Retaining walls are commonly used in residential sites where significant elevation changes occur. They are not only functional, but can contribute significantly to the aesthetic appeal of your landscape. Retaining wall materials and construction is very versatile. The most common materials used for retaining walls in our area are manufactured concrete block, natural drywall stone, fieldstone boulders, and outcropping stone. Each material offers a different style and aesthetic. Whatever function or visual appeal you are looking for in a retaining wall, Kelly’s Greenscapes will design and implement a wall that will work for you.
Manufactured concrete block Walls
Manufactured concrete block walls tend to be very uniform, and offer a clean, formal look. They tend to lend themselves well to straight, linear retaining walls, although with a little extra work they can be made to curve as well. Concrete retaining wall blocks are manufactured and are available in a wide variety of sizes, colors and textures. Some are designed to be used for smaller walls and may only be able to be built to about three feet in height. These block walls can work well for small planters around a patio area or on a terraced hillside. Other concrete blocks are designed to retain much more weight and can easily reach ten feet in height or more. In a residential installation, where possible, it is more common to use a terracing technique rather than building a single retaining wall with a height of ten feet or more. This means, for example, a ten foot elevation change might be broken down into two five foot tall retaining walls with some space in between for turf, planting or another landscape element.
Natural drywall stone Walls
Natural drywall stone is widely available in our area and is often used for residential retaining walls. Drywall stone refers to natural stone that is snapped or cut into fairly uniform sizes, and is dry stacked to form the wall. Drywall stone sizes vary, but generally will not exceed 8” tall and 12” wide with varying lengths. There are also a variety of stone colors and textures to choose from. Perhaps the most commonly used drywall stone in our area is Lannon stone, which is the native bedrock in and around Lannon, Wisconsin and has cream and gray tones. This stone is also commonly used as a veneer on homes in our area, and therefore ties in very nicely in many residential landscape plans. Drywall retaining walls combine the rustic quality of natural stone with a fairly uniform, neat appearance. When working with natural stone, there is always natural variation in the materials which gives the wall character and also provides opportunities to showcase craftsmanship in the wall construction. At Kelly’s Greenscapes, we take pride in the craftsmanship and quality of our natural retaining walls.
Fieldstone boulders are roughly rounded, but are irregular in size, shape and color. Often, larger boulders are used for taller retaining walls, while smaller boulders are used for shorter walls. Fieldstone boulders can be easily be used for straight or curved walls, and offer a more natural, rustic, informal look. Terracing with fieldstone is also possible. Fieldstone can also be placed randomly throughout a slope to help retain a slope without building a wall. This can be a good choice for an area that it is desirable to maintain a sloped hillside but where erosion may be an issue. Often, plants can be interspersed along the hillside as well to help hold the slope and further prevent erosion. This technique works great in conjunction with a waterfall or stream feature.
Outcropping stone retaining walls
Outcropping stone retaining walls are made up of larger, irregular pieces of natural stone. These walls are similar to drywall retaining walls in that an “outcropping wall” can refer to a variety of different stone types and therefore can be found in many different colors and textures. The main difference between drywall retaining walls and outcropping retaining walls is the size of the stones. Outcropping stones tend to be much more massive than drywall stones. The stones are even more irregularly shaped than drywall stones, but can generally be expected to be at least 5” in height and up to a couple of feet wide with varying lengths. Outcropping retaining walls can create a rustic, natural feel at a much more massive scale. They are also commonly used in smaller groups or clusters of stone throughout a hillside interspersed with plantings. At Kelly’s Greenscapes, outcropping stone is one of our favorite materials to work with for its versatility and natural allure. We continue to find new and exciting ways to implement this material in landscapes.