintenance. You’ll occasionally need to pressure wash them. Otherwise, a well-designed retaining wall should last for decades, enhancing the landscape hugely. The materials used in cinder blocks are also inexpensive and easy to source. In fact, due to their weight, cinder blocks can cost more to ship than the blocks cost.

Why use retaining wall blocks

As we mentioned above, the primary use of retaining walls is to hold back areas of ground, creating stable, straight and flatter areas at the base of the retaining wall. They’re also used frequently in landscaping, both from necessity and for their aesthetic appearance in creating a vibrant outdoor living space.

Retaining walls can also be used to provide areas for walkways, patios, decks, fire pits, outdoor kitchens and other features. Slopes over 35 degrees can become unstable, making them unsafe for your customers, so consider using them to make your commercial premises safer, too. This does depend on the exact soil on your lot- sand and gravel are the most unstable.

The type of wall block used for your retaining wall will depend on your needs as well as budget. If you’re doing it for landscape value only, you have a lot more freedom than if you’re stabilizing a dangerous piece of ground or leveling an awkward slope. There, safety and functionality is more important than prettiness!

How to safely build retaining walls

Many concrete masonry units and other types of retaining wall blocks fail due to poor drainage in saturated soil pushing the wall blocks past their maximum load. This is why it’s essential to use a reputable contractor who understands industrial needs to design, as well as install, the wall.

Three crucial elements go into the process of making a durable retaining surface- landscape fabric for added stability, the correct backfill, and a drainage system appropriate to the space.

How to Build Retaining Walls

Steps to building retaining walls

Here’s a look at what goes into the full retaining wall build

Correct preparation:

A strong base is key in a cinder block wall. Without a solid base, it’s not even worth creating. Ideally, your contractor will design it in a way where the foot of the wall will be below grade. To what depth they must dig will depend on the wall height needed, ensuring force is well spread. Compacted sand and gravel is often used for this step.


Once the correct depth is reached, backfill helps the wall to hold back the tons of soil it will be responsible for. This is the dirt ‘behind’ the wall (on the higher side). It needs the correct drainage building under it, so the weight of the water after watering plants or rain doesn’t subject the wall to too much pressure. This risks failure through the added weight. Sometimes, gravel will be used as a base drainage layer. If you’re wanting to add a specific landscape in these beds, you will also need to consider the right soil for the intended additions.


We have mentioned this a lot so far, but planning for drainage, especially on a commercial property, is essential. Cinder block walls do allow some water to pass through the hollow core design, but the stone or concrete used to create them is a lot more impervious to water than the ground is.

Structural failure is frighteningly easy if hydrostatic pressure builds up on the other side. Weep holes, drainage, and the correct backfill all help avoid this.

The back of the wall often needs a waterproof membrane installed, too, to avoid efflorescence. This is a white, powdery residue that builds up as the water evaporates from the soil after precipitation.

Build to height:

On this solid footing, the specialist will then build the CMU blocks to the correct height. This is determined by the load it’s bearing and the reinforcement needed. Sometimes cantilevers and anchors may be needed for extra strength and stability. Your ATC pro will advise on this at the design stage.

And now you have your beautiful new retaining wall installed! While these considerations all fall around the need for your wall to be functional, that doesn’t mean it can’t be aesthetically beautiful, too. We will work to create a design that looks great, as well as gets the job done.

You can also contribute greatly to your landscaping through retaining walls, creating defined areas of space with the right plantings.

Why hire a professional retaining wall contractor?

Block Retaining Walls

It’s worth hiring a professional commercial contractor to install your retaining wall blocks. The risk of failure of the structure is too high if it is created incorrectly. This could lead to potential disaster for your buildings.

Customers or passers-by could be injured should the wall blocks be incorrectly placed or the foundation design too weak. You may even find yourself without recourse against a poor installation, as a water-weight failure can happen years after the wall was finished. It’s better to make sure a reputable firm installs it right the first time.

Block retaining walls by Airtight Construction

Airtight Construction leverages our local knowledge of San Francisco Bay Area soil and weather conditions to create retaining walls that work. Alongside high-quality materials and careful attention to detail, we will ensure that the retaining wall is correctly built for the site from day one.

We will also ensure you understand the projects at hand and that we are in regular contact with you during the construction. Our professionals will respect the property and help you get the best from your location.

A retaining wall is a functional and beautiful addition to your commercial lot, creating focal points to draw the eye while subtly reshaping the landscape. With proper planning and installation, your retaining wall will look amazing and perform its job for years to come.

Also see our Retaining Wall Contractor page.

Why not talk with the ATC team, and get your free quote today? Our knowledgeable helpers are here to help you shape the space your business needs, perfectly. Just call 925-687-1121 or fill out the small Bid Request form at the bottom of this page.