Class is in Session - Using Natural Stone for Retaining Walls
Retaining walls have been around for hundreds, even thousands, of years, mainly serving the purpose of controlling erosion and soil movement on sloping ground. However, a retaining wall can also help give a property more vertical character or provide a decorative element. Retaining walls, which are often implemented into landscape design, can help to enhance other components of the landscaping such as water features, plants, flowers and trees. They can also be used to divide large areas or create privacy. While there is a vast array of materials which can be used to construct a retaining wall, natural stone is the most common and has been used since ancient times for the purpose. Let’s explore more about how stone has been used over time to create retaining walls and what advantages today’s natural stone retaining wall products provide.
Natural stone retaining walls, made of loose stone, date back to ancient times and helped define fields, villages, housing and more. For this type of application, rarely used today, stones had to be stacked, placed one by one by a specialist or mason. While beautiful, this type of application did present some limitations. The finished product was somewhat loose, not uniform, and very, very labor intensive. As a result of the time required to build this type of retaining wall, it was very costly, even by today’s standards.
Today’s retaining walls are most often built out of products that are far sturdier, like concrete block. Concrete block has the advantage of being available in component sized units that are easy to deliver and work with to create retaining walls in varied shapes and sizes. However, as we see in the picture to the right, concrete block while sturdy and utilitarian, leaves much to be desired from an aesthetic standpoint.
Not to fear as products such as Norstone’s Rock Panels can help solve that problem since they are designed to be installed directly over the concrete block and come in an easy to install panel system. This material has a very unique and stylish look which emulates individually hand stacked stone, but comes preassembled in an easy to use 6” tall x 24” wide field unit. Accessories such as outside corner units expedite the installation, keeping the installed cost per sq ft low while still achieving a fantastic look. Stacked stone retaining walls are a nice option that provide a traditional feel with a modern twist and offer a good balance between functionality and aesthetic.
Wood frame construction can also used to construct retaining walls in and around your property, however will lack some of the durability and sturdiness of concrete construction. Norstone’s Rock Panels can easily be adhered in this type of application as well by preparing the wall substrate using a cement board or lathe and scratch coat combination and then attaching the thin stone veneer to the prepared substrate and make an excellent choice for a stone veneer retaining wall.
Retaining walls will continue to be a vital tool allowing us to manipulate and work with the natural topography of the land to suit our needs. Natural stone, particularly in the form of thin stone veneer panels, will be a popular choice to beautify these walls and create surroundings to enjoy and inspire.