How to build a gabion wall

Gabions are wire structures, in essence large baskets, that are filled with rock or masonry material to form large blocks for structures such as retaining walls or channel linings. They have the advantage of being extremely rugged and relatively cheap for the large areas they can buttress.

Gabion walls can be small or large in scale, and are useful for the homeowner for jobs like lining culverts and stopping slope erosion.

Measure the area where you'll be building the wall. Take into account the width of the wall and the height. Gabion wall design software is available to help with this task (see Additional Resources).

Purchase gabion baskets for your project. You'll find that gabion baskets come in a variety of sizes and styles. Macaferri Gabion is a well-respected company in the field of gabions (see Additional Resources). It's possible to construct gabions yourself, out of materials like chicken wire or cyclone fencing, but this can be very time consuming and labour intensive.

Prepare the area where the first row of gabions will be situated. Ensure that the area is level and graded smooth. For a small project this can be done by hand with shovels, but larger projects may require the rental of a backhoe. Consult with local equipment rental companies if this is necessary.

Lay out your first row of gabions--this will be the base of the wall. Tie the gabions together with 14-gauge or better steel wire, wrapping the edges of each gabion together in several spots with the wire for stability. Cut the wire with heavy wire cutters and use pliers to wrap the wire.

Fill the gabions with rock. You can use rocks available on-site, or rocks purchased for the job. Consult with local stone centres on the styles and prices of rock available. If your gabion wall is purely functional in character, less expensive grades of rock are fine. Whatever type of rock you choose, make sure the average size is larger than the mesh of the gabion, so the rock stays in place.

Fill behind the row of gabions with soil or rock. Shovel the fill if the job is small; use a backhoe on large-scale jobs.

As necessary, stack new rows onto the first row of the wall. Step back the rows to match the contour of the slope you're building the wall against, and tie the second row to the first with wire, as you did in Step 4. Fill each row with rocks before proceeding to the next.