By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden
Would your landscaping or yourgarden benefit from a stone wall? Perhaps you have a hill that is washing awaywith the rain and you want to stop the erosion. Maybe all the recent conversationabout a wall has made you aware that you need one for security on yourproperty. When you search for these additions, you may repeatedly see gabionwall ideas. What is a gabion wall? Let’s take a look at what they are and whatare gabion walls for.
Wire gabion baskets or cages filledwith rock are the substance of your rock wall. Gabion baskets are securedtogether to create length. This construction is among the strongest availableand used commercially to stabilize shorelines and riverbanks from erosion.Originally used by the military, gabion baskets have now become an integralpart of building decorative hardscapefeatures in your landscape.
Landscape contractors may usegabion walls to help correct erosion or control problems in your landscape, especiallynear a pond or river that might flow across your land. Using rip-rap issometimes the preferred solution to stabilize banks, but in situations wherethat is not feasible, a gabion retaining wall is the next reasonable choice.
If you wish to try this type ofproject yourself, empty gabion baskets are available for purchase. It takes alarge amount of filler for the cages, though. Filling for gabion walls can varyand often depends on the material that is available near you at the time. Rocksare the most common filler, but broken bricks, tiles or wood can be used.
Keep in mind that wood will beginto rot at some point, so don’t use it for long-lasting walls or other permanentprojects. If the project is just decorative, wood can be utilized in a numberof ways. It may be cut and used with an attractive grain facing outward, or inchunks with unusual bark visible.
Use the cages as a border for yourgarden or base for a raised bed. Some innovative gabion wall ideas show how tomake outdoor furniture from them or a base for your outdoor grill. Look around,get creative, and take advantage of gabion wall uses.
Learning how to build a gabion wallis an intricate project and may require inspection from a structural engineerand/or an architect. Consult with them to make sure your finished project issafe for the long term.
This article was last updated on
Read more about Landscape Ideas
Gabions are the cage-like enclosures that are filled with stones, brick, or broken concrete to form a wall or fence. They can be stacked like bricks and can be used for many practical and aesthetic reasons, like fencing garden or property. Gabion baskets are being increasingly employed to build walls, pillars, fences, and to divide structures and areas. Baskets come in various sizes to create all kinds of designs.
Gabion baskets are made using sturdy wire mesh. They are particularly popular with landscapers and gardeners. Let’s delve into some reasons why you should consider installing them.
You can basically make anything as long as it's square and based on a 6" x 6" pattern. I settled for a standard block being 2' x 2.5' x 5'. The roll is 5 foot wide. I cut out all of the shapes including the top not shown in these photos. Next is a bit of a painful job. Flattening out the reo. I make particular to cut the sides right down to the joint so as not leave sharp edges poking out. This is why i use pliers rather than heavier cutters as the cut is close and clean.
The one i'm doing in this instance is stepped so i just cut it down to size ready to install.
I think there has to be something ingrained in the human brain that loves things built of stone. Maybe it’s our desire for strength and safety or the timeless beauty of stacked stone masonry. We have a connection with stone construction reinforced by historic buildings, engineering marvels, and even the fable of the three little pigs.
But why isn’t it as common anymore? In general, faster and more efficient methods of construction have taken hold in the modern day. And quite frankly, most people don’t have the patience for this type of construction on a large scale anymore. So if you still want stone but aren’t a patient or skilled mason … build a gabion wall!
For the homestead, the gabion offers a great solution for those desiring the look and utility of stone but without having the tedious masonry involved. This is not to say that it’ll be easy … you’ll still be moving large amounts of rock, but at a much faster pace and without having to select and shape each stone for that perfect fit. Some fitting will be required, but nowhere near the same level of masonry as with a traditional stone structure.
A gabion wall can serve a variety of purposes on the homestead and can be relatively cheap to construct. No fancy tools are required in the construction of the wire basket and any type of stone, rock, or concrete chunks will suffice.
The history of the gabion wall goes back further than many might think. Originally used in the medieval times, they were a mobile fortification in which lightweight wicker baskets were filled earth, rocks, and other debris. The combination of the basket and the debris fill made stout walls able to withstand most types of weaponry and protect soldiers while they set up their mobile artillery in preparation for a siege. Similarly, gabions have been used with success in Iraq and Afganistan to protect military camps from small arms fire, rockets, and vehicle assaults.
More commonly, gabions are used in civil engineering projects such as erosion control, flood management, and retaining walls. Road projects and erosion control are the most visible examples seen on a large scale. However, smaller projects include municipal landscaping, small stream check dams, and water weirs.
These are some of the gabion walls I’ve built around my homestead.
For most Backwoods Home readers, the gabion wall will have three potential functions the most common being for landscaping or gardening purposes. Retaining walls and decorative dividing walls can create dimension and boundaries to a yard or garden, not to mention adding wind protection and aiding in the creation of microclimates on the western face of such walls. Microclimates can enable the planting of warmth-loving plants in cooler climates due to the heat sink that the western wall face can create.
The second function is for erosion control and water management. Gabions can be used to fortify eroding banks, driveway edges, and hillsides by holding the earth back but still allowing the water to pass through the structure. For those with livestock ponds, gabions can serve as a water diffuser in the spillway or at the base of the dam to keep churning water from eroding the base of the berm or dam wall.
Additionally, they can also be effective for those in dry climates by slowing seasonal flood waters within dry creeks. The eventual build up of silt behind the gabion will not only harvest moisture for surrounding vegetation but also aid in creating good game habitat as well as additional forage for homestead livestock.
The third function that these walls can provide is that of security. Those of us who have ever lived near a moderate-sized road know the danger of an out-of-control vehicle. We’ve all seen the “car into a house” story on the news, and it never ends up well for the wood-framed house or the occupants. Appropriately sized, a gabion wall could provide a very rapid deceleration of a runaway vehicle through its sheer mass and flexible wire basket nature.
Whatever it is, there’s a use for a gabion on your homestead. I’ve enjoyed mine for the last five years and have more in the works as I write this. Gabion walls will add beauty and function to your homestead for years to come.
1. Assemble the gabion panels and cut to size.
2. Tie wire the staggered pieces together for extra support.
3. Put together the gabion basket, using the wired panels.
4. Wrap galvanized wire around the seams of the basket.
5. As you fill the basket with stones, use interior support wires
to keep sides from bulging. Place the flat-sided stones face out.
6. Dress the top of the wall, placing flat-sided stones face up.
5×5-inch concrete remesh (galvanized wire is recommended for wet or salty climates)
tie-wire (thin gauge)
rock (4-5 inches in size or larger)
Wire basket construction:
Start by cutting your remesh bottoms and sides into the lengths and widths for the wall desired. You’ll have five sections total. Next, cut four more pieces for the sides and ends but at one square less in length and width. This is to enable you to stagger the pieces so that you’ll have smaller squares in which to hold the stone better. Once the pieces are laid together in staggered fashion, tie-wire them together so they are secure and won’t slide. After all the staggered pieces are attached to the main sides, tilt them upright and connect them to form a rectangle “basket.” Use galvanized wire to weave the corners together. Once finished, you will have the completed basket ready to be filled with stone.
As you fill the basket, you can place the stones in any fashion you like so long as the outer stones have the flat sides facing outwards. This gives a nicer look and keeps the basket from deforming. As you fill the basket with stones you’ll need to add galvanized wire cross-braces every two feet of the length of the basket and at every foot in height of the basket. This is necessary to keep the sides from bulging outwards. For example, if the basket is 10 feet long and three feet in height, you’ll need five cross-braces for the first foot in elevation, then another five for the second foot in elevation, and so on.
For this style of basket, you won’t have any wire on the top so it’ll be up to you how much time you want to spend arranging the stones. But for a nicer look you can organize them so that they lay evenly with the flat sides facing up. Once this is complete, the wall is done and ready to enjoy.
NOTE: THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS PROVIDED AS A GUIDE TO ASSIST CONTRACTORS AND DO-IT-YOUR-SELFERS IN THE PROPER CONSTRUCTION OF GABION FENCES. THE PHOTOS AND ILLUSTRATIONS SHOWN ON THIS WEBSITE ARE EXAMPLES OF TYPICAL CONSTRUCTION METHODS. THIS CONTENT IS PRESENTED FOR GENERAL INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY AND SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN AS A SUGGESTED DESIGN OR PROFESSIONAL ADVICE FOR BUILDING YOUR FENCE.
STEP 1 - LAYING OUT THE SITE
Start by laying out the wall using a string line and line level or a carpenters level mounted on a long straight edge (usually 2"x4" - 12' long) and check that the pad is level in both directions.
STEP 2 - PROVIDE A FIRM AND LEVEL BASE
Using a hoe or flat shovel, remove any grass, weeds or top soil. If the soil is hard, you may be able to put your gabion wall directly on the existing soil. If you have sandy or clay soil, you will need to replace about 6" depth with compacted gravel or a concrete footer, otherwise the soil might slump under the weight. If you are not planning to vegetate the wall, use brush killer (Round Up) to destroy any weeds or roots then cover over with geotextile fabric.
STEP 3 - GABION REINFORCEMENT - INSTALL SUPPORT COLUMNS
There is virtually no structural integrity in the wire of a narrow width gabion wall. These walls will require internal support posts imbedded in concrete and spaced on appx. 6' centers. (see examples below)
Depending on the installation and local codes, typical columns may be sections of galvanized pipe, pressure treated wood posts or structural steel members.
Be sure to bury the column 3-4' deep, add dry mix concrete, then wet it up and return in a day or two and start your installation.
STEP 4 - ASSEMBLING THE GABION BASKETS
Start by unfolding and laying out the wire mesh panels with its bottom panel laying flat on the prepared base by sliding the gabion over the internal support posts. Our baskets are held together with a spiral of galvanized steel that you wind through the adjacent edges of the mesh panels. It’s easy to do since the spiral matches the gabion's mesh grid spacing. When the spiral reaches the end, use pliers to pinch each end to secure and prevent it from slipping out.
6 ft long baskets are the most commonly used size. They have a middle dividing panel to reduce bulging, which is wired in along its bottom edge when the cage is open on the flat area, and then down each vertical side once the sides are brought up and the basket is in place. The baskets generally need bracing ties across each corner 1/3 and 2/3 up depending on the height of the basket, which are positioned and pinched closed.
STEP 5 - FILLING THE GABION BASKETS
If you have indigenous rocks available, filling with these on-site materials will produce a gabion wall that fits well into its surrounding landscape.
To prevent spillage, the exterior rocks placed against the exposed faces need to be slightly larger than the mesh openings. Typical 3" x 3" mesh requires a minimum of 4" rocks and limit the largest rock at 8". Use angular rocks to fit into corners and smaller rocks or used bricks and concrete materials may be inserted in the center of the structure as they will not to be seen when finished.
Careful packing of the rock takes time but is important!
Work in layers, using smaller pieces to fill any voids and to wedge the best looking rocks against the face of the basket. Orient them as closely as possible, then filling in behind to hold them in place.
To obtain fence heights taller than 3' you generally stack multiple baskets on top of each other. Once you have packed the lower basket, wire close its lid and then assemble the second layer on top. Fill the second layer like the first using the best looking rocks on the face and the less attractive fill rocks in the center.