retaining walls

Using Reclaimed Materials

Brick and stone retaining walls are those walls you see holding back dirt. They can make a property with a steep slope manageable by creating terraces and keeping dirt in place. They are used in irrigation systems to direct water away from foundations and towards drains. You have also probably seen them along roads, keeping the hills from spilling on to the tarmac. Retaining walls are the workhorses of the landscaping scene.

 So why are they often made of reclaimed stone or brick? Recycled and reclaimed wall materials are quite the trend in landscaping these days. It helps people creating hardscapes for commercial and residential buildings get LEED certified, which lets them get the perks of being environmentally-friendly. Also, reclaimed earth materials, such as cobblestone, and reclaimed building materials, such as brick, are generally local to their building. Since many brick factories and cobblestone pits have closed down over time, this means that they may be the last chance for getting the truly indigenous flavor. They are aesthetically both pleasing and historical. The mid-west in particular used to be quite famous for their bricks, and the reusing the bricks that were made at the turn of the last century lets their descendants share in that bounty. Plus, the closeness to the building cuts down on transportation costs.

Which material should you use for your retaining wall? Well, each material has its own strengths and weaknesses, but reclaimed brick and cobblestone have some that stand out.

Reclaimed brick retaining walls are labor intensive and require extra attention to drainage. They last a long time, though, and they look very nice in traditional landscapes. Any retaining walls that use reclaimed brick will look classy for a long time provided they are put in correctly.

Reclaimed cobblestone retaining walls are also very durable. They can’t rot. It is harder to accommodate drainage with them, and you will have to fit a pipe through the bottom, since an accumulation of water behind the wall can cause it to rupture. However, they look thrilling in English-style gardens and colonial country landscapes.

Both of these reclaimed wall materials are environmentally-friendly choices. Bricks and cobblestones last decades, if not centuries, so you won’t have to expend the resources on the retaining wall for a long while. Reusing materials saves them from the landfill and keeps you from using the energy required to form new bricks or dig up new cobblestones.

Building your retaining wall will be easy. With brick retaining walls, you dig a ditch at the base of your turf where you want to hold back the earth. Make sure it is at least one each deep for every 8 inches in height that you plan for your wall. Tamp the trench flat, and then lay your blocks along the base. Make sure they are level. Back fill that layer with sand or crushed rock. Lay a filter fabric over this and use mortar to make the other layers, staggering the joints for better drainage. Add perforated drainage pipes along the length of the wall and cover it with breathable backfill. Cobblestones can be used in a similar fashion. Make sure that water can’t well up behind it and that the foundation is solid, and your retaining wall can be quite durable.

You can also dry stack your retaining wall, so long as your wall is at an 8 degree slant against the earth and the biggest rocks are on the bottom. Your wall can get as high as 3 feet in those conditions.

Antique bricks and cobblestones are being used more and more often in landscaping, and a retaining wall is a great place to follow this trend. If you want to use reclaimed materials in your retaining wall, contact us. We have the antique bricks stones you want.

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