A wire basket filled with quarry waste stone - a simple but
Hold up your bank with a gabion!
Gabions are a cheap and relatively easy way of stabilising
an excavation or retaining a bank of earth. There are two basic types -
Gabions and its flatter sibling, the Reno Mattress.
A gabion is a wire cage which is filled with large stone - what would once
have been quarry waste (and hence cheap to buy). With the increase in
popularity of these cages and also the demand for garden rockeries (the two
main uses of extra large blocks of rock), the price has gone up and we had
to pay €17 a tonne just for the stone (not including delivery). Not so many
years ago these same blocks would have been free to collect with the quarry
just being glad to be rid of its rubbish. Fortunately we did not have to buy
too many tonnes since our garden is full of the same large blocks which we
had thoughtfully set aside during the excavation works.
Our drive consists of three sections - the end near the house, a long,
straight section which is ours exclusively and a winding shared section
which could belong to us, our neighbours or both of us depending upon how
you view a drawing which is out of date and (of necessity) incorrect since
the recent earthquake. Because of hunters and our house being at the end of
the road, we get casual traffic turning around right outside our house thus
denying us the privacy we desired when purchasing the house.
The idea was to cut back the bank at the end of our section of the drive and
widen it on both sides. This involved considerable excavation on one side
and fill on the other as the drive cuts into the side of a hill at this
point. At its deepest, there is a 3 metre face of soil exposed - obviously
too much to be safely left unsupported. The alternatives were to build a
wall in block, stone or concrete or to opt for gabions which are commonly
used in this area.
Despite their prevalence, our contractor found it hard to locate the bigger
size cages that we wanted and we had to ring around the various heavy
builders merchants to locate some. In the end we had a dozen or so 2 metres
x 2 metres x 1 metre gabions along with some smaller ones that he had bought
We stacked the first row along the bottom of the excavation and then began
filling the baskets with stone. It is possible to just use a digger bucket
to place the stone but it makes a neater job if it is placed by hand - much
like a quick form of dry stone wall.
As soon as a cage is filled the wire lid is lowered and wired tight. When
the adjacent cage is filled it is wired to the previous one and, in this
way, the wall is assembled to function both flexibly and as a single piece.
When a row is complete, a new layer of cages were laid on top but staggered
(like bricks laid in stretcher bond).
When we'd finished with the gabions, we dug a shallow trench along the face
at the bottom and planted some roses, wisteria and other climbing plants.
Hopefully, in a few years, the wire will be virtually invisible and the
whole wall will look very 'rustic' and natural.
The great thing about this type of retaining wall is there is no problem
with hydrostatic build up (ie trapped water) behind the wall, it is
virtually maintenance free and it blends in very quickly unlike a brick or
(worse) concrete wall which will forever remain an eyesore. Italy is keen on
this type of soil retention and we were happy to 'go with the flow' and do
likewise. On top of that, the bottom line price is usually lower than for
other construction methods.
At the time of writing our plants are just beginning to take but give it a
year or two and they should be very well established.
Click here to see what a Reno Mattress is.
If you're passing, why not come and see our gabions?
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