Precast and Natural Stone Retaining Walls

Precast and Natural Stone Retaining Walls

Retaining walls can enhance both the appearance and function of your lawn and garden.

Some DIYers may opt for wood when building a retaining wall. After all, timber and ties are easier to cut and install, and less expensive than stone options. Unfortunately, the benefits of a wood retaining wall are short-term.

precast wall stone retaining wallsEven though it may look nice at the beginning, a wood retaining wall will begin to weather after a season or two, detracting from its appearance and effectiveness. The structure will need to be treated regularly. And even with treatment, the material may need to be replaced in as little as five years. Plus, the chemicals from pressure-treated lumber leach into the soil, which is not good in general, but especially for vegetable and herb gardens.

So, while retaining walls can be made from various materials, we recommend precast or natural stone for superior looks and durability.

Why Retaining Walls

There are a few key functional and aesthetic reasons that home and business owners opt to incorporate retaining walls into their landscape design.

If soil erosion – either away from or toward a house – is an issue, a retaining wall will help diminish run-off while discouraging water from pooling around and possibly damaging your home.

precast wall stone retaining wallsIf the slope of the lot in question renders the yard otherwise tough to landscape, one or a tiered series of retaining wall(s) can help create stepped gardens that are much more amenable to hosting plants, shrubs, and trees. Or a retaining wall can convert a sloping lawn into one single level for enhanced enjoyment of your greenspace.

If there is a big difference between the level of the lot and a building’s entrance level, tiered gardens housed in retaining walls eliminate the stark contrast and drastically improve curb appeal.

Of course, retaining walls can be used strictly to enhance the appearance and enjoyment of an outdoor area. They can help frame an elevated sitting area or add privacy to a sunken or grade-level patio.

A Few Considerations When Building a Retaining Wall

Permits

Depending on the size and location of your retaining wall, you may need to submit a plan to and get a permit from your municipal building department.

paver interlocking brick retaining wallsFoundation

Retaining walls need a solid foundation or base of compacted gravel that is added to a trench which is dug down to the clay level.

Construction

Retaining walls should be constructed with the appropriate stone, and using the right techniques to avoid premature deterioration or total collapse of the structure.

Backfill

The lower portion of the retaining wall’s contained area should be backfilled with drainage stone wrapped in filter cloth to prevent contamination between the soil and drainage stone. We recommend installing a drain tile so that excess water can easily drain from behind the wall.

The reason for this is two-fold. When soil gets wet, it expands and doesn’t drain well. Gravel and sand tend not to expand, minimizing the amount of lateral pressure that will be applied to a retaining wall. Gravel and sand also promote drainage, which will mitigate the risk of standing water. This is especially important if the area in question sits along a building’s foundation.

If you’re interested in adding one or more retaining walls to your landscape design, but the prospect of a DIY project seems a bit too much to handle, please contact us. We’re happy to work with you to create and install a design that makes your yard more attractive, more functional, and more enjoyable.

natural stone armour stone retaining walls
paver interlocking brick retaining walls
natural stone armour stone retaining walls
What’s Your Landscape Design Style?

What’s Your Landscape Design Style?

Landscaping is a fantastic way to upgrade your home’s exterior. Done right, it improves curb appeal and enhances your enjoyment and the functionality of your outdoor environment.

And, like the clothing and home décor you choose, landscaping also provides an excellent opportunity to express your personal style. You may have inherited an already established landscape design when you moved into your home. Or you may have previously defaulted to a style that you thought suited your home’s exterior style.

While matching the style of your home may be a factor you want to consider, the design can be updated to better reflect your personal style as well.

If you haven’t given much thought to your landscaping style, we’ll outline the major styles, their differences, and their defining elements. When we get right down to it, there are really only two principal styles – traditional and contemporary (or “modern”) – with many substyles that can play a role in the overall design.

Traditional landscaping with native plants

An example of a traditional garden design overflowing with a mixture of native plants and flowers

Traditional Landscape Design

The traditional landscaping style tends to be associated with soft or curved lines, more rustic, textural materials in muted, mottled tones, and a balanced mixture of softscaping, hardscaping, and water elements that create a relaxed, laid back atmosphere. More often than not, traditional landscape design tends to be associated with the “informal” style. Because of its more free-flowing lines, a traditionally designed landscape can be more desirable for those wanting a lower maintenance outdoor living area.

Contemporary Landscape Design

On the other end of the spectrum, modern landscape design employs straight lines, clean edges, and sharp angles. Contemporary landscapes offer steep contrast in colour, with lots of symmetry in the shape and size of its elements. Hardscaping materials tend to be flat with a matte or polished finish. These attributes lend to what is generally considered a more “formal” style and also tend to demand more work to maintain the shapes and symmetrical appearance.

modern landscape design clean lines right angles monochromatic hardscaping retaining wall

Elements of modern landscape design – clean lines, right angles, and monochromatic colour scheme

Generally speaking, while most landscape designs may primarily be classified as traditional or modern, they really fall somewhere in between. Besides your personal style, here are many good reasons for a hybrid design, including:

  • Soil conditions and light exposure
  • How you use your yard
  • Your proclivity for garden maintenance
  • Your home’s exterior style

Substyles and Themes

If you don’t want your yard to be purely traditional or one hundred percent contemporary, below are a few substyles/themes you can work into your design.

Native

Plants and trees are indigenous to Ontario/Canada. These not only attract birds, bees, butterflies, and other native wildlife, but also tend to require less maintenance because they’re well-adapted to our climate.

Xeriscape

This type of landscaping reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental watering through the use of above-ground or underground water collection and circulation techniques in conjunction with more drought-tolerant plant and tree varieties.

 

asian inspired traditional landscape design natural flagstone walkway native plants and shrubs pagoda

An example of Asian-inspired traditional landscape design with flagstone walkway

Asian-Inspired

Elements can include a pergola, gate, trickling water feature, ornamental grasses, koi pond, walkway or labyrinth, and soft lighting.

English Garden

Lush green lawns with one or more sitting areas among large, colourful gardens, overflowing with flowers, plants, and trees that attract a range of pollinators.

Natural/Organic

Plants and materials are sustainably sourced and managed. Can be easily combined with Native and/or Xeriscape themes.

Rustic

Incorporates wood and natural stone into decks, patios, walkways, fencing, sheltering structures, and retaining walls.

So, what’s your landscape style? Hopefully, this guide has provided some insights. If you’re having trouble deciding, we’re just a call or email away.

Flagstone Look on a Paver Budget

Flagstone Look on a Paver Budget

When it comes to patio and walkway construction, flagstone is one of the most sought-after materials. Known for its natural and elegantly rustic appearance, flagstone has been used to enhance outdoor living areas for decades.

Some homeowners are singularly focused and will accept nothing but flagstone. However, after consulting with a landscaper/hardscaper, others may realize that flagstone doesn’t fit their budget or suit their needs. So, they opt instead for a different product like stamped concrete, geometric pavers, or even wood.

The great news is that there are alternatives to flagstone that provide a similar look but have some distinct advantages. Two that we use are Permacon’s Rosebel Slabs and Mega Arbel Pavers. Below, we offer the top benefits of these products.

Flagstone vs Pavers alternatives cost advantages patio walkway COST

Any landscaping quote generally comprises three primary factors – product, labour, and skills/experience. It goes without saying that a skilled hardscaper is going to do the job right, providing a superior experience and end result.

Beyond that, your total budget will be the sum of product and labour costs. Because they are designed to fit together and have a very low height variance from one piece to the next, Flagstone and installation might cost 50% to 100% more than precast pavers

COLOUR OPTIONS

Because there are only so many natural stone colours, your options are somewhat limited. Flagstone colour and shade depends on where it was quarried. The most prevalent colours are a buff or sandstone (a light yellow-brown), red, and a grey-blue. On the other hand, precast pavers can be matched to just about anything. Most people like to match a colour on their home’s exterior, be it brick, wood, stucco, or siding.

Flagstone vs Pavers alternatives cost advantages patio walkway DURABILITY

Because it is a sedimentary rock (meaning it’s composed of layers), flagstone will begin to break down after a number of years. Exposure to the elements will increase the rate of deterioration. There is a water-based sealer that can be applied every 2-4 years that will decrease stone breakdown. Pavers on the other hand are low-maintenance and can easily be removed and replaced in case of damage.

APPEARANCE

Flagstone is going to be much less consistent in appearance, with variance in gap widths because the shape of each piece is unique. Of course, flagstone can be cut to fit together nicely, but this will add to the labour budget because of the increased amount of time required to complete the project. Precast products are designed to fit together, laid in a random-looking, but repeated pattern. So, the gaps between them will be much more consistent.

Flagstone vs Pavers alternatives cost advantages patio walkwayPRACTICALITY

Flagstone is uneven along the edges as well as on the top and bottom surfaces. This means that using it for a patio may result in wobbly chairs and tabletops. Likewise, if used for a walkway, the height variance may mean users need to tread carefully. A flagstone surface will also collect water (and in colder months snow and ice) in small depressions in the stone. This can lead to accelerated weathering of the stone, or even growth of algae where water isn’t frequently removed/dried.

It’s a great time to be planning a new patio or walkway for your outdoor area because there are so many great options for you to choose from. If you like the look of flagstone but aren’t sure if it’s right for you, take a look at the new pavers that offer the look of flagstone and the benefits of a precast product. And of course, if you’d like assistance with your upcoming project, we’re just a call or email away.