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5 off-the-wall uses for retaining walls

(BPT) – Segmental retaining wall (SRW) systems make attractive walls, but they also are used to build many beautiful and functional outdoor features for homeowners and professionals alike. As the most versatile resource in a professional landscaper’s tool box, SRWs can also be used by do-it-yourself landscapers with a little know-how. Whether you need to transition a slope, shore up soil or create beautiful hardscaped features, one retaining wall system — the VERSA-LOK retaining wall system — can do it all.

YouTube creator and construction pro Stanley “Dirt Monkey” Genadek calls VERSA-LOK the “gold standard” of retaining walls. “VERSA-LOK’s solid, pinned units are superior to hollow, lipped blocks that require fill and might trap water,” says Genadek, who owns a landscaping and excavating company in Mendota Heights, Minn. “It’s the one block that can do it all. VERSA-LOK is the gold standard in SRWs as far as I’m concerned.”

Says Scott Arnold, manager of Villa Landscapes, a design and install landscaping firm in St. Paul/Minneapolis: “Retaining walls are most often employed to address grade changes in the landscape and to retain soil. But as the ‘Legos’ of landscaping tools, retaining wall units can be used to create many beautiful and functional features such as outdoor kitchens, fireplaces and seating.”


From creating seat walls to stadium seats, retaining walls are for sitting. One popular application is a freestanding seat wall around a patio or fire pit. Retaining walls are perfect to set into hillsides such as amphitheater seating, where they retain soil while offering a place to sit. Other options include stadium seating, replacing cold, noisy and more expensive aluminum bleachers as well as a couch or bench designed with SRWs.

Functional features

Retaining wall units can make beautiful tiered gardens, raised garden beds, planters, tree rings plus fire and water features. One common application is a raised patio, where retaining wall units serve as a foundation for a paver patio surrounded by freestanding walls in place of a wood deck. Creative homeowners and installers have used retaining wall units for lighted column posts, waterfalls, hot tub platforms or mailbox columns.


Going up and down a slope is easier with solid stair foundations created from retaining wall units. From stairs out the back patio to steps for access within a hardscape design such as a multi-level patio, retaining wall units are a safe support for stair treads and pavers.


Keep people moving the right way with freestanding walls used as fencing or partitions. A parapet wall is a back-to-back wall that serves as a barrier for vehicles and pedestrians. Stepped-down freestanding walls are used alongside ramps for easy access. Custom columns designed with lighting and fencing with timbers or rail posts can serve as a fence solution.


Both residential and commercial signage can be created with retaining wall units. Stately columns with house numbers at the end of a driveway, a hardscaped entrance sign to a community development or a mailbox pillar are features easily created with retaining wall units. Monument signs can be built as freestanding walls, with channel letters, a signboard or neon mounted on the surface.

The endless design options afforded by retaining wall systems are limited only by the imagination. With a variety of colors and textures, retaining walls can do it all, beautifully. If you can design it, you can build it with VERSA-LOK.