Retaining Walls For Driveways and Parking Lots: What You Need to Know

 As we head towards the hustle and bustle of another busy holiday season, we’ve got retaining walls for driveways and parking lots on the mind. It might seem strange to be thinking about landscaping in the middle of November, what with the many months of blustery winter weather ahead of us, but really, there’s no better time than now to be designing the driveway of your dreams. The best time to start building a new driveway is after those wet early-spring rains, so we thought we’d help you get ahead of the game by filling you in on everything you need to know to get the planning process started today!

A Little Extra or a Bit Off the Top?

The first thing to consider when planning your new driveway is whether you’re looking to cut or fill as this will determine the design, materials, and details you need to consider when building. Not sure which category you fall into? No problem! We’ll break it down for you:


  • Cut retaining wall: This sort of driveway and retaining wall is for when you need to extend your driveway, to make it longer or more approachable. With this sort of a design, we always suggest including a curb or parking stop at least four feet out from the retaining wall, to ensure there’s no potential for a driver to accidentally clip or run into the wall itself! This sort of  retaining wall can also be designed without any real considerations for top-load, since all of the heavy traffic will be on the driveway below. Keep in mind that slopes or structures above the wall also add loading and need to be determined before the fact. Preliminary designs are always important in retaining wall design.

Extend Driveway retaining wall

  • Fill retaining wall: This driveway design is for when you need to build up your driveway, to compensate for a slope that’s too shallow, or for land that’s otherwise unstable. In this instance, geogrids are usually required to account for the load on the driveway. For the opposite reason of someone driving into your retaining wall we also don’t want them to drive over the wall. So, for this reason a parking curb and potentially guard rail are recommended.

Driveway loading on retaining wall

All driveways and retaining walls fall into these two build categories. Once you’ve determined which approach your particular situation calls for, you’re well on your way to designing a stunning, attractive new driveway!

Photos of Retaining Walls for Driveways and Parking Lots Using CornerStone Wall Blocks

Driveway Details to Consider

You’ve sorted out what type of driveway you’re looking for, but there are still quite a few more things to consider before breaking ground on that brand-new project. Below are six key details that should be considered before you begin to build:

  • Consider the load. We mentioned the importance of taking load into account when building a fill retaining wall. Generally speaking, most cars require consideration for loads around 150 lbs/sq-ft, while trucks are closer to about 250 lbs/sq-ft. For all the technical information you’ll need to build accordingly, please consult the NCMA SRW Best Practices Guide, NCMA SRW Best Practices . Always talk with a local Engineer and follow local building codes.
  • Have a solid design. You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint, so make sure you don’t build a driveway without a plan. To help out in this regard, we’re happy to offer some great, free to download from our website! Don’t hesitate to reach out to a local engineer – that way, you’ll know that your new driveway will be designed to last and with safety in mind.
  • Culverts/head walls. If there’s a ditch or other similar sort of undulation in the land where you’re planning to build your driveway, you’ll need to look at including a culvert or head wall in your design so that it can be safely traversed. This application may be a bit more work but is done often. From small to very large culverts… check out the photos.
  • Proper drainage. Like any other landscaping element, water is the mortal enemy of driveways and retaining walls. Improper drainage can result in water flowing and collecting in all the wrong places, which can work to quickly damage your brand-new driveway, and could also end up wreaking havoc on other parts of your yard, home, or surrounding structures, so take this into consideration.
  • Guard rails. Keep your property safe and install guard rails so that nobody slips off the top of your new retaining wall while admiring how gorgeous your outdoor space is! Guard rails and fence posts should be build with proper consideration and again we recommend that you discuss this with your Engineer.
  • Underground lines. As with any building project, make sure you call before your dig. Most counties and cites post the numbers everywhere. They will mark out where all lines are called “locates” and ensure they are properly marked out for you or the contractor building the retaining wall.


And with that, you’re off to the races! Now that you’ve got some of these plans in place, you can start taking a look at all of the we offer to really make your project something to be proud of. Once you’ve found some stylish designed retaining wall options that will make your new driveway the envy of everyone who sets a tire to it, it’s just a matter of reaching out to your convenient Local Distributer, where they’ll be happy to set you up with pricing, details, and anything else you might need!

Spring might be a good number of months away yet, but there’s never been a better time to start designing your Retaining Walls for Driveways and Parking Lots – we can’t wait to help make your creative vision come to life!