Natural Stone vs. Interlocking Concrete Walls

Category: Landscape

retaining wallLandscape walls serve not only valuable functions on properties, but also offer an aesthetic improvement to many properties that can be visually stunning.

As a landscape contractor in Lancaster, PA we install a wide variety of walls in a vast array of materials for properties surrounding our location in Lancaster, York, Dauphin, Lebanon, and Cumberland counties.

natural stone wallLandscape walls are added to landscape designs in the forms of retaining walls, seat walls, and decorative accents.

The choice of materials for walls is often driven by complementing property characteristics and architectural features of nearby structures.

On some properties, the choice of landscape wall materials becomes an obvious choice as these property features exclude certain options. However, a lot of times property owners are faced with a hard choice between natural stone walls or using interlocking concrete products in their landscape design.

Depending upon your point of view, each group of materials could have its own set of pros and cons.

Selecting the right material for your project is part of the process our landscape designers will explore with you. Ultimately it is your decision to choose the material you prefer as it fits into your budget and expresses your overall style.

One material isn’t necessarily better than another, but each has situations it may feel like a better choice to you and your landscape designer. Every property is unique!

Pros & Cons of Natural Stone Walls in Landscape Design

natural stone retaining wallNatural stone walls are found in a variety of shapes, colors and textures. Materials such as fieldstone, flagstone, brownstone, and several others make for beautiful, natural walls. Using natural stone in landscape design couldĀ  increase the cost of the overall project vs. manufactured options.

Material cost ranges and could even be lower than manufactured options, but the labor to install natural stone walls is typically higher.

Using natural stone material has its limits as well when compared to manufactured walls in some situations. These walls are best when height and length is limited.

The success of these walls depends heavily upon an expert installer.

Pros:

  • More natural appearance
  • Complements some older style homes better for the most part
  • More easily used for low, decorative accent walls than larger interlocking blocks
  • No special connections or mortar are required to fit them together

Cons:

  • Can be more expensive due to increased installation labor
  • Not recommended to use for larger retaining walls, particularly over 3 ft.
  • Could be more easily broken or moved by mowers, unless mortar is used
  • Mortar joints can increase maintenance as it will crack over time (mortar applications only)

Pros & Cons of Interlocking Concrete Walls in Landscape Design

retaining wallManufactured, interlocking concrete wall materials have become more popular in the past couple decades for a number of reasons.

Color blends, textures, sizes, and overall features make for ease of use in landscape design with versatile uses. The majority of retaining walls and seat walls that we install come from these options from several manufacturers.

Pros:

  • Generally more affordable cost overall as labor is reduced compared to natural stone installation
  • A larger variety of visual features than natural stone
  • Ideal for retaining walls, particularly those over 3 ft.
  • Heavier and thus more difficult to damage or dislodge
  • Lighting features within wall materials are easily integrated

Cons:

  • Don’t replicate natural stone materials of nearby structures as well
  • Actual material cost is higher than natural stone, but overall the reduced installation labor makes it a lower cost overall
  • Limited when creating turns with a sharp radius

 

natural stone retaining wallWhen installing retaining walls, seat walls, or decorative landscape walls, a lot can go wrong if proper measures aren’t taken. It’s a common occurrence for us to find DIY and even “professionally” installed walls, leaning on properties.

Building walls in landscape designs requires more than just stacking and leveling the material. A lot of the success of wall durability is impacted by what you can’t see behind and below the wall. Walls have a stone foundation with some of the wall block actually buried under the surface.

The back-fill behind walls will dramatically impact if your walls end up leaning or falling in the future. This is especially true, the greater the height of the wall. This part of wall installation is often neglected with inadequate experience.

ncma icip certifiedWhen looking for a landscape contractor to install retaining walls or any hardscaping materials, be sure to ask what additional certifications their installers may have. The National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) and Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI) both offer certification programs that insure that credentialed installers were trained in the right procedures.

A good landscaping company will be able to provide you with pictures of retaining walls, etc. that they have installed in the past and also may have a few properties where you could drive past to view walls that have been in place for decades without problems.

If you’re considering installing walls in your landscape design and would like to explore the material options and understand our experience with these types of projects, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


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