flat rock retaining walls

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by IMAGE, Jul 13, 2009.

  1. IMAGE

    IMAGE LawnSite Bronze Member
    from midwest
    Messages: 1,134

    I have used cast blocks before with no problem. But I want to get into using natural stones and flat rocks to build some shorter retaining walls, less then 2' tall.

    How different is the process for building short walls this way? Do I need to use a mortar or binder? (I'm thinking yes to do it right) Also, how much longer time wise does it take building a wall when your working with natural rocks and spending more time fitting them and finding 'just the right one' for each place?

    Thanks, Steve
  2. Bru75

    Bru75 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 582

    It is different. I would sugest watching somebody experienced and reading (there are a lot of good books on the subject). Practice on your own property helps, too.
    You can build with or without mortar, but if you build a mortared wall you will need a footer below the frost line.
    The main difference in my opinion is that the builder has to have an "eye" for stonework. Some people are born with it, some can learn it, and some never will.
    Do a web search for the Dry Stone Conservancy.
    Look for books by David Reed, Dan Snow, and Charles McRaven.
  3. 4Russl5

    4Russl5 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 160

    The previous poster gave you soild leads. You don't need mortar if you build with foundation stones, through stones, and good cap stones. Mortar will actually lead to the structures failure over time as it stops its ability to be flexible and move with the freezing and thawing cycles.
    My assistant and I are both trained through the Dry Stone Conservancy.. which is great because you gain knowledge about building skills, production rate, and proper bonding.
    If you love working in stone and enjoy the complexity of building with inconsistent materials, time won't be an issue.
    It is really two different people who build with block material and natural stone. You will also find natural stone about twice as expensive as blocks to install.

    Also you have to asses how much water your soil holds in the wet season.... For me we almost exclusively do retaining walls in natural stone... my stone depth for a 24"-48" retaining wall, on top of foundation stones, will range from 24" to 30".In the attached image we are 26" deep or so for a 2' tall wall.The area is super wet year round.

    Go do a workshop and see if you like it enough to want to invest in the tools and education.
    There are only a handful of rules, but if you skip one of them, you really only have a pretty stack of stones. The difference between an asset and a liability.


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