Why Use Stacked Stone Walls?

Stones are a popular landscaping tool, not only for their rustic beauty, but also because of their versatility.  Stacked stone walls are one of the many ways to use them to your advantage.  Dry stacking is used to build a natural stone wall without cement or concrete.  The selected stones are built in an interlocking pattern so that the finished wall will support itself.

There are many advantages to using stacked stone walls, such as the fact that stone walls don’t need any type of mortar, which allows them to shift with the earth and settle into place.  This is why so many landscapers choose to use them for retaining walls or terraces – they won’t be going anywhere.

Since stacked stone walls do not usually use mortar, water can flow freely between the stones.  This means that in the winter, ice will not be trapped inside and cause what is known as frost heave.

Stone walls have an amazing flexibility, as well.  Once again, the fact that the stones do not need concrete to hold them together is a benefit.  It cuts down on labor time and the expense of materials while remaining versatile to your landscaping plans.  If the stones are damaged in any way, you can simply reuse your materials and re-stack.

On top of the practical benefits, stacked stone walls are just nice to look at.  They lend a rustic look to your landscaping while complementing almost any style.  It’s also a great tradition throughout time.  The ancient Egyptians used this method in their pyramids and Colonials built them to border their fields and properties.

Regardless of whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, a stacked stone wall done right will remain a worry-free fixture of your home and lawn for years to come.

Retaining Wall Types

Stone retaining walls come in an endless array of shapes, sizes, styles and types. They can be purely decorative, or they can combine beauty and function by helping to level an area, support a sloping area, help with erosion control, break up a section of yard into smaller areas, create a garden area, and many more uses.

Common types of retaining walls include gravity, semi gravity, cantilevered, and counterfort.  A gravity retaining wall relies on its weight to hold back the soil.  These are constructed in a shallow cone shape with the base wider than the top.  In some cases the wall is angles slightly back toward to help improve its stability.  These types of walls can be made from dry stacked, mortarless stone although the height will be limited.

A semi gravity wall is essentially a gravity wall that has been reinforced with steel rods.  These are a little stronger than pure gravity walls and need no additional reinforcement.

A cantilevered retaining wall has a base or footer that extends under the soil.  Viewed from the end, a cantilevered wall has an L shape with the foot of the L buried underground.  These walls can be thinner than a gravity wall and rely on using the weight of the soil on the footer to hold the wall in place.

Counterfort walls are similar to cantilevered walls except that they supports that tie the end of the footer to back of the wall.  These supports are buried underground so counterfort walls look the same as cantilevered walls.  If the supports are placed on the face of the wall where they would be visible, they are called buttresses.

Anything beyond a low, dry stacked gravity wall should be designed by an engineer.  Otherwise you are risking potential serious injury due to collapse of the wall.