Common Gabion Questions
Gabion baskets can be utilized in a variety of structures from gravity and MSE retaining walls to landscape elements, fences, and architectural veneers or cladding. Gabions make such an attractive and versatile building element because the cages can be constructed in a variety of sizes and finishes and filled with recycled onsite stone, concrete, or brick, or a variety of other natural and manufactured fill material including limestone, basalt, granite, and recycled glass rocks.
Gabion fill material is determined by the project application and the mesh used to construct the gabion baskets. Standard civil and erosion control applications utilize angular riprap stone, most commonly limestone, in 4" to 8" diameter. This is specified in ASTM-D6711. Angular gabion stone is preferred because it allows the rock to interlock with each other and reduces the pressure on the face of the baskets. In architectural applications it is common to utilize rounded stone as well as smaller stone gradients but the gabion mesh must be selected in accordance. Smaller stone means you need a smaller mesh opening to contain the stone while round stone may require thicker gauge gabions in order to keep the face of the basket from flexing or bowing as much.
A gabion basket is a cage generally made from metal wire that is used to contain stone in order to create a structure that is either decorative and/or retains earth in an architectural, civil, or erosion control application . You can connect and stack multiple gabion baskets to create a single monolithic structure allowing you to create a gravity wall that uses the mass of the stone fill to retain a slope or wall. You can also use gabion baskets in conjunction with mesh reinforcement panels or geogrid to create an MSE Gabion Wall minimizing the amount of stone fill material needed to be brought in.
A gabion structure is a structure built utilizing gabion baskets or cages to contain fill material most commonly 4” to 8” angular stone fill. This can be in an earth retention situation, free standing as a decorative screen wall, or partially filled with dirt as a planter. Gabions can be attached end to end and can be stacked on top of each other to reach the desired height. By attaching basket to basket you can create a single monolithic structure.
Gabion is Italian for cage.
The need for a foundation is site specific and dependent on the height of the wall. The key to the foundation is that you have good and level compaction. This can involve excavating out poor onsite soils and replacing with compacted aggregate among other methods.
Gabions are sold through a variety of outlets. The most common types available through distributors are double twisted wire mesh gabions only available in specific sizes. Even these are not stocked in large quantities locally due to the vast variety of size options.
Gabions can be installed by contracting companies specializing in retaining walls but are also commonly installed by erosion control contractors, site development contractors, landscapers, and even by homeowners themselves. While gabions are labor intensive to install, they are fairly simple. We routinely connect general contractors and homeowners with contractors we have worked within the past. We also are happy to work with contractors and homeowners who are unfamiliar with gabion construction to gain a better understanding and comfort level with the process of installing a gabion wall.
Most of our gabions are shipped partially assembled with all panels attached to each other and folded flat for shipment. Once they arrive the baskets are unfolded and the sides are attached together at the vertical seams with either tie wire, spirals, or hog rings depending on the style of basket and installation method desired. Once the baskets are assembled they are ready for installation.
We have several installation guides that go into greater detail as far as installation goes and the process varies depending on what type of gabion structure you are building. There are two main types of gabion retaining walls. A gravity retaining wall and an MSE wall. A gravity wall is the most common type of retaining wall and is called a gravity wall because the baskets contain the mass of the stone fill and utilize gravity to retain the soil behind the baskets. The general rule of thumb to achieve this gravity wall setup is that the base course should be 2/3 as deep into the hillside as the height of the wall. You can stack baskets on top of each other and step them in as you go up. Traditional gravity walls can become cost prohibitive when going over 18’ in height. This is where an MSE gabion wall can come into play. By utilizing steel mesh reinforcement or geogrid reinforcement to reinforce the soil and aggregate behind the wall face you can increase the height and strength of the structure while minimizing the amount of off site stone needing to be brought in.
In simple terms, the cage contains the fill material and the mass of the fill material retains the zone behind the wall.
A gabion basket works by containing the fill material. This is done by having mesh strong enough to contain the fill material. The seams are connected in a manner to insure they are strong enough to contain the material while maintaining structural integrity. The baskets are also divided with internal diaphragm panels so that no cell is longer than 3’ without reinforcement. The baskets should also be reinforced with tie wire to help keep the face from bulging and in some cases corner stiffeners can be used to help keep the baskets square by attaching each panel to the panel next to it so that when you look down in the cell of the basket there is a diamond shape in the cell.
Gabion walls can be economical or expensive or somewhere in between. Depending on the site conditions, size of the project, fill material, and mesh specification the price for a gabion project can vary greatly. In many cases gabions can be utilized to contain existing onsite stone, or recycled brick or concrete from a redevelopment which can help reduce cost.
While gabion fences are labor intensive they are not crazy expensive. They are even more affordable when done as a DIY project.
Gabion baskets are simply a cage used to contain fill material. The fill material can be any of a wide variety of aggregate and other material including limestone, basalt, granite, recycled brick and concrete, glass rock, beach pebbles, and flag stone.
Gabions are designed to be used in permanent structures but their longevity is directly related to the environment they are installed in. This means life expectancy of gabion walls can be anywhere from 10 to 75 years depending on the install environment. Exposure to salt water, fresh water, highly acidic soils, industrial run-off etc. can all affect the longterm durability of the structure. Some styles of gabions interact with specific environmental conditions better than others. PVC coated gabions are generally used in acidic and freshwater environments. Polypropylene geogrid DuraGuard gabions and Custom Stainless Steel DuraWeld gabions are commonly used in salt water environments. In some applications such as shoreline protection the gabions will fill in with soil and allow vegetation to be established giving you a permanent structure that blends in to the surrounding environment.
Absolutely! Gabions make a fantastic fence. Whether you are looking to utilize onsite stone or looking for a fence to help reduce sound, a gabion fence makes a great choice. Gabion fences can be personalized in a variety of ways. We allow you to customize the mesh spacing, wire diameter, and material. You can mix in recycled glass rock gabion fill or utilize other fill options including river rock, field stone, Mexican beach pebbles, basalt, etc. You can further customize your fence by mixing in wood panel accents as well as steel or wooden posts to break up the look of stone. Gabion fences are typically supported by internal support posts which are set in concrete and spaced 6 foot on center. Check out our guide on How to Build a Gabion Fence.
While it is not always a huge money saver to build your own gabion it can definitely be done. We sell a variety of accessories that can be used with mesh panels of your choice to create your DIY gabion.
Gabions have many benefits. They are an excellent choice when you have fill material available on site and want to minimize the need to bring material onsite. This can be achieved by utilizing recycled material such as tumbled concrete or broken bricks or collecting field stone. Gabions are also excellent for installation locations that may be too far from traditional block manufacturers such as rural areas or on islands where stone may be available but not block manufacturers. Another benefit of gabions is they can be used in both a gravity or MSE wall installation. Gabions also allow better water flow through the face of the wall due to the space between the fill stone reducing the hydrostatic pressure on the wall. Gabions are also an excellent option for DIY installations because they do not require a high level of expertise to install when used in a gabion gravity wall.
Curved gabion walls can be achieved in a few ways depending how tight of a radius you are trying to achieve. You can set stakes in the ground and use them as anchors to curve longer panels. You can utilize shorter length gabions and kick in the front edge and make small adjustments across multiple gabions. You can also turn the gabions and utilize additional panels to connect the open space on the outside of the turn between two gabions.
The max standard gabion height is 3’ so gabions are commonly stacked to achieve the desired wall height. The best practice for stacking gabions in a retaining wall is to overlap the seams similar to laying block.
Gabions can be cut on site but we also offer our DuraWeld standard and custom baskets made to order to be just the size you need when they show up on site. As long as the dimensions are even increments of the mesh spacing you are good to go.
Gabion stone is available at a variety of quarries and landscape and aggregate supply houses. The most common gabion fill material is an angular riprap stone in a mix of 4” to 8” diameter. This is based on the standard gabion mesh spacings of 3”x3” for DuraWeld standard baskets and 3.25”x4.5” DuraFlex baskets. In architectural applications smaller fill or rounded stone fill may be desired. In many cases to utilize the smaller fill material it may be necessary to utilize a custom DuraWeld basket with a smaller mesh opening and/or thicker wire gauge.
While gabion baskets for civil and erosion control applications can be found at some supply houses it is generally on a small scale with only a limited number of sizes available. By shipping gabions collapsed and folded flat on pallets direct from the production facility we can supply the exact gabions you need delivered directly to your business or job site or can deliver to a local trucking company terminal for pick-up on your schedule. We ship orders large and small all over North America and the Caribbean.
We sell gabions direct all over North America, the Caribbean and beyond. Our DuraFlex gabions are generally available to ship within a few days depending on the size, style, and quantity. Our DuraWeld gabions are made to order and generally have a production lead time of around 2 weeks for standard gabions or slightly longer for custom gabions but can be less or more depending on raw material supply and volume in the production queue.
Because of the open nature of gabion fill material allowing water to flow through the face minimal drainage is needed behind the gabions until you get above a certain height. This is generally 6 to 9 feet depending on site conditions and will be specified by the design engineer.
There are several reasons gabions should be used. Outside of the obvious of being drawn to the aesthetics of a gabion system there are several practical reasons as well. These include being able to utilize onsite or recycled fill material, ability to build a gravity wall without bringing in and pouring concrete, remotely located projects, and the ability to install a DIY system with minimum experience required.