How to build rock walls landscaping

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Dry stone walls have been created for thousands of years and, if done well, will look as if they have been in place for at least that long. Yet anyone can learn how to lay a dry stone wall, insists Richard Ingles , a master craftsman who has built these structures in the UK for more than four decades. If you want to create something of beauty and permanence, however, the skill can take many years to master, says Ingles, who kindly agreed to walk us through the steps of dry stone walling. Is a dry stone wall the right element for your landscape? Read on for everything you need to know:.

  • Landscape Walls
  • Freestanding Landscape Walls & Retaining Wall Blocks
  • How To Build A Rock Garden Wall That Actually Last
  • Building a landscape retaining wall
  • Dry Stack Retaining Wall
  • DIY Rock Wall Saves Money
WATCH RELATED VIDEO: Setting up a rock wall to prevent erosion of soil

Landscape Walls

Down to Earth Landscaping Inc. In honor of St. The Irish rock wall, also called the dry stone wall, is an ancient landscaping form used across Europe and the Western Mediterranean region. Rock walls of this sort are found in any region where materials are plentiful.

This tradition employs a method of building a wall by fitting each piece of stone against the next until the wall resembles a perfectly constructed puzzle. These rock walls are particularly abundant in the West of Ireland, especially Connemara. The Ceide Fields stones in Co. Mayo, for example, are nearly four thousand years old. In Co. Kerry, where many of my ancestors came from, many beautiful examples of the Irish rock wall are present. Many of these walls date to the constructions of the early Christian church in Ireland sometime between the 6 th and 9 th century.

Rock walls without mortar are prevalent in landscapes all over the world. Therefore the answer is found, in part, in the material used in the construction of Irish rock walls. In Ireland, rock walls are built out of their native limestone.

This material is a particularly hard type of stone. During the last ice age, sheets of ice grew up around the soil in Ireland, compacting and compressing it as it formed hundred of square miles of ice fields.

When the ice melted, the incredibly rigid and brittle limestone that the ice created began to splinter off in flat sheets, making the rock the Irish mined relatively flat compared to the stone material in other parts of the world. This material gave rise to the Irish style of wall building. A cursory drive around viewing Santa Barbara landscaping reveals the presence of many rock walls in the area, both mortared and dry built. The history of these walls dates back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with the immigration of many Irish and Italians to Santa Barbara.

These immigrants found material for rock walls abundant in this area. This material, known as sandstone, was very different from the limestone of Ireland and the granite of Italy. Sandstone tends to be rounder and softer than either limestone or granite. Italian rock walls, however, are often built with mortar.

This made the use of sandstone relatively easy for the Italian immigrants to adapt to, and they continued to build their walls much like they did in Italy. The Irish, however, had to adapt their building style to the available materials. They used metal wedges to split and cut the sandstone into slivers that resembled the native limestone of Ireland.

Some of the Irish adapted by learning the craft of building mortar walls from Italian immigrants. This adaptation process went both ways—the Irish and Italians learned from each other. That symbiotic relationship was the catalyst for the rock walls we still enjoy today in the Mission and Riviera areas of Santa Barbara.

There are several steps involved in the process of building an Irish style rock wall. As a child, I watched my great uncle, Nick Tompkins, and my father, Arthur Koehler, practice this craft of rock splitting and stone wall building. Although it is laborious and difficult, the end result is a beautiful and functional wall that will last.

This is my heritage, and the root of our love for and expertise of this specialty landscaping practice. Connect with Down to Earth Landscapes.

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Freestanding Landscape Walls & Retaining Wall Blocks

Let these retaining wall design ideas bear the weight for you. A retaining wall is a wall structure that retains the soil behind it. Brick, stone, timber —— your retaining wall can show off your favorite building material. These landscape features are perfect for protecting flower beds from erosion, keeping critters away from your vegetables, and landscaping on a hill.

The rock wall is one of the structures in landscape design that can add both stunning beauty and purpose. It can give a sense of antiquity.

How To Build A Rock Garden Wall That Actually Last

Reducing soil erosion, turning steep slopes into terraced backdrops, creating focal points in the landscape—retaining walls serve many purposes. Indeed, they are some of the most common ways to correct problems caused by hilly areas! Well-built retaining walls transform unworkable inclines into usable outdoor space for the garden. Despite their simple appearance, though, these walls require a good deal of planning—sometimes professional engineering—to keep their shape. Soil is heavy, especially when soaking wet from a recent rainstorm, so a basic retaining wall four feet tall and 15 feet long potentially has to support up to 20 tons of soil pressure. With every additional foot of height, the pressure of the soil increases substantially. Miscalculate your construction plans, and you could end up with a weak wall that risks bulging or, worse, collapsing altogether. For just this reason, retaining walls taller than four feet should be designed and constructed by the pros.

Building a landscape retaining wall

Retaining walls have gained popularity in a short period of time and are commonly used in commercial and home landscaping projects. Proper installation of landscape retaining walls can make sloping lots usable while managing both soil and water runoff. In addition to serving a functional purpose, retaining walls also add aesthetic appeal to your landscaping. Use them in home gardens to highlight flower beds, patios, or yard features. While retaining walls are made out of many types of building materials, a block system is a popular choice due to the easy installation features.

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Dry Stack Retaining Wall

Rock walls can add beauty, distinction and value to your property. They can be used as they have been for centuries as property boundaries or as boundaries between different areas of landscaping within your property. There are two basic types of rock walls: dry stack rock walls and mortared rock walls. Novice builders are capable of building both types of walls with ease, once they understand a few basic concepts. Quarried stone, as the name implies, comes from a rock quarry. Ranging in size from a large softball to the size of a beach ball, quarried stone has jagged edges and is jaggedly faceted, while river rock is smooth and rounded.

DIY Rock Wall Saves Money

Determine the length, height and location of the retaining wall. Take the measurements to a stone supply yard and select the material for the project. This project uses granite slabs for the steps and field stone for the wall. Have the yard deliver the material to the project site. Establish the face of the retaining wall by hammering a piece of rebar into the ground at both ends. Tie a piece of nylon string tightly between the two pieces of rebar, using a line level to make sure the line is level. An average step is approximately 6 inches in height.

Atlanta's Luxury Landscape Supply Lawrenceville specializes in Retaining Walls, Sod, Mulch. Buford, Dacula, Snellville, Duluth & Suwanee.

Building with dry stone is one of the earliest skills developed by humans. Dry stone walls are durable because they contain no mortar, but are held together by the weight of stone, and by the skill of the builder who selected and fitted the stones together. Dry stone walling involves either stripping and rebuilding existing walls that have fallen into disrepair, or gapping — repairing gaps where the wall has collapsed.


This feature of the landscape offers a breathtaking view, but also creates a challenge of controlling soil erosion when designing a garden. When looking for a solution to this dilemma I simply followed the advice of English poet Alexander Pope and consulted the "genius of place. Between the midth and midth centuries the land had been used as a farm and traces of the terraces built back then can still be seen today. These lines etched into the landscape gave me a series of contours to follow for building a series of dry stack retaining walls.

We may be a little biased, but when it comes to landscaping rock walls, we think they are beautiful works of art!

Building a solid, sturdy and aesthetically appealing stone retaining wall these days is becoming a highly talked about topic in the building industry. We are seeing, and hearing of a lot of newly built retaining walls which are failing and there are quite a few factors which can contribute to this costly and unsatisfactory outcome. Picture a handful of boulders and imagine how hard it would be to stand them on top of each other to create a small wall. Then picture lego, and we all know how easy that is to stack up. Well, believe it or not, the same principle applies to building a solid retaining wall. A wall built with a solid footing and block work filled with concrete all tied in together with steel will always be sturdier and last longer than one built from boulders made from stone offcuts collected from quarries which many people are using nowadays.

We use cookies and other tracking technologies to improve your browsing experience on our site, show personalized content and targeted ads, analyze site traffic, and understand where our audiences come from. To learn more or opt-out, read our Cookie Policy. A freestanding mortared fieldstone wall blends strength with the natural look of a dry stack.

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