Tiered Retaining Wall – Lincoln, MA

Stone Retaining Wall – Lincoln, MA

The new owners of this home in Lincoln, MA needed to replace the rotting timber retaining walls that were holding the grade on either side of their house.  Looking for something more attractive and longer lasting, they called us to see what it would take to build a stone retaining wall.

Existing Timber Walls - Left

Existing Timber Walls – Left

Existing Timber Walls - Right

Existing Timber Walls – Right

 

Wall Plans

After discussing some different wall styles and lay out we develop a plan.  We decide that drystack weathered fieldstone will be the best material and construction method.  A 3d model shows the orientation and height of the walls, and a section shows how they will be engineered.

Stone Retaining Wall Model

Stone Retaining Wall Model

Stone Retaining Wall - Section

Stone Retaining Wall – Section

 

Building Process

Once we have agreed on the plans we get to work building the walls.  The first step is to tear out the old timbers, and excavate for the walls.  A good amount of dirt is excavated.  Instead of paying to haul it away, however, we make use of it onsite to raise the grade of the back yard which is sloped and has eroded over the years.

Excavated Walls - Left

Excavated Walls – Left

Excavated Walls - Right

Excavated Walls – Right

 

We start on one side and start building the lower tier.  The weathered fieldstone is stone that has been harvested mainly from old farm walls throughout MA.  This means it has been exposed to the elements for a long time and has a nice dark color and lichen growth.  We use the largest rocks for the base, and save the larger flat rocks to create a clean cap.

stone retaining wall - R1

stone retaining wall – R1

 

In excavating for the wall we encounter a large stone buried behind the timbers.  Barely able to move it with the machine, we push it into place and incorporate it into our new wall.

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Existing Stone

 

The lower wall gets capped to height.  The stones are all dry stacked, the bulk of each stone ties back into the wall for an extremely sturdy structure that drains freely.  A wall like this should long outlast the house itself.

Stone Retaining Wall - R1

Stone Retaining Wall – R1

 

Next we build the lower tier on the left side of the house in the same fashion:

Stone Retaining Wall - L1

Stone Retaining Wall – L1

Next we build the upper tiers.  We load the stone up onto our new platform and build the walls to meet the upper grade.  At the end we decide to taper the upper tiers so that they follow the grade.

Stone Retaining Wall - R2

Stone Retaining Wall – R2

Stone Retaining Wall - L2

Stone Retaining Wall – L2

 

Completed Stone Retaining Walls:

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Weathered Stone Wall – Concord, MA

Dry Stack Stone Wall

At this home in Concord, MA the new owners very much wanted a weathered, antique looking stone wall, much like the old boundary walls we see lining the fields and farms of New England. With a specific look in mind, we spend some time exchanging photos and looking at old walls in the area. Below are the examples we use as inspiration:

Stone Wall Inspiration - Concord, MA

Wall Inspiration

Weathered Stone Wall Inspiration - Concord, MA

Wall Inspiration

Weathered Stone Wall Inspiration - Concord, MA

Wall Inspiration

Stone is actually much lighter in color than the old stone walls you see in the photos above.  It is over time and exposure to the elements that the stone darkens grey and grows lichen and moss.  This sort of weathered stone is rarely available at supply yards, so, we must go searching for an existing wall that we can dismantle and use for our new stone wall.  We are able to find just that at a property in Northern MA.

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Privately Sourced Weathered Stone

Dry Stack Stone Wall Construction:

We prep for the wall by digging out ~6″ of earth and filling with crushed stone.  The crushed stone provides a sturdier base to prevent settling and drainage to prevent frost heaving.  Next we use the biggest of the stones as the base course, and build up from there.  The owner decides on a height of 2.5′ for the wall that will follow the grade of the yard.  The goal is to imitate the old farmer walls of the area, so, we stack the stone for sturdiness first and pay less attention to achieving perfectly tight joints or a flat face finish.  We also try to expose the mossy sides whenever possible to make the best use of our weathered stone.

Weather Stone Wall - Prep

Base Prep

Weathered Stone Wall - Base

Base Course

The stones are dry stacked (without mortar) in the traditional method.  The larger, nicer stones make up the faces of the wall and smaller rubble fills in the middle.  A dry stack stone wall such as this will hold up for generations.  Should any movement in the ground occur the wall will simply flex/settle and go unnoticed to the eye.

Weathered Stone Wall - Concord, MA

Wall Interior

Bit by bit the wall comes together.  At almost ‘300 long it takes some time and ~100 tons of weathered fieldstone.  Along the way we save the largest, flattest stones for the cap.  These create a nice, flat top to the stone wall and also help to hold everything together.

Weathered Stone Wall Construction - Concord, MA

Fieldstone Wall Construction – Concord, MA

Weathered Stone Wall Construction - Concord, MA

Fieldstone Wall Construction – Concord, MA

Weathered Stone Wall Construction - Concord, MA

Fieldstone Wall Construction

Completed Stone Wall:

The stone wall is complete and adds a very rustic and handsome feature to this home.  The owner also decides to add a cobble stone accent to the driveway.  For this we source some reclaimed cobble stones from the streets of Cambridge, MA.

Weathered Stone Wall - Concord, MA

Completed Drystack Wall

Weathered Stone Wall - Concord, MA

Completed Drystack Wall

Weathered Stone Wall - Concord, MA

Completed Drystack wall

Weathered Stone Wall - Concord, MA

Completed Drystack Wall

Weathered Stone Wall - Concord, MA

Completed Drystack Wall

Weathered Stone Wall - Concord, MA

Completed Drystack Wall

 

 

 

 

Bluestone Landing and Granite Step – Concord, MA

Bluestone Patio + Granite Step – Concord, MA

The owners of this home in Concord, MA had recently renovated their house and garage and needed to re-work the entrance.  It’s a fairly small job but had a couple of unique challenges that made way for some nice design features.

After deciding on bluestone pavers for the landing, and granite for the step, there is a small issue in that the stock granite step does not provide enough height for two equal rises up onto the porch.  The granite steps come in 7″ rises, however, there is a 16″ total rise from the ground to the porch.  To solve this problem we decide to lift the granite step an extra inch on bricks that we had pulled up from the existing landing.  This solves the problem and also adds a very nice design feature.

The bluestone pavers also come in stock sizes (6″ increments) that happen to fall a few inches short of the driveway.  Again we are able to use the available bricks and trim the edge thus filling the gap while matching the brick riser under the step.

The result is a very unique and charming landing/step.

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