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Retaining Walls Part I: Materials: Concrete vs. Natural Stone

Concrete Versus Natural Stone Retaining Walls

There are a number of reasons to install a retaining wall on your property, whether it’s simply for aesthetic purposes and adding visual interest or actually to serve a function like leveling out an area or preventing erosion. Whatever the reason, you can create retaining walls using various materials, but the most common of those materials are natural stone or interlocking concrete.

As with all things, there are pros and cons to each material. And depending on the look you’re hoping to achieve, the size of your project, the function your retaining wall will serve and the environment in which you’re going to install the wall, the selection of material is critical to creating a masterpiece that will last.

How is Concrete Better or Worse?

Concrete blocks are generally both cost effective and easy to install. They are often fabricated in such a way that they interlock to create stability and ease. As a manufactured material, they can be created in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors – a fact which often makes them more versatile and more suited to a wider range of landscape styles and wall shapes. In some cases, you can manage the installation of a retaining wall on your own, but you should generally contract a licensed professional for walls higher than four feet. This will ensure they’re structurally sound and will have the proper footings to keep them stable.

On the plus side, interlocking concrete blocks are:

· Cost-effectiveness because of their ease of installation

· Easily installed

· Available in a variety of colors and shapes

· Used to create rounded borders and edges

· Allow excellent drainage

· Are easily modified

The downsides of concrete include:

· The necessity of obtaining permits to create walls exceeding four feet in height

· Their inability to achieve the look of natural stone

· Material costs often exceed that of natural stone

How Does Natural Stone Stack Up?

By contrast, natural stones allow a great extent of creativity to be explored because of their natural variance in size, shape, color and texture. The best types of natural stone to use for retaining walls are denser, heavier stones like fieldstone and granite. But these beautiful stones are generally more expensive and can be difficult to install. Shorter, narrower sections of retaining walls are the best application for natural stone to maximize their stability. Stability can be an issue in longer areas of retaining walls. In addition, unlike concrete, natural stone can be problematic for drainage because moisture often permeates the natural gaps and spaces between the stones in the wall, which then compromises its strength.

The advantages of natural stone include:

· Aesthetic appeal

· Traditional look

· Element of rusticity and charm

· Ability to be stacked and held together without the need for special mortars or connective materials

· Natural solution for transitions in landscape grading

The disadvantages of natural stone include:

· Costliness

· Difficult installation

· Inefficacy for tall or large retaining walls

· Poor drainage

Give the team of outdoor experts at Executive Landscaping, Inc. a call today to learn more about retaining walls and how we can create an Executive Masterpiece for you!