Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How Crabapple Builds Your Stone Retaining Wall

Stone Retaining Wall with Steps
It’s hard to have an al fresco dinner party on a slant. For properties with a slight slope, a decorative stone wall might be the right landscape solution to straighten up the sloping land into two flat areas. This creates two levels in order to provide one flat surface for lawn games like badminton or croquet, and a second level area for dining, relaxing and outdoor living. 

Ask your Crabapple LandscapExperts Rep if the sloped area can be graded with a bobcat, flattening it out by means of a low drop (17 to 20 inches) that can also be used as seating. A low sitting wall helps define the space as well as provides additional seating for outdoor entertaining. Low retaining walls also function as a backdrop for plantings and colorful flowers.                  

Stepped Terraces
If the grade is more sharply sloped, perhaps a series of 2 or 3 low retaining walls can create an attractive series of level terraces. Call the LandscapExperts for retaining wall issues relating to erosion, water seepage, soil texture, tree root zones or local restrictions that require expert know-how.

The LandscapExperts Team favors decorative stone, brick or block rather than landscape timbers for permanence and long-term ease of maintenance.  We follow three steps in laying out a stone wall:

Choosing the stone
Jigsaw Puzzle Stone Wall
The type of stone determines what the wall will look like when finished. Round, flat, squared or irregular rocks, new or old stone, or a variety of mixed stone will be fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, creating an attractive finished wall. Before beginning, theLandscapExperts blend all of the types of rocks together to ensure an even or uniform composition. 

Next we separate out the capstones, (wide, flat stones for the top of the sitting wall), and reserve them for finishing the top.

Layout - will the most appropriate wall be straight or curved? Get our expert opinion
Setting the foundation – digging out a trench in which we lay the foundation
Thickness of the foundation – is based on the height of the wall
Width of the foundation - should be a little wider than our stone wall
We mix and pour the concrete, make sure it is level and smooth with a trowel
We let the foundation set (cure) overnight, and begin building the next day

Calculating How Much Stone?
To determine how much stone is needed, the formula we use for # of cubic yds. = L' x W' x H'/27. In other words, multiply the proposed length, width and height of the sitting wall in feet and divide by 27 to determine the number of cubic yards of stone needed. Convert this to tons instead of cubic yards by multiplying by 1.5. 

Block Curved Retaining Wall
Building on the foundation, we lay stones along the extent of the wall from one end to the other, choosing stones that fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. It is best not to lay one stone upon the other, but to interweave or interlay them so that a top stone covers the gap between 2 or 3 stones in the row beneath, exactly like bricks are set in a brick wall.
Small stones are useful for filling gaps between the rocks and stabilizing them.
Backfill soil also can be used to make planting pockets for ferns or wallflowers.

When the desirable height of the wall, less the thickness of the capstones, has been reached, it is time to finish it off laying on the capstones from one end to the other. Once all the capstones in place, we backfill with a sandy topsoil and plant with turf or herbs and flowers.  Crabapple LandscapExperts welcome you to level outdoor living!


  1. I've been thinking about adding retaining walls to my yard, but I'm not sure if I should attempt them myself or higher a professional landscaper to put them in. I am not the most handy person, so I'm leaning towards getting someone else to do it. How easy would you say this project is for the average person?

  2. 2 or 3 feet straight wall is EASY - use day labor to help
    If taller than 3 or 4 feet or curved - get a pro
    Also, there are lots of how-to videos on YouTube
    good luck


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