Retaining walls are versatile structures designed to hold back soil or rocks and prevent erosion, landslides, and other environmental hazards. They can be found in both residential and municipal settings, serving various purposes to maintain the integrity of landscapes in Tennessee. Though these retaining walls may seem similar at first glance, there are distinct differences between residential and municipal walls.

residential vs municipal retaining walls


Residential retaining walls in Tennessee are typically smaller in scale, designed to accommodate the needs of a single property, often ranging from 3 to 12 feet in height. These walls are built to manage sloped landscapes or create functional outdoor spaces like terraces or leveled yards, with their size depending on the specific needs of the homeowner and the property layout.

However, municipal retaining walls tend to be much larger and more extensive. They’re usually constructed to protect infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and public facilities from erosion and landslides. Along with larger areas to cover, municipal walls in Tennessee can reach heights of over 20 feet and extend hundreds or even thousands of feet in length.


Aesthetics usually play a significant role in the design of residential retaining walls. Homeowners often want materials like natural stone or interlocking concrete blocks- such as Redi-Rock that gives the appearance of natural stone. These walls may also incorporate landscape features like built-in planters, seating, or decorative lighting.

On the other hand, municipal retaining walls prioritize functionality and durability over aesthetics. They often utilize heavy-duty materials such as poured concrete or large blocks to ensure long-lasting performance and minimal maintenance. Although they may not be as visually appealing as residential walls, municipal walls are designed to withstand the test of time and protect important infrastructure.


Residential retaining walls in Tennessee primarily aim to enhance property value, functionality, and visual appeal by managing sloped terrain, creating level outdoor living spaces, or preventing erosion on the property. These walls not only provide practical benefits but also add an element of visual interest to a landscape.

Municipal retaining walls serve a crucial role in protecting public infrastructure and ensuring public safety. They are constructed to prevent erosion along highways, support bridge abutments, or stabilize steep slopes near public buildings. Unlike residential walls, the main objective of municipal walls is to preserve the integrity of public infrastructure and reduce the risk of environmental hazards.


Like in other states, Tennessee’s residential retaining walls are subject to local building codes and may require permits, depending on the height and location of the wall. Homeowners must comply with these regulations to ensure their walls are structurally sound and safe. Additionally, walls located near property lines may be subject to setback requirements or other restrictions.

On the other hand, municipal retaining walls in Tennessee must adhere to strict building codes and regulations, often involving more rigorous engineering and construction standards than residential walls. These walls are subject to inspections and must be approved by local governing bodies. Additionally, municipal walls often involve collaboration between multiple stakeholders, such as city planners, engineers, and contractors, to ensure the project meets all necessary requirements.

Maintenance and Repair

Maintenance and repair for residential retaining walls is typically the responsibility of the homeowner. It’s important to conduct regular inspections for signs of damage, such as cracks, bulging, or leaning. Depending on the materials used, residential retaining walls may also need periodic cleaning, sealing, or even replacement of damaged sections. Homeowners must keep up with their retaining wall maintenance to avoid costly repairs or potential safety hazards.

On the other hand, municipal retaining walls are designed to last for decades with minimal maintenance. They are constructed with heavy-duty materials that can withstand the elements and wear and tear from public use. The responsibility for maintaining and repairing these walls falls on the local government or the agency responsible for the infrastructure. Regular inspections and maintenance must be performed by professionals to ensure optimal condition and continued essential protection for public infrastructure.

Construction Time

Residential retaining wall projects in Tennessee generally have shorter construction timelines compared to their municipal counterparts, due to their smaller scale and more straightforward designs. These walls can often be completed within a few days to several weeks, depending on the size and complexity of the project. Homeowners may experience minimal disruption to their daily routines and can expect a relatively quick return on their investment.

Municipal retaining walls, however, often involve more long-term construction timelines. Because they are much larger, have more complex designs, and the involvement of multiple stakeholders, these projects may take months or even years to complete. There are also other factors to consider, such as permitting, environmental assessments, and engineering requirements. Additionally, during the construction process, local residents and commuters may experience temporary inconveniences, such as road closures, detours, or restricted access to public facilities.

Ready to start your next retaining wall project?

Whether you are a homeowner looking to add a retaining wall to your landscape or a city planner tasked with safeguarding public infrastructure, it’s essential to recognize the unique characteristics and requirements of each type of retaining wall. With over 25 years in the industry, we’ve got the knowhow and experience to help you with your next construction project. Contact us today to learn more!