When we design and build a stone retaining wall, our goal isn’t merely to change grade or hold back an embankment; we also aim to enhance the landscape. The retaining wall shown on these pages, for instance, which we built around a new in-ground swimming pool, provides seating and helps define a roomlike space in the backyard. The wall was necessary because of the slope of the yard, but locating it between the pool and the house gave us the opportunity to create a landscape design as beautiful as it is practical.
Like the majority of the stone walls and fences we build, this one was installed “dry,” which means that no mortar was used. And while it isn’t exceptionally tall, stone retaining walls can be virtually any height (though a practical limit is about 8 feet); built right, they will last almost forever — or at least until the bulldozers come and redevelop the site.
On the other hand, if improperly built, even a low wall can quickly collapse into a pile of rock. What follows are the techniques we use to make retaining walls last as long as the stone they’re built from.
Native Stone Is Best
While it’s possible to build a stone retaining wall out of practically any type of rock, we prefer to use native stone. There are two reasons for this: A native stone will look like it belongs in the landscape, and shipping costs will be significantly less.
As you can see, this guide not only shows you how to build a stone retaining wall. It will also show you how you can build one in such a way that it also enhances the landscape. Best of all, this guide will show you how to save money in the process. This is a short but complete guide packed with illustrations which will help you learn how to build a stone retaining wall in no time.
- Native stone is best
- Accounting for existing soil conditions
- Preparing the base
- Laying up the wall
- Frost heave