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Re: Stone Retaining Wall

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Gail,
 
Here's another reference, not as useful as Ian Cramb's, but with additional insights, if you are to be the builder: Building With Stone by Charles McRaven, published 1989 by Garden Way Publishing.
 
Most soils will stand 3 ft without need of retaining.  What they need for long-term stability is surface protection and erosion resistance.  I think I would approach the project with a greater focus on slope protection and erosion control than on the structural principles of retaining soil.  Keep surface flow away from the top of the wall, and use a filter-fill behind the wall to allow the water to drain through without eroding the soil.  If the stones are dry-stacked, damage, which I expect is not likely, will give you an occasional maintenance-type project in your front yard.
 
Nels Roselund
Structural Engineer
South San Gabriel, CA
njineer(--nospam--at)att.net