Why Choose Stone for Your Retaining Wall?

Stone is popular for its durability and the natural look it brings to a landscape. As one of humanity’s oldest building materials, it’s been used in every part of the world since before recorded history, from rustic shelters to royal palaces.

Though timber and concrete block retaining walls are very strong and can last for many years, stone is the most durable option. Stone walls can’t be eaten by potential pests and are highly resistant to heat, cold, rain, and wind.

Types of Stone Used for Retaining Walls

Let’s take a closer look at what each stone type can bring to your landscape.

  • Fieldstone isn’t a single variety like granite or limestone, but refers to stones that were found loose in the soil and collected. Farmers in regions that used to have glaciers find a lot of these in their fields, which is one reason places like New England have so many stone walls. Each stone is unique in shape, size, and texture. This gives fieldstone walls a rural charm.
  • Limestone was used to build the Egyptian pyramids. It’s still a great choice for stone construction. Limestone is often cut into regular shapes that give the walls an organized, polished look.
  • Granite is one of the hardest stones regularly used in construction projects. The hardness of stone is ranked on something called the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. 1 is the softest, with minerals like talc, while diamond is the hardest at 10. Granite can range from 6 to 8 on the scale, the average being 6.5. For comparison, tool steel is around a 5. Besides its strength, granite has a wonderful variety of colors, such as red, green, and black. By far the most common and popular color of granite is grey. Its durability makes it great for retaining walls in areas facing significant environmental stress.
  • Sandstone’s softer texture and warm colors make it a popular choice for retaining walls that are designed to blend in with the natural environment. Because it’s relatively easy to shape, sandstone comes with a wide range of design options, from smooth, uniform surfaces to more textured, irregular finishes.
  • Slate is a fine-grained metamorphic rock. It has a history of use in roofing and as a reusable writing surface before paper became widely available. Its ability to split into thin sheets makes it a natural choice for retaining walls stacked in strong, neat layers.

Each type of stone offers a unique look and connects your landscape to a long history of construction. Which is best for you depends on your budget, the specific appearance you’re after, and the soil conditions on your property.

Stone Wall Installation Process

What does the process of installing stone retaining walls look like? Our first step is to understand your vision and goals. Whether you’re looking to prevent soil erosion, add functional flat areas to your yard, or bring its visual appeal up a level, we make a plan that fits your needs.

Before any construction begins, we’ll thoroughly survey your property. This helps us learn about the terrain, soil conditions, and any other factors that might influence the wall’s design and construction. Given the wide variety of stone materials and construction styles available, we’ll propose a design that matches your preferences and the practical requirements of your landscape.

The typical height for a stone retaining wall is three to four feet. This works well with most landscapes, but we have experience making walls much higher. If you need a tall or unusually shaped retaining wall, the Landscape Guys can build it.

Construction begins by preparing the ground. We’ll dig out the area for the wall, removing loose soil to reach stable earth, and level and compact the base for a solid foundation.

The method of laying stones varies by the wall’s design. In dry-stacked walls, stones are selected and placed to fit snugly without mortar, relying on their weight and arrangement for stability. This ancient style is popular for its natural look and drainage benefits. For walls that use mortar, stones are laid and bonded with a mortar mix. Mortar walls have added strength and a more finished appearance. Both styles make strong, long-lasting walls. We’ll discuss the advantages of each method and recommend the best option for your specific project.

In all types of retaining walls, preventing rainwater from building up in the soil is important. Poor drainage can lead to a swampy area behind the wall, with high soil pressure that can damage the wall over time.

We use a French drain system to prevent water buildup. This involves digging a trench along the wall’s base, on the side facing the retained soil. The trench is typically about 6 inches wide and 18 to 24 inches deep, but these dimensions will vary based on the size of the wall and expected water flow. At the bottom of the trench, we lay a perforated pipe designed to collect and redirect water away from the wall. We fill the trench with gravel, which allows water to flow easily into the pipe, and cover it with landscape fabric to prevent clogging. This design provides effective drainage and protects the wall and surrounding area from water damage.

After finishing the wall, we’ll fill in the space immediately behind it with soil, and prepare the area for any more landscaping you might need. Whether it’s planting flowers, laying sod, or something else, we’ll make sure your property looks its best.

Contact us today to get started. We serve the entire Twin Cities area.