Difference between Shear Wall and Retaining Wall

A shear wall assists other structural elements in their ability to withstand shear stress, while the retaining wall stops soil or other materials from shifting.

Retaining walls are vertical cantilever structures.

These walls are typically isolated structures built solely to retain earth masses that are suspected of causing stability problems.

Shear walls connect the upper and lower floor slabs.

These walls are structural walls incorporated into a building to act as a lateral load-resisting system or as an elevator shaft to carry an elevator.

Shear Wall Vs Retaining Wall:

What is a Shear wall?

What is a Shear wall

Shear walls are built as a series of thickly braced and reinforced panels.

For this precise reason, they are referred to as braced wall lines in some areas.

The wall should join two external walls and support the structure’s other shear walls.

Bracing keeps the wall strong and durable by using heavy timbers or support beams and metal brackets.

The building is shielded from earthquakes and strong winds by a shear wall.


  • Resist Seismic loads, vertical forces, and lateral loads (gravity) to reduce the building’s lateral sway.
  • The direction in which a building is oriented should have a significant amount of strength and rigidity.
  • The loads are transferred into the foundations via the rigid vertical diaphragm.
  • Large strength and stiffness should be provided in the orientation’s direction.
  • Significantly reduces lateral sway.
  • Strategically positioned reinforcements.
  • Lower the risk of structural and non-structural components being damaged.

Types of Shear Wall:

1. Reinforced concrete shear wall:

The residential building often uses reinforced concrete shear walls.

The vertical and horizontal orientations are both strengthened.

2. Concrete Block Shear Wall:

A shear wall made of concrete blocks that are hollow and reinforced with steel bars.

3. Steel Shear Wall:

This wall is made up of a floor beam that extends horizontally, a boundary column, and a steel plate wall.

4. Plywood Shear Wall:

This wall is made up of plywood sheets and studs.

Studs resist tension or compression while plywood sheets transmit shear stress.

5. Mid-Ply Shear Wall:

An additional plywood sheet is placed in the middle of a regular plywood wall, and several pairs of studs are placed on either side.

What is a Retaining Wall?

Retaining wall

Retaining walls are built similarly to uniform walls and include the stem, toe, and heel parts.

The stem is stabilized by the toe and heel, which are horizontal members.

These walls are used to stabilize soil that cannot be stable on its own.

It supports soil near rivers that are utilized close to bridge decks, culverts, and other structures.


  • This barrier prevents soil or other materials from shifting when a sudden elevation change occurs.
  • Structures for earth retention preserve the variance in ground surface height while holding the earth in place.
  • Retaining structures made to withstand the soils or backfill securely convey other externally exerted stresses to a foundation.

Types of Retaining Walls:

1. Gravity Retaining Wall:

The only object that can withstand lateral earth pressure is the weight of the gravity retaining wall.

2. Reinforcement Retaining Wall:

It has long been known that using reinforcement can help the soil in retaining walls by making them stronger.

3. Cantilever Retaining Wall:

The stem and base slab are two of the wall’s parts.

4. Counterfort Retaining Wall:

Counterfort retaining walls are comparable to cantilever retaining walls with the exception that they have counterfort or thin vertical concrete webs, spaced evenly along the back of the wall.

5. Buttress Retaining Wall:

A buttress wall is a specific type of counterfort wall known as a buttress retaining wall.

These retaining walls are constructed on the face of the wall rather than inside the backfill.

6. Gabion Retaining Wall:

These gabions are closely connected to the wire and filled with stone.

Walls made of gabion are often inclined, not vertical.

7. Crib retaining wall:

The structure is made up of several interconnecting precast concrete or wood boxes.

8. Sheet Pile Retaining Wall:

Sheet pile retaining walls are built from a network of connected piles, which are inserted into the foundation soil separately.

9. Anchored Retaining Wall:

Retaining walls that are attached are anchored into the ground, rocks, or other strong materials to sustain active soil forces.

10. Diaphragm Retaining Wall:

Sheet piling or reinforced concrete can be used to create a diaphragm wall.

What is the Difference between Shear Wall and Retaining Wall?

A shear wall is a structural wall constructed to withstand horizontal forces often used as a bracing element in a building’s superstructure whereas a retaining wall is a structure made to support the weight of ground that is being held back in infrastructure.

Shear wallRetaining wall
Tall structures have shear walls to withstand lateral stresses (shear) caused by wind and earthquakes.A retaining wall is built to withstand the lateral pressure of dirt that it is intended to hold or retain behind it.
Shear walls are structural walls that are inserted into a building to serve as a lift-shaft or lateral load-resisting system.Retaining walls are typically isolated constructions built exclusively to hold back an earth mass that may have stability issues (for example soil with vertical cuts).
Three distinct failure types Vertical, Horizontal, and Flexural shear failures are possible.Three types of failures. i.e., Sliding, overturning, and bearing failure.
At the top and bottom of the story, shear walls are fastened to floor slabs.Retaining walls are vertical cantilever structures.
Shear walls are a component of a construction system, and don’t have stability issues besides buckling.These walls can slide and topple, which are stability issues.
A shear wall is made to withstand forces acting in one plane.Retaining walls are made to resist forces that aren’t in the plane.
Shear walls are built as a series of thickly braced and reinforced panels.They are built similarly to uniform walls and include the stem, toe, and heel parts.
Shear walls are built in high-rise buildings to resist lateral loads such as earthquakes, lift loads, etc.It is designed to resist both active and passive ground pressures as well as the earth’s mass.
The conventional substance used to construct shear walls is plywood.Retaining walls may be constructed out of wood, bricks, natural stones, or concrete blocks.


A retaining wall is a building designed to hold back soil at a specific slope while fighting off active, passive, surcharge, and ground pressure.

Typically employed in tall buildings to safely transmit a load of any given structure, a shear wall is a structure built to carry a particular load.

Section Under: Retaining Walls

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1 thought on “Difference between Shear Wall and Retaining Wall”

  1. Hey there, I appreciate you for posting such an informational article. It helps me to clearly see the difference between a retaining wall and a shear wall. Both walls are functional, and they also come in various types. Thank you so much again for sharing your idea about these walls. In addition to the details, you also included a comparison table, making your content understandable. After reading your article, I got interested in starting a retaining wall project.


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