Tag Archives: Retaining Walls

Dry vs Wet Masonry for your Stone Wall in Hanover, MA

A lot goes into planning a successful hardscaping project. Towne Tree & Landscaping will make sure you’ve covered all your bases, especially since masonry is a fairly permanent landscaping feature. After you’ve decided on the size and location, you’ll need to choose between dry-stacked or wet-laid masonry. This choice will make a big difference in the appearance of your final product. Read on to learn more about which type of masonry is better for your Hanover, MA, stone wall.

Dry-Stacked Masonry

Dry-stacking is one of the oldest forms of stone masonry. Dry stone masonry involves laying stones on a secure footing of sand and gravel and does not use mortar to keep the stones together. A combination of skilled workmanship, gravity, and sand help keep the wall upright and intact. Each stone is carefully selected based on its shape and structural integrity. The stones are then skillfully stacked in such a manner that provides both stability and good drainage.

Where to Use Dry-Stacked Masonry

Dry laid stone provides a more rustic feel than mortared stone, but the look of dry stone masonry will vary greatly depending on the craftsmanship and type of stone used.  Boulder walls use large fieldstones laid in a single row for the base, with smaller stones to fill in the spaces. This type of wall works well for boundary fences and lower traffic areas. Modern dry-stacked walls generally use quarried or manufactured stones which provide a cleaner look. Dry-stacked stone can be used for retaining walls that are less than three feet high.

Related: Capturing the Timeless Aesthetic of the Stone Wall

Wet-Laid Masonry

With wet-laid masonry, stones are laid on a strong concrete base and mortar is applied between the stones to bind them together. Stone selection isn’t as crucial because the mortar fills in the gaps between stones. Wet-laid masonry walls offer more variety when it comes to the size and shape of your wall. Recessed mortar joints can be used to create the look of dry-stacked masonry while maintaining the durability of a mortared wall.

Where to Use Wet-Laid Masonry

Wet-laid masonry creates a cleaner, more formal look than dry-stacked. It provides excellent stability for your wall and is a better choice for high-traffic areas. Seat walls, walls, and counters for outdoor kitchens benefit from the structure and permanence of wet-laid masonry. Mortared masonry is also the preferred choice for retaining walls because of its strength and durability.

Related: 5 Essential Elements for Your MA Outdoor Kitchen

Which Method is Better?

While both dry and wet masonry are durable and long-lasting, they do offer slightly different benefits. For climates with extreme temperatures and a high freeze-thaw ratio, dry stone offers more flexibility and is less susceptible to damage from frost heave. Minor ground shifts are generally absorbed by the wall as the rocks settle together.

If damage does occur, dry stone is easier to repair, and rebuilt sections will blend well with old portions of the wall. Dry stone installations can also be quicker to complete than wet stone due to the lack of mortar.

Wet-laid masonry offers more permanence but can be more costly than dry-stack, due to the additional materials and labor required. And eventually, the mortar will crack and require repairs. Wet-laid masonry also requires extra drainage to move water away from the wall since it doesn’t have the natural drainage properties of dry-stacked stone.

Capturing the Timeless Aesthetic of the Stone Wall

A commanding, natural stone wall can bring character and timelessness to any landscape. The wide availability of choices involved in the creation of your stone wall calls for some expert input into your decision, so as you plan to incorporate a landscaping stone wall in Milton, MA, consult with a landscaping professional to decide which kind of stone wall aesthetic will work best for your given property and situation.

Stone Blocks

In the modern landscape, stone walls are often built with concrete blocks; although, concrete as a material can be used itself in several different ways. Whether you use the standard concrete block (CMU), split face blocks, or retaining wall building systems, it’s easier than ever before to create a naturally-inspired, impressive stone wall for your landscape.

Stone Veneer

Homeowners who choose stone veneer to achieve the desired stone aesthetic typically use CMUs as the base of the wall on top of concrete footers. Once the base is complete, stone veneer is then used to cover the surface area. Stone masons will use your choice of veneer material to cover the wall, creating a timeless look for your landscape.

Split Face Block

Split face block offers an alternative to stone veneer that eases installation, affordability, and durability. Manufacturers produce this concrete option with a textured aesthetic on one side, making the construction of a wall with a stone aesthetic simple. Moreover, the variety of options that you’ll find indicate a newly found ability to complement any style of design or architecture needed.

Retaining Wall System Units

Another development in terms of landscape wall building is the advancement of retaining wall system units. These systems fit together seamlessly, increasing strength and durability. Yet, the seemingly random nature of the stones and the natural texture enhance the stone aesthetic of the unit when complete.

Related: 5 Uses for Retaining Walls in Landscape Design

Dry Stone Wall

Finally, when nothing but actual rock will do, call in the heavy equipment. This job will require an engineer on site to ensure correct placement of your stones or boulders. The height of this project may be limited, but the magnitude of the statement made will not be. Whether using stacked slabs or boulders, this sort of stone wall is truly a monumental feature for any landscape.

Related: Dry vs Wet Masonry for your Stone Wall in Hanover, MA

Various Wall Options

Stone walls can be used for a multitude of purposes, and it’s helpful to consider the function of your landscaping addition rather than the aesthetic advantages alone. For those with erosion issues or grading issues on the land, retaining walls can help hold back soil and prevent further erosion. For those with a flat landscape without the need for retaining walls, consider seating walls around a patio, low walls to elevate planting beds, or high privacy walls around specific areas in the yard. When making these plans and decisions, remember to consult a professional in the field to guide your choices regarding materials and design to make sure that the style meets function and that your addition remains durable, attractive, and practical for many, many years.

Related: Creating Privacy in Your Massachusetts Backyard

5 Uses for Retaining Walls in Landscape Design

Retaining walls are well known as protective structures, primarily built to hold back slopes and prevent soil erosion. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t have an aesthetic purpose as well. When designed and constructed correctly, retaining walls are not only functional but also beautiful. They can bring new dimensions to a landscape and add up to the aesthetics of your Scituate, MA property.

Retaining Wall Basics

It is a common misconception that a retaining wall has to hold the weight of the mass of soil behind it. In fact, these walls are built to hold back the wedge of soil in contact with its lowest part. If the wall is well constructed, the soil used to fill the space between the structure and the sloppy soil being held back won’t push against the wall at all. Always talk to specialized professionals when having retaining walls installed to ensure your wall is engineered to do its job the right way.

Related: Landscaping Near Me: Finding the Best Contractor in your Area

Preventing Erosion

It is common for landscapes surrounding homes to be uneven, especially in high rainfall or marshy areas. A retaining wall can be used to prevent erosion caused by rainwater, stopping precious topsoil from being washed away and leaving your yard bare.

Protecting Your Pool

Retaining walls can also act as a barrier between steep terrain and your pool, preventing rainfall from washing soil or other debris into the clear water. Consider having the retaining wall built with materials that complement the pool deck to ensure your poolside hardscaping looks well coordinated and complete.

Improving Site Drainage

Often called seawalls even when they are not built close to the sea, retaining walls can also separate land from water. If you have a small lake or stream running in your property, a retaining wall can prevent the soil from getting too moist, eventually causing trouble for nearby structures. However, be aware that when it comes to installing retaining walls to hold back water, you or your contractor generally need to apply for permission from your local authorities.

Expanding Usable Space Through Terracing

Terracing is a technique often used for steep, unusable farmland – whole mountainsides are cut into steps supported by retaining walls to allow for the growth of crops on the flat portions of land. On a smaller scale, terracing can also be used to facilitate wider access to a landscape with significant portions of inaccessible or unsafe sloped terrain, through the creation of multiple levels of usable space. These can be utilized as functional outdoor rooms, connected with walkways and stairs that take guests on a journey through your backyard and its individual gathering spaces.

Acting As Dramatic Focal Points

Retaining walls don’t have to be purely functional elements that you tolerate due to their usefulness. Make your retaining walls aesthetic features of your landscape, either through the use of stone veneer and coping, or by painting plastered walls to complement your landscape color scheme. Retaining walls can also hold raised plant beds for flowers and shrubs, or have integrated water features.

Related Read: 5 Most Important Landscape Design Essentials in Every Backyard