Tips for Building Natural Stone Retaining Walls

Natural stone retaining walls can add a great deal of beauty to a garden, as well as performing a very useful function. It can hold back and area within the garden or act as a divider, and it can increase the value of your property. Building natural stone retaining walls doesn’t require a huge amount of skill. Anyone can do it, and these tips will help you do it the right way.

Tip #1 - How Much Stone?

The very first thing to determine is how much stone you’ll need for the retaining wall. To do this, calculate the cubic area of the wall. This is quite easily done. Simply measure the length of the wall, along with its height. Multiply these figures to establish the square footage. Now figure out how deep you want the wall to be and multiply by that figure to get the cubic footage.

With that figure, any reputable stone yard will be able to provide you with enough stone for your natural stone retaining walls. Use their expertise-they’re the professionals.

Tip #2 - Trench

Make sure that you dig a trench for your wall. Don’t simply start laying the stone on the grass. Be sure that your trench is deep enough, so that it can hold a layer of gravel that’s at least 6 inches deep when compacted, and still deep enough so that half the bottom later of the natural stone wall is below ground. This will help to keep it secure. As it will be a mortarless wall, it needs to be secure in the ground.

Remember that when you compact the gravel, the surface needs to be level. Always use a level to make sure this is the case. If at all possible have a gravel depth that’s closer to 10 inches than 6. This will make your wall even stronger.

Tip #3 - Stones

Always use the biggest stones for the base level of the natural stone walls. When you receive the stone, sort it by sizes, grading into large, medium and small. As you move upward on the wall, reduce the size of the stones. This helps the balance of the stones and keeps them firm. Be certain that the lowest course of stones is seated firmly on the level gravel.

Tip #4 - Building

You should always build the natural stone walls so that the stones lean very slightly toward the slope. You need each course to be secure and strong. The best way to do this is to walk atop the wall after you’ve laid a course. You’ll be able to judge the stability most easily this way. If it feels unstable, jump off the wall and fix the problem. When building, you need the seams of the courses to alternate, just as you’d find in any other stone or brick wall. This adds to the strength.

Tip #5 - Capping

Remember that you’ll have to cap the wall properly. This helps secure everything in place. To do this, mix up mortar and apply to the top of the wall then set flat stones in place horizontally, tapping down with a rubber mallet and making sure they're level. Allow to dry, and your wall is done.