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RE: Stone Retaining Wall

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The Charles McRaven books is an excellent reference.  Personal Experience: We now have a 3 year old 2'-4' high (varies around the perimeter) flat stone retaining wall in our front yard, with steps to the front door.  I designed the layout and my husband and I did the construction. I used the McRaven book as guide to build the wall - I did not do any calculations on the wall; the wall is battered slightly - but you can't tell from the street.  The only problem we have had is with drainage.  A roof drain pipe near one corner came loose from the underground drainage piping during heavy rain and washed away the earth at the base of the corner of the wall.  The wall flowed with the change but did not collapse.  We unstacked and reset the wall and fixed the drainage and all has been fine for the last two years.  I love dry stacked walls and we plan on putting more in the back yard.

Donna L. Gochenaur, PE
eMi . . . Engineering Ministries International
110 S. Weber Ste 104
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

EMI's mission is to mobilize Christian design professionals to serve the poor in developing countries - we proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ by empowering people to transform their world - through the design and development of hospitals, schools, orphanages, bridges, water supplies, wastewater facilities and more. We commit to provide excellent service to our clients, our volunteers, and to people in need. Our goal is to enrich the lives of those who give and those who receive.

-----Original Message-----
From: Nels Roselund, SE [mailto:njineer(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Wednesday, March 12, 2003 10:43 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Re: Stone Retaining Wall

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