Building Your Own Great Wall Starts With Buechel Stone

Chilton Weatheredge Outcroppings

“Deep are the foundations of sincerity. Even stone walls have their foundation below the frost.”

Henry David Thoreau

When it comes to long-term planning, you should always start with a good foundation. This is true in all aspects of life. If you want to grow a business, you start with a solid business plan as a base. If you want to live a healthy lifestyle, you study, focus, and base it around a balanced diet and exercise. If you want to build a retaining wall, you start with — you guessed it — a solid base.

Fond du Lac Outcroppings wall

There is nothing more important in building and landscaping installations than the base. Have you ever seen a new construction foundation? It is much wider than the wall. It is hiding below the surface–unseen, unappreciated, and yet one of the most critical parts of the project’s longevity.

When it comes to building retaining walls, there are no products more impressive and structurally sound than natural outcroppings, boulders, and stone beams. There are now man-made concrete versions out there, but like other manufactured stone products, they have repeating patterns, surface-painted colors, and a large carbon footprint.  

Like a building’s foundation, installing these impressive stones starts below the surface, providing a solid foundation to build off. Best practices in retaining walls can vary based on many factors; climates with a lot of freeze/thaw cycles, soil type, and vertical inclines behind the wall are a couple of considerations to review when planning your wall.

Aged Parchment Sawn Beams are a quick and formal natural stone retaining wall option.

These massive stones are not only beautiful when finished, they are one of the best structural retaining wall materials you can use. They have a substantial depth to them at up to 40 inches, depending on the type you select. When you add angular gravel and drainage behind the wall, you are creating a wall that will last your lifetime with excellent curb appeal. The stones are typically dry stacked, meaning no mortar is placed between the layers. This allows for slight movements and settling back into its original setting.

Large Granite Boulders used on a Chicago shoreline.

Due to their mass and durability, boulders and outcroppings make for great erosion control and shoreline protection. Shoreline work can be tricky, as most states have requirements about how to best protect not only the shore, but also the plants, wildlife, and sometimes even the sand and dunes. It is always recommended to talk with a local DNR official before starting these projects. Although the project might have more red tape, the final results are breathtaking.

Chilton Weatheredge Outcroppings border this pond.

So, if you’re planning a large retaining wall or want to incorporate the look of massive stones in your yard or shoreline, remember to take these pointers into consideration: 

  • If you are unsure about your soil type and how it will affect the installation, consult first with an engineer. 
  • Foundation is critical. Start with the biggest stones on site and include a compacted gravel base under the wall. 
  • Clear angular gravel behind the wall with a drain tile helps with drainage and minimizes the stone’s movement due to frost heave.
  • Depending on the type of outcroppings and boulders you use, the rule of thumb for a retaining wall with no reinforcement is the wall’s height can be up to three times it’s depth. For example, if your outcroppings are two feet in depth you can go six feet high and need no geo-grid.  
  • Make sure to keep each row level, and shim stones that wobble. 
  • Set each row back from the row below. A rule of thumb is a 1” setback per foot of vertical rise. 

And, of course, if you want your project to be a great experience, contact Buechel Stone. We have a team of natural stone experts, equipped with the right resources to help you choose the perfect material from our large selection. We look forward to seeing what you build with Buechel.

Mike Buechel
Vice President
Buechel Stone Corp