Retaining Wall in Garden - Brick, Railway Sleeper or Something Else?

10 May 2011
Reaction score
United Kingdom
I was wondering if I could pick your collective brains.

My garden is about 24 feet from front to back, over which is raises about a 18-24 inches (not that much really). At the front of the garden, the flower bed raises only a couple of inches between the path and the fence but by the time you reach the back of the garden there is about 18 inches between path height and bottom of the fence across the flower bed (path is always lower than the fence base). The flower bed is approx 3 foot wide. The fence sits on top of concrete gravel boards, so I have some height to play with and not worry about having rotting fence panels.

So what I want to do is put in a retaining wall, which will step up in height as it goes down the garden between the path and flower bed. Thereby giving a flat(er) flower bed between wall and fence, and a very hard edge between path and flower bed. I'll prob take about 4 inches from the flower bed for extra path width, and obviously the wall will take some width from the flower bed.

So at the front of the garden the wall height would only be say 6 inches high, but by the time you get to the back it'd be about 22inches or so high.

I'm currently trying to work out whether it would be better (read cheaper and easier) to build the wall from

1)Bricks (I would look at a double skin as by the time I'm at the top of the garden the wall height will be over 18 inches which I understand is really the max a single skin wall should go to), but the Mrs doesn't really want any coping on the top of the wall that she'd catch herself on, so it would prob be topped off by on edge bricks.

2) Railway Sleepers - Laid on either widest side, so looking at common sizes, by the time I get to the back of the garden, they'll be about 6 sleepers high, so I'll need some vertical retaining posts. Or I could lay them on their narrowest side and still need the vertical retaining posts. Or if I fancy lots of cutting I could put them all in vertically (silly idea)

3) Chatting at work and someone suggested concrete breeze block, then just top it off with something, and attach the fake brick affect sheeting to the front. Kind of thinking if I'm going to build a wall might as well build a wall, not a fake something that never looks that good from all the fake brick affects I've seen.

Thank you in advance for getting through this and look forward to your comments and any other ideas.

Cheers all
Sponsored Links
If you can lay bricks well then that would be the best longterm solution probably. If you can't and your paying someone to do the whole thing it will be pretty expensive.

Sleepers will be much faster and easier for diy but material cost will be high relative to labour.

Your other choice would be dry stack mortarless walls, google 'mortarless retaining walls' These are very simple to build diy and will last longer than sleepers but more upfront cost.

Will you be doing it yourself?
Thanks, am off to google mortarless retaining walls.

In terms of doing the work myself, I am wanting to do as much as I can - kind of a little cash short but time plenty(ish) at the moment. In terms of going the sleepers route I'd be doing that myself, and brick wise wanting to lay the concrete foundations - but in terms of the brick laying would be in two minds as to whether attempt it myself or get a bricky in to do it.
Laying bricks is not difficult if you take your time and be neat and careful. I can lay bricks relatively neatly as I've done it many times but when you compare the speed to a professional brickie its laughable and i would sub out any bricklaying work other than small bits like steps etc.

If you shifted all the bricks into place and had the footings all done then you could simply pay a brickie on a day rate. Rates obviously vary wildly but £150-£200 quid a day a good brickie will probably lay 700-1000 bricks in a day in a straight run of 9'' walling especially when the back wont be seen.
Sponsored Links
This would be based on having a labourer mixing for him (which you could do)

DIYnot Local

Staff member

If you need to find a tradesperson to get your job done, please try our local search below, or if you are doing it yourself you can find suppliers local to you.

Select the supplier or trade you require, enter your location to begin your search.

Are you a trade or supplier? You can create your listing free at DIYnot Local