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View Full Version : Advice for natural stone retaining walls....?


andyslawncare
10-08-2011, 10:06 PM
We're installing our first natural stone retaining walls next week. The material is field stone steppers (about 40-50lbs each, 7-10'' tall and 12-18'' deep), which are natural faced, but pretty flat on top.

I'm open to advice and opinions. We are doing a total length of about 70' by 2' tall built on a 6'' deep by 2' wide crush and 1'' m-10 sand base. I plan to use type s mortar behind the stones for stability. I do not plan on using drainage as they are short walls.

I appreciate any advice and suggestions.

I'll post pictures as we progress on Monday and Tuesday.

shovelracer
10-08-2011, 10:14 PM
Lose the sand and add drainage. I am not a fan of mortared walls like that. A properly built drystack is good enough. People use mortar to short change the basic known wall engineering. Almost always they have problems down the road. As far as construction advice goes it takes a lifetime to master stonework. For starters watch your bond lines and keep things tight. The more time spent manipulating the stone the better the finished product will be.

andyslawncare
10-08-2011, 10:20 PM
I planned on the sand so that I could be level. I want to level each stone before placing.

I just thought to use mortar since the stones are not that heavy. I guess I'll pick up some smaller pieces to stabilize the stones.

Should I step back the stones, or install them with a plum?

shovelracer
10-09-2011, 07:23 AM
Sand is not the answer. If you spend enough time on the base each stone will be level. Generally with dry stacks you batter the wall back at least 1-2" per vertical foot. As far as "stabilizing" and fitting the stone, well this is what makes a good stone crafter good. The use of saws, chisels, and stone hammers can do wonders in trained hands.

DVS Hardscaper
10-09-2011, 09:07 AM
Lawn guys and stones work.

That's like roOfers doing electrical work
Posted via Mobile Device

4Russl5
10-09-2011, 06:37 PM
I actually agree with you DVS. Is it so hard to refer a qualified person/company and mark their work up a bit and give the client a better product? Let the mason do the masonry work and you do what you do best.... This is one of the areas I have focused on making our company stronger during the last three years. It has been great because it has built bridges with multiple contractors to refer me to their clients as well.

DVS Hardscaper
10-09-2011, 07:39 PM
And I do not intend to arrogant. Working with stone is an art and a craft. You have to have an eye for it.

I cringe when I think about lawn jockeys and landscapers doing stone work. One day they're out stripping lawns, planting trees and plopping shrubs in the ground and the next day they're trying to remember how many shovels of sand is mixed with 1 bag of mortar.


,

4Russl5
10-09-2011, 08:05 PM
The shoe fits for me as well as we cut all plantings & plant design and now sub it out to a few really good companies that only do those things. As of this year we are 99% just doing natural stone work for people, dry and wet.

andyslawncare
10-11-2011, 11:25 PM
Lawn guys and stones work.

That's like roOfers doing electrical work
Posted via Mobile Device

I'm not a lawn guy. I spend only around 25% of my time doing maintenance. The rest of the time I'm installing designs that I made. I have yet had a retaining wall fail that I've built, nor have any of my irrigation systems called me back for warranted repairs. I'm not an idiot. Just because I'm young and don't have hundreds of thousands invested doesn't mean I can't do something.

andyslawncare
10-11-2011, 11:46 PM
We started the job on Monday. I have a 6'' base of crush, no sand, and drainage with no mortar. We dry stacked the stones and they are stable and as level as possible with the odd shapes. The base level was perfect. We've built 2 walls and the third is tomorrow morning. I'll post an image of the finished project. I think we did a pretty good job, and our customer likes it. There IS an art to doing this, and we have found a pretty efficient technique to finding the right stone for the right place by now... I constantly have a guy on a stone that might fit, and another one following with another might fit.

4Russl5
10-12-2011, 03:05 AM
You have a good attitude. You will learn a lot from each project. From success you learn nothing. From failure you learn many things because you are forced to ask yourself questions.
Sometimes good advice is hard to hear. You asked. I am a professional dry stone waller that is trained, teaches, and builds to consistent specifications every time that can be quantified in material and dollars quickly. You want to build 'dry stack' walls your way, cool. You want to build them to last for 100's of years properly, read a couple of pdf's from the Dry Stone Walling Association of GB, http://www.dswa.org.uk/Leaflets-g.asp

I warranty all work for 10 years free of craftsmanship defect, and only let trained, certified wallers work on my products.

If you want to learn keep asking questions. This is the only area I chime in on here.

Bru75
10-12-2011, 08:54 AM
Good info, 4Russl5. Here's some more: http://www.drystone.org/