The in’s and out’s of natural stone retaining walls

Many, if not most, landscape installations require some type of retaining.  Whether it’s a single row of retaining or a 20′ wall to hold your house in place, there are so many options and materials to choose from.  I decided to talk about the three most common types of stone walls we install on a daily basis.  They all happen to be a natural stone and gorgeous!

Lake Minnetonka Minnesota underdeck paver patio, limestone steppers, boulder retaining wall with metal fence enclosureLocation: Wayzata, MN

Installation Process: First we design the wall layouts and heights to be drawn on to a full scale plan.

Step 1: Excavate the area and sub cut from the earth

Step 2: Installation of class 5 rock or 1 ½” clean rock compacted in the trench base.  This will support base row of wall.

Step 3:  Installation of fabric behind stone wall to reduce soil passing through seams of stone walls.

Step 4:  As levels are being built continue compacting behind walls.  Finish by grading the area and planting above walls to prevent erosion.

Wisconsin cabin with granite natural stone slabs for slight retaining for a flatter yardLocation: Cumberland, WI

Let’s begin with BOULDER WALLS.

Characteristic and Use:  Mostly round with a varying shades of blue, yellow, and cream colors.  Boulder sizes typically range anywhere from 18″ to 40″ in diameter.  From a natural stone stand point, boulder walls typically are the most cost effect and one of the best to use for structural retaining.

Areas we source Boulders from:  Minnesota Quarries or Local Boulder Suppliers.

large boulder walls with boxwood plantings

This boulder retaining wall located in Lakeville, MN is retaining an entire driveway brought up to the home and garage grade.

Boulder wall construction before and during grading area for installation

This is a great example of a before and after in Edina, MN.  In the before picture above it shows how much dirt has to be moved around in order to set the appropriate grades for installation to begin.

The after photo below shows all the different bould walls installed through the backyard to create useable space.

Boulder wall construction after grading area for installation

Boulder retaining wall to create two levels of entertaining

Here’s an example of using different size and shape boulders to add some interest and dimension at a home in Prior Lake, Minnesota.

Edina MN Boulder wall installation for concrete pool

This boulder wall was the beginning of a massive (approx 23′ tall) wall project that was going to retain a concrete swimming pool and patio in Edina, MN.

Lake Minnetonka Wayzata Minnesota new construction home with boulder retaining wall and bluestone steps to poolLocation: Wayzata, Minnesota

The second most common wall material we use is LIMESTONE WALLS.

Characteristic and Use: This stone can be found with little variations mostly yellow to a multicolored stone containing purples, pinks, and grays  It really is a beautiful stone that can blend with many different styles of architecture.  We typically use a chilton or fond du lac limestone mostly found in Wisconsin.  It can vary in size and thickness.  We usually purchase sizes from 4″-6″ in thickness.  Slab limestone will also come in 4′ long x 12″ height x 18″-24″ wide.  Smaller thickness of stone is for planters where as slab limestone is for structural walls.

Areas we source Limestone from:  Stone suppliers or direct from quarry’s mainly from Wisconsin.

combination of boulders and limestone for this staircase and retaining walls

This image (Location: Excelsior, Minnesota) shows a combination of slab limestone pieces irregularly stacked along with boulder edging and outcroppings.

Stillwater Minnesota St. Croix River historic home installing cute limestone walls for clean line

Installing cut and dry-stacked limestone wall stone and planting beds.

Stillwater minnesota home with a natural limestone walls with a bluestone cap for sitting

This is a very clean, almost white limestone cut and dry stacked to create a very clean detail look against this remodeled historic Stillwater, Minnesota home.

Permeable paver driveway with limestone retaining walls and bould outcroppings

You can see the variation of colors in this installation.  There are some rust, blue, and yellows.  Location: Shorewood, MN

Wayzata Minnesota Egg Shell Blue cottage with large limestone slab walls

Curves can still be achieved even with this large of stone slabs!  Location: Shorewood, MN

Lastly, GRANITE WALLS are stunning and a very rich addition to any yard.

Characteristics and Use:  Granite cubes offer a very clean lines look with squared off corners.  Another type of granite we use is called, Wolfeboro granite slabs and they come in different sizes, either 2-4″ or 4-8″ wide by 8″ depth.  Both types of stone can be built in rows or random pattern designs.  Both come in ranges of color pallets of gunmetal, chestnut, cream, copper, and silver.

Areas we source from: Northern Minnesota Quarries or Local Stone Suppliers.

Lake Minnetonka home with irregular granite walls and mortared walls

This colorful home in White Bear Lake, MN has an artistic touch on the way the designer approached the granite by stacking it irregularly along the slope of their granite steps and bluestone patio.  It was a nice diversion from all the beautiful mortared stone to bring it all together.

wolfeboro granite walls orono minnesota

This is the Wolfeboro Granite Stone (Orijin Stone is our local distributor), which is a little more weathered and rustic looking compared to the Granite Cubes, which tend to be smoother.  Location: Orono, Minnesota

Minnetonka Beach minnesota granite cube wall

What a statement once plantings are added into this tiered granite slab wall at this Edina, MN Home

Completed Wisconsin Lake cabin driveway with permeable pavers, granite walls, and bluestone steps

These walls were installed to create and auto court with the staircase leading to additional parking.  We installed permeable pavers to help move water away from the front entrance.

Prior Lake Minnesota contemporary home with clean granite boulders and minimal plantingsLocation: Prior Lake, MN

Retaining walls a very important part of landscaping.  Be sure when you are interviewing landscape companies that they have a reputable business and understanding of what it takes to build a solid retaining wall.  They do take a lot of planning and an experienced person to install a safe, quality built wall.  We’ve been building them for 43 years!

Local Stone Distributors We Trust:
Orijin Stone
Rock Hard Landscape Supply
Devin Veit