5 Creative Top of Wall Details for Retaining Walls

Customize Your Retaining Wall’s Top of Wall Features

Arguably the most underrated design aspect of big block retaining walls are top of wall details, which help the walls become a prominent feature or quietly blend into their surroundings. The choice of block selected for retaining wall projects also has a major influence on wide-ranging styles of top of wall details – some are more limiting, while others offer expansive, inspiring design options.

Large hollow core precast retaining wall systems like MagnumStone offer supreme flexibility to projects big and small, simple and sophisticated. The hollow cores greatly enhance critical drainage capabilities while also carving out opportunities for stylish features atop the wall. This can help reduce labor costs as the system’s adaptability can lead to easier and faster installation. The more versatility a block design has, the more creative freedom you’ll have to work with!

Regardless of the type of wall you want to build, explore the possibilities for your upcoming retaining wall projects with these top of wall design ideas:

  1. Plantable Terraced Retaining Wall Designs
  2. Cap Units for Elegant Finishes
  3. Step-Downs for Base Elevation Changes
  4. Install Fence and Handrail Posts Directly into Top Blocks
  5. Increase Safety with Hardscape Lighting

1. Plantable Terraced Retaining Wall Designs

The natural planting pockets inside hollow core retaining wall systems are prefect for growing shrubs, plants and flowers – giving a fresh look and feel atop these modern retaining wall designs. Terraced or tiered walls can replace tall, boring straight wall designs with more greenery and are a perfect hybrid of high-performance strength and natural, earthy landscapes.

These wall designs are excellent for LEED certified development and infrastructure projects. Finding ways to reduce CO₂ emissions and take environmentally friendly approaches to retaining wall projects is important to MagnumStone. Building vibrant, sustainable communities with greener solutions like plantable terraced retaining walls can play a major role in minimizing impermeable surfaces and harmful heat island effects.

2. Cap Units for Elegant Finishes

Another type of wall design addition you can consider are cap units. They are a simple, classy touch that can transform a concrete wall’s appearance and make it a property’s focal point. This modest addition can give new developments a striking, high-end aesthetic to attract residents, or make an impression on clientele in commercial areas.

Want to streamline material supplies and avoid delays that hold up your retaining wall project? MagnumStone’s cap units can double as outdoor steps, so contractors can purchase and deliver concrete blocks, cap units and landscape stairs all at once. An all-in-one solution for beautiful, natural stone looks and simplified material sourcing to finish the job faster – what more could we ask for?

3. Step-Downs for Base Elevation Changes

For sloped land and graded terrain, step-down features are a common way to give freestanding walls a tapered appearance that blends into its landscape design. Step-downs, also referred to as step-ups, give the wall a smooth, gradual solution for base elevation changes typically found on most residential and commercial properties. Use half-high concrete blocks and cap units to top off this wall design idea in style.

MagnumStone’s half-high retaining concrete wall blocks are perfect for step-down transitions and ensure landowners can purchase a sufficient amount of concrete blocks. Half-high units are great alternatives to purchasing more block than is necessary to fulfill a project’s objectives. While saving costs on square footage of concrete blocks, they also eliminate abrupt or awkward looking wall ends.

4. Install Fence and Handrail Posts Directly into Top Blocks

Posts for fences, handrails, and guardrails are typically installed 3 ft. (0.91 m.) behind retaining walls, rendering valuable land useless in the process. That’s because most retaining wall systems consist of solid concrete blocks, therefore the posts must be placed behind those blocks to achieve adequate embedment depths. This ensures the posts are securely embedded and alleviate pressures from above the fence to prevent overturning or compromising the wall’s structural integrity.

On the other hand, what if you could safely install fence, handrail, and guardrail posts directly into a hollow core block instead? With MagnumStone’s advanced block design, landowners can save that space above the wall or build closer to property lines by surrounding the post with cement inside the hollow core. Contractors can then maximize usable land and deliver a clean, polished aesthetic.

5. Increase Safety with Hardscape Lighting

The easy installation of under cap lighting can shine a spotlight on the beautiful facing of your retaining wall, day and night. Humble aesthetic details and wall ideas like these can pack an impactful ‘wow’ factor at a relatively low cost. Supplemental wall elements such as lighting features complement MagnumStone’s textured concrete blocks nicely, plus they bestow a new level of safety and opportunities to enjoy outdoor spaces beyond sunlit hours.

Contemporary hardscape lights subtly conceal unsightly or bulky wiring, making them virtually unnoticeable – and there are plenty of solar powered options available too. Place the lights under cap units or atop the wall’s surface for safely lit driveways, parking areas and pathways, or to optimize leisurely outdoor time.

Learn more about top of wall details by contacting your local MagnumStone retaining wall experts or use our Retaining Wall Design & Analysis Software to begin planning your next project today!


Photos: Lee Building Products, Masters Concrete Products, Cirtex, TJR Concrete, Barkman Concrete, Oberfields LLC & York Building Products.


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