Stone Retaining Wall – Concord, MA

Stone Retaining Wall – Concord, MA

At this home in Concord, MA there is a large stump obstructing part of the driveway, and an unattractive hillside/chainlink fence.  The owner wants to remove the stump, widen the driveway, retain the edge with a stone wall, and then top it with a cedar fence.

Before

Before

 

Stone Retaining Wall – Prep

First we bring in the machinery to dig out the stump and excavate for the walls.  We hope to save the existing stone pier but the stump has grown underneath it and it comes down during excavation.  We also must be careful of town water an sewer that runs underneath the excavation area.  Once the major excavation is done we set sonot tubes in the ground in preparation for the fence.  The tubes are set several feet into the ground, we will build the wall around them, and then install the fence at the end.

Stone Wall Prep

Stone Wall Prep

 

Stone Retaining Wall – Construction

Next we bring in weathered fieldstone and start building the wall.  The stone comes from our private source in Western MA.  Much of it comes off of old farm walls and has a nice weathered color and texture as opposed to the smoother, lighter colored stones that are dug up during excavations.  We use a mix of large stones, small stones, flats, and rounds to create a classic New England style wall.

The stone column belongs to the neighbor and has history so we save much of the old stone, and re-build the column.  The original column used cement, but, we drystack it to match our wall and tie it all together.

Stone Retaining Wall

Stone Retaining Wall

Stone Retaining Wall

Stone Retaining Wall

 

Stone Retaining Wall – Completion

The stone wall is finished and capped.  It gets backfilled and graded behind, new gravel on the driveway, and the fence installed into our pre-laid tubes.  The driveway is now wide enough for two cars to fit, and the home has more privacy and a solid hillside that won’t wash out.

Completed Stone Retaining Wall

Completed Stone Retaining Wall

Completed Stone Retaining Wall

Completed Stone Retaining Wall

Completed Stone Retaining Wall

Completed Stone Retaining Wall

Completed Stone Retaining Wall

Completed Stone Retaining Wall

Types of Bluestone Patios

Types of Bluestone Patios

A question that often comes up when discussing bluestone patios are the different varieties of bluestone pavers. To the untrained eye they may all look the same, but, there are actually a number of differences that effect the cost, appearance, and installation methods.

Natural Cleft Bluestone:

Natural cleft bluestone describes bluestone that has been split into layers during the quarrying process. Bluestone is a sedimentary stone, meaning that is comes from sediment that has been fused together over time from the enormous weight and pressure from above.  Natural cleft bluestone is formed closer to the surface of the earth than other bluestone.  Without as much pressure on the stone, lines of de-lamination or horizontal cracks form which make it easy to split into layers.  These layers are then cut into rectangles to make the bluestone pavers you see today.

As it is naturally split, the bluestone pavers have some irregularities.  The surface of the stone will have more bumps and texture, and each stone will have somewhat varyied thickness.  Natural cleft bluestone also tends to have a range of colors from blue, gray, purple, and rusty orange.

Although the quarrying process takes less machining and makes natural cleft bluestone less expensive than other bluestone, the varied thickness and irregular surface makes it more labor intensive to install.

natural cleft bluestone

natural cleft bluestone

Natural Cleft Bluestone

Natural Cleft Bluestone

 

Thermal Bluestone:

Thermal bluestone is formed deeper within in the earth.  With more weight and pressure above, the stone is solid and must be broken off in chunks and then saw cut into layers.  The saw cut leaves a very smooth, unnatural surface which then must be re-textured.  This is the ‘thermaling’ process which gives its name.  The stone is wet down and then heated with a super hot flame until the surface flakes off, exposing the natural roughness of the stone.

Thermal bluestone is more expensive to produce, but, the stone is almost perfectly uniform in thickness. This makes the installation and leveling process less labor intensive.

Thermal bluestone then comes in three different color varieties, full color, regular, and true blue.

Full Color Thermal Bluestone:

Full color thermal bluestone is less common and slightly less available.  It is thermal cut stone but still has a ranger of blues, grays, and purples.  The colors will not be as pronounced as Natural Cleft Bluestone, but more so than other thermal bluestones.

Regular Thermal Bluestone:

Regular Thermal Bluestone is most common.  It will come in a mild range of blues and grays.

Thermal Bluestone Patio

Thermal Bluestone Patio

“True Blue” Thermal Bluestone

“True Blue” Bluestone has been hand picked and sorted so that all of the stones are identical in color.

Thermal Bluestone Patio

True Blue Thermal Bluestone Patio

Irregular Bluestone

Irregular bluestone, also called “stand-up bluestone” or “flagstone” is naturally cleft bluestone that has not been cut into rectangles.  Irregular bluestone is sold by the ton instead of by the square foot and is generally cheaper in cost, but, much more labor intensive to install.

Irregular bluestones will vary greatly in shape, size, and thickness.  Depending on the desired look, they need to be cut and shaped to fit together, and leveled one by one.

Irregular Bluestone Patio

 

Drystack Stone Wall – Concord, MA

DryStack Stone Wall – Concord, MA

At this home in Concord, MA the new owners seek to retain the slope on their front lawn with a drystack stone wall.   Above the driveway there is also an existing stone wall that is overgrown with ivy and beginning to deteriorate.

Concord, MA - Before

Concord, MA – Before

Concord, MA - Before

Concord, MA – Before

Concord, MA - Before

Concord, MA – Before

Planning + Design

The site here requires a number of considerations seeing as there is a curved driveway and multiple sloping grades.  After a couple of on-site discussions we decide on the height, curve, and taper of the wall.  In order to better visualize the final product we produce a simple overhead plan, and also a rendering.  To produce the rendering we take a photo of the house and superimpose a wall.  The wall is meant to be just high enough to create a gentle slope above without being to imposing.  It is also meant to mirror the curve of the driveway.

Drystack Stone Wall - PlanStone Wall – Plan

Drystack Stone Wall - Rendering

Stone Wall – Rendering

 

Drystack Stone Wall – Construction

To build the wall we dig out the base and fill with crushed stone.  We start with the largest stones at the bottom, and build our way up to meet the cap line.  There is no mortar used.  The heaviest part of the stones are tied back into the wall so that gravity holds everything together.

Drystack Stone Wall - Construction

Drystack Stone Wall – Construction

Drystack Stone Wall - Construction

Drystack Stone Wall – Construction

Filter fabric goes behind the backing stone to keep soil completely separate from the wall.  This ensures that soil/plant growth never filters into the wall over time.  Soil holds moisture and causes frost damage, and allows root growth which further degrades a stone wall.  In the end this wall will drain freely, remain flexible to any slight movements, and should last a lifetime.

Drystack Stone Wall - Construction

Drystack Stone Wall – Construction

Drystack Stone Wall - ConstructionDrystack Stone Wall – Construction

Drystack Stone Wall - Construction

Drystack Stone Wall – Construction

The main stone wall gets capped and we build the upper wall in a similar fashion but with smaller scale stones.

Completed dry stack stone walls

Completed stone walls – Concord, MA

Both stone walls are finished and backfilled with loam so grass can grow on the hillside

Completed dry stack stone walls

Completed stone walls – Concord, MA

Completed stone walls - Concord, MA

Completed stone walls – Concord, MA