Stone Retaining Walls in Belmont, MA

Stone Retaining Walls in Belmont, MA

After a recent addition to this home in Belmont, MA, the owners are looking to address their landscaping.  As is, the yard has a heavy slope and various grades that are un-retained and eroding.  There is also a large excess of dirt and rocks left over from the previous excavation.

Landscape Installation - Before

Stone Retaining Walls – Before

Landscape Installation - Before

Stone Retaining Walls – Before

 

The plan is to surround the perimeter of the property with dry stacked stone retaining walls.  The retaining walls will allow us to raise the grade at the low end of the property, and cut into the grade at the higher end to produce a much flatter front and back yard.  A granite stairway will also be added to transition between the two grades. 

Construction 

To build the walls we first bring in the excavator to cut the grades and dig out the base.  The base of the walls are dug below ground and get filled with crushed stone.  The crushed stone gets compacted and serves as a sturdy foundation while allowing drainage and some flexibility. 

Behind the walls we install a layer of landscape fabric or ‘filter fabric’.  This fabric goes at the very back of our excavation against the dirt.  It will allow water to drain through but prevents dirt from filtering into the wall over time.   The reason we don’t want dirt in the wall is that dirt holds water and also promotes plant growth.  If dirt gets into the wall it will freeze and thaw, and let roots grow through which will deteriorate the wall over time.

Stone Retaining Wall - Prep

Stone Retaining Wall – Prep

Stone Retaining Wall - Prep

Stone Retaining Wall – Prep

 

After the prep work is done we bring in our fieldstone.  This job will take ~80 tons of fieldstone to complete.  To obtain this amount of stone we source our stone directly from a farm owner in MA.  The stone is picked from the fields and from old boundary walls resulting in a nice mix of weathered, local stone. 

Fieldstone Supply

Fieldstone Supply

 

Next we are ready to build the walls.  The stones are dry stacked without mortar.  We use the weight and placement of the stones to create a sturdy structure that drains freely.  Each stone interlocks with one another with the heft of the stone tied back into the wall.  Gravel backfill goes behind the fieldstone adding even more mass to the system as well as good drainage.  As we near the top of the wall we stretch a line and install large, flat stones to cap the wall.  These cap stones create a clean line visually and also help hold everything together.

Stone Retaining Wall - Construction

Stone Retaining Wall – Construction

 

Completion

The completed wall and steps come together nicely.  We are able to create several different distinct levels with easy access in between.  The yard is no longer sloping and eroding into/from the neighboring properties, and there is a clear separation with more usable space for.   We are able to use all of the excavated dirt to level and fill the grades so that no extra material needs to be hauled in or out.

Completed Stone Walls

Completed Stone Walls

Completed Stone Walls

Completed Stone Walls

Completed Stone Walls

Completed Stone Walls

Completed Stone Walls

Completed Stone Walls

Completed Stone Walls

Completed Stone Walls

Stone Wall Installation – Westford, MA

Stone Wall Installation in Westford, MA

At this home in Westford the owners would like to add to the curb appeal of their home while creating some separation from a busy road.  Weighing their options between a wood fence and a stone wall, they decide on a 2.5′ stone wall to run the length of the property.

Stone Wall Prep

The stone wall will be dry stacked with local fieldstone.  A dry stacked stone wall is fairly fast to install, long lasting, and has a traditional New England look.  The wall will be about 100′ long by 2.5′ high, and will take about 40 tons of fieldstone to construct.  Our fieldstone is sourced directly from a farm in MA.  The stone is unsorted meaning it comes with a mix of sizes and shapes like a traditional stone wall would.  To prep for the wall we dig a trench and fill with compacted crushed stone.  This will provide a solid base as well as drainage to prevent frost heaving.

Proposed Fieldstone Wall

Proposed Fieldstone Wall

 

Stone Wall Installation

To build the stone wall we use the largest stones first for the base course, and then build up from there.  We choose nicer looking stones with adequate size for the face stones, and then fill the middle with small and odder shaped stones.  Large flat stones are saved for the cap to create a clean finish and also to help hold everything in place.  This stone wall has 3 different sections, that means there will 6 total wall ends or “cheek ends”.  These cheeks ends take extra care to build so that they remain square and stand sturdy.

Stone Wall Installation - Westford, MA

Stone Wall Installation – Westford, MA

Stone Wall Installation - Westford, MA

Stone Wall Installation – Westford, MA

Stone Wall Completion

The completed stone wall arcs to follow the slight curve of the road while maintaining a consistent height.   It stands handsomely in front of the house while providing a physical barrier from traffic.  The wall also helps to prevent erosion from the uphill yard, and, stops road salt from getting on the lawn.  A drystacked wall such as this is very easy to repair were anything to damage it, and otherwise will stand quite a long time with little to no maintenance.  In the end if this wall ever needs to come down, the stones will be perfectly reusable and will have actually gained valuable weathering and patina.

Completed Stone Wall - Westford, MA

Completed Stone Wall – Westford, MA

Completed Stone Wall - Westford, MA

Completed Stone Wall – Westford, MA

Completed Stone Wall - Westford, MA

Completed Stone Wall – Westford, MA

 

Cheek End

Cheek End

Cheek End

Cheek End

Cheek End

Cheek End

Stone Wall Cap

Stone Wall Cap

 

Flagstone Patio – Lincoln, MA

Flagstone Patio – Lincoln, MA

At this home in Lincoln, MA we are building a new flagstone patio.  Flagstone is the common term for any irregular, flat stones used for paving.  The most common variety in our area is bluestone flagging.  This flagstone patio will be dry laid with tight joints <1″.

Flagstone Patio – Prep

We prepare for the patio by first digging out a base, compacting the subsoil, and then laying crushed stone.  The crushed stone provides a good base in that it compacts well and doesn’t hold water.  Next a thin layer of fine gravel is used to level the stones.  The fine gravel also drains freely to eliminate puddling on the patio or frost heaving beneath it.

Flagstone Patio - Prep

Flagstone Patio – Prep

Flagstone Patio - Lincoln, MA

Flagstone Patio – Lincoln, MA

Flagstone Patio – Installation

In order to achieve 1-2″ – 3/4″ joints the flagstones will need to be cut and shaped to fit.  Our goal is to achieve a tight fight without making it obvious that the stones are cut.   This means we won’t make too many long straight cuts, or overly geometric shapes.  This gives the patio a more natural appearance.

Flagstone Patio - InstallationFlagstone Patio – Installation

Flagstone Patio - Installation

Flagstone Patio – Installation

Flagstone Patio - Installation

Flagstone Patio – Installation

The process of fitting and leveling every stone is fairly labor intensive, but yields very nice results.  Once all of the stones are laid, we sweep the fine bedding gravel into the joints and the patio is ready for use.

Completed Flagstone Patio Installation

Completed Flagstone Patio Installation

Completed Flagstone Patio Installation

Completed Flagstone Patio Installation

Completed Flagstone Patio Installation

Completed Flagstone Patio Installation