Drystone Retaining Wall: Before & After

In addition to providing a more rustic and artistic aesthetic, a drystone retaining wall is actually a more sustainable choice as well. In the fall of 2013 Hammerhead replaced a failing mortared retaining wall that was in an advanced state of decay. Hydrostatic pressure- a build up of water in the earth behind the wall- eventually tore the wall apart and was pushing it over when we stepped in to finish the job. Neighborhood reports vary, but the existing wall was no more than twenty years old- a baby in stone years.

A Drystone Retaining Wall Prevents Hydrostatic Pressure

We replaced it with a drystone retaining wall which will allow water to pass through the face- avoiding the damaging build up of hydrostatic pressure. We used Hooper’s Creek stone, a granitic gneiss from these mountains. It’s a favorite material for wall building because it belongs to these mountains and fits with the crazy geology of this terrain. That said, I did select sandstone from Tennessee for the steps, seen below. It’s so much flatter than the Hooper’s making it a better choice for steps, particularly for clients concerned about access as they age. We can build a very predictable and comfortable set of steps from these big slabs.

drystone retaining wall

A drystone retaining wall in Asheville’s historic Albemarle neighborhood by Hammerhead Stoneworks.

Drystone retaining wall for prevention of blowouts

A blow out in a mortared retaining wall caused by hydrostatic pressure. Build dry, by Golly!

drystone retaining wall

Stone steps and drystone wall by Hammerhead Stoneworks.


Read more about retaining walls.