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Dry Stone Pebble Wall. Stone Siding for Wooden Buildings - Requires no mortar or masonry skills.  RSS feed

 
Dale Hodgins
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I've been investigating the many uses of gabion baskets and built in place gabion earth works. Photos below explain what a gabion is. Go to google images and search gabion,gabion baskets, dry stone wall and pebble wall.

My latest idea is a fusion of several building technologies so viewing these photos will help in understanding. Tomorrow I will go to the beach and build a model which will be filled several times with various types of rock. Photos will follow.

The plan is to create a thin, dry stone wall against any wooden, cob,or other type of wall where a solid stone finish is desired. No mortar or masonry skills are required. Heavy galvanized stucco wire will be held a given distance from the support wall by tie wires. A solid spacer will be used to allow tie wires to be bent to the right length to create a flat surface. Once the wire is in place, the wall is filled with pebbles.

FOUNDATION--- This type of siding will be quite heavy, so a solid foundation is required. The weight of the rock is carried by the foundation and not by the underlying wall. Brick face walls work the same way.
Most brick homes built in North America within the past 75 years are done in face brick. The roof is held up by the wooden structure. And the weight of those bricks are held up by the concrete foundation, not by the wooden walls. The bricks are held to the wood wall with brick ties. So my pebble walls are a cousin of this proven building system.

WATER --- Tar paper could rest against the wood, just as is done with brick facing.
This type of finish would be best kept under a suitable roof overhang.

WILD LIFE --- It is highly likely that small creatures will make their homes or lay eggs within the crevices. The tightness of the material would not permit rodents entry but insects and spiders would use the space just as they do with dry stone garden walls. My favorite insectivores are the Alligator Lizards which currently occupy rock piles on the south facing slope. I suppose crevice size could be planned to accomodate lizards, bats ,or any other desired species.

Termites are not an issue where I live and there are no poisonous species which are likely to move into the walls.

SPLASH GUARD --- I first started thinking of using a gabion system when I saw how Rusty Bowman used recycled concrete scraps to protect his wood chip clay walls from rain splashing. I plan to have a similar earth plaster finish and a gabion splash guard on the first couple feet of wall would go a long way to prevent erosion of that finish. Tar paper and a galvanized L-shaped drip edge behind the stone would complete the protection. A concrete cap could be poured at the junction of the cob wall and the pebble wall.

BLOW OUT --- As wall height increases, the outward pressure on the wire increases, so it will be important to put in plenty of ties to avoid blowout. The same thing happens with concrete forms although with that there is also hydraulic pressure. On single story homes this would require a few extra tie wires. For an apartment building, an engeneer may be required.

CONDENSATION --- Rock piles are known to condense water vapour. Since the wall is far thinner and less massive, major condensation is unlikely. But tar paper beneath would carry water harmlessly to the base of the wall where the L trim then channels it away from the building.

WIRE RUSTING --- Galvanized gabions last for decades in rivers and in other harsh environments. In a residential situation where the material is seldom wet, lifespan of the wire is likely to be measured in centuries.

THERMAL MASS --- Because the rock lies outside the heated envelope, the mass will not have the huge impact that would occur inside the home. Where a greenhouse or sunroom is added to the south face of the house, this type of finish on the southern wall would add greatly to the thermal mass. Distance from glazing and direct sun exposure would affect performance.

TROMBE WALLS AND OTHER THERMAL MASS INSIDE THE HOUSE --- The same system would work within the home. Condensation would not be an issue so no need for tar paper.

MATERIAL SOURCING --- In areas that have plentiful natural gravel, clean size sorted material is available for around $20 per ton. At that price there's no way I would fiddle with a garden screen or run to the beach with buckets. At 3 inches thick, one ton of material will cover aprox. 65 sq. ft. I'll come back with firm pricing for my area later. In any event a stone finish which will last for the life of the building can be achieved at lower cost tha that of vinyl siding.

EMF MUMBO-JUMBO --- See heading :

ORDER OF OPERATIONS ---- 3am , must rest brain --- I'll finish this tomorrow.

--- MORE ON THIS TOMORROW. IF YOU KNOW OF THIS BEING DONE ALREADY, PLEASE LET ME KNOW. I'VE RE-INVENTED THE WHEEL BEFORE.

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Dale Hodgins
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I built a model wall section today. Since I had chicken wire and light stucco wire on hand, that's what was used to contain the loose materials.

The model below is about 3 sq. ft. in area and it is 3 inches deep. The chicken wire was nailed on first and the stucco wire is nailed on top.

On its own the chicken wire stretches and bulges and would not be suitable. The stucco wire holds its shape well. By joining the two a small mesh size and rigidity were achieved.

The Photos- Is anybody else bothered by having to upload photos in reverse chronological order ?

The stones pour in easily. I used a scoop, but for a whole wall you'd want a tub of stones and a good strong dust pan. Long handled shovel would be awkward. I could see filling 3 inch cavities at 3-5 sq. ft. per minute. Most of the stones in the first photo are aprox. golf ball sized. I prefer much smaller material but this is what fit the mesh available.

Screws would work better than nails when applying support wires. Pre-fab lengths of wire attached to screws with a pre-measured bend would allow for accurate maintainance of the desired plane.

The materials settle well with a little vibration.This model has a wooden form and only uses 5 support wires. On an actual building with a relatively flat surface, the wire alone would support the stones so that none of the building's framework need be exposed.

The next set of photos will show alternative looks with hand placed rocks.

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Dale Hodgins
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More photos --- The first shot is of the stairway leading to the beach. Every year I build a new set of driftwood steps and every year they are destroyed by winter storms. The largest trunk and stump in the photo is partially burried now. It's probably one ton in weight. This spring it was wedged tightly against the concrete wall ,blocking access to the spiral staircase beyond. I moved it to it's current position using a skinny log about 24 ft long as a lever. I also moved about 5 tons of stone for the steps and
earth works.


Back to the panel.--- The largest rock in the lower right of the photo is about 8 inches long and 2 inches thick. These larger flat pieces were individually placed. It was an awkward process. The space is 3 inches thick so getting my forearm in was a struggle. While holding the larger rocks in place I dumped smaller gravel behind which creates a very solid surface. A 6 inch space would be a practical thickness for individual placement of facing stone.

The large rocks on the right side of the panel were individually placed while the left side was just dumped in. Notice the beach glass. Any non rotting substance could fill this type of wall. Beach glass, oyster shells, concrete fragments, lava rock etc...

Speed of construction --- The facing stone method took me about 3 minutes per sq. ft. and would be practical where a thick finish is desired. Stucco wire comes in 4 ft. roll height but 2 ft of rise is a more practical increment since the arm most be inserted behind the wire for proper placement. Filling the wall with loose pebbles which are allowed to align themselves randomly is a very quick process. With proper scaffolding and equipment I could see achieving rates of 5-10 sq. ft. per minute. So the only real labor concern would be the time required to install the foundation and wire mesh. These entail far more labor. My best guess based on other things I've done with wire, would be that 2 people working together to place and secure the wire would achieve about 100 to 200 sq. ft. per hour. Those same two people should be able to fill a 100 sq. ft. three inch cavity in 20 minutes, based on how long it took me to fill mine. This is assuming that the material is on deck with no sorting or other fiddling required. This would be just over one ton of material which represents a fill rate of about 55 lb. per minute.

Other Adaptations of this process

THIN PEBBLE WALLS --- With appropriate attention to water flow, mesh sizing and agregate size, it should be possible to build pebble walls as thin as 1/2 inch. This would be like a permiable stucco but without sand or cement. I've found good quality galvanised wire with mesh sizes down th 1/4 inch or 1/2 cm. Below that mesh size the zinc coating on the wire is unlikely to last for the life of the building.
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The first big test --- I have a 500 sq ft cottage which currently has bare plywood on the walls. A small building nearby was covered in a good grade of tar paper 8 years ago and it is just now at a point where damage from weather and sunlight is evident. So my plan is to use that same tar paper covered by a 1 inch layer of protective pebble wall.


My little building is suspended 2 1/2 ft off of the ground on piers. Therefore I want my pebble wall to add no more than a couple tons to the weight of the structure. It has a good overhang and it seldom experiences strong wind. This makes it a good candidate for a pebble finish.

It has already been shown that good tar paper lasts quite well here so I simply need an attractive finish which will protect the tar paper from wind and sunlight . One inch is more than enough thickness to block the wind and to keep the sun off the tar paper.

ROOFING NAIL SUSPENSION--- This material will be hung on the wall with 2 inch roofing nails driven to just the right depth to allow for the desired thickness of pebble infill. A simple spacer will be used. The bottom of the wall needs a strong galvanized angle iron support which will bear the weight of all above. The drip edge will need to be well fitted to this.

DRAINAGE--- There will be rare occasions when wind driven rain will penetrate the wall. Loose gravel with no fine silt or sand is a naturally well drained material so most of this water will run down the wall to the drip edge at its base. If stucco or some type of earthen plaster were used, these materials could become saturated and maintain a film of water against the tar paper long after the rain has stopped. But the gravel would not sit flat. Instead it would have thousands of small points where it touches but with most of the paper being in air voids. With any pile of rounded rocks sitting against a relatively hard surface this is the case. Gravel is back filled against concrete foundations due to its drainage properties.

GEO TEXTILE DRAINAGE FABRIC--- There are special fabrics meant to go against concrete foundations which separate the concrete from the gravel back fill. Use of this stuff would give added protection.

LIFE EXPECTANCY --- The durability of this system will be determined by that of the weakest link. This will almost surely be the galvanized wire. I won't use any wire that has less than a 30 year rating for exterior, out in the weather applications. Under the protection of a good roof, my wire will not be wet all the time and it will not be exposed to the damaging effects of rotting vegetation. Wire thus protected lasts many times longer than wire exposed to those hazards in retaining walls and along riverbanks where galvanized gabion baskets are commonly employed. ----

50 years from now when the first rust appears I'll drag my 97 year old ass over there and give the wire a coat of white wash, paint or whatever works. Alternatively, 100 years from now I could nail a new layer of wire over the old or carefully drain the pebbles from the wall, replace the drip edges, wire and nails and then have my young wife re-fill the walls with the pebbles.

MAINTENANCE--- The plan should be to do close to nothing to the walls for a long time. If dirt and dust accumulate, a soapy brush on a stick followed by a garden hose wash should do it. The mostly igneous rock that is available for this is not nearly as prone to mildew growth as are most other types of stucco or siding.

WELL THAT'S IT FOR NOW ---- I know this little book was rather brief but it covers the basics. The idea was just hatched on Friday. It is now Monday and there's a firm plan of action. I've set a new personal record. This message has been edited 25 times.

PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF THERE'S ANYTHING I'VE LEFT OUT. Thank You --- The obsessed inventor ----- Dale Hodgins

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Rusty Bowman
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Dale Hodgins wrote:

CONDENSATION ---
Rock piles are known to condense water vapour. Since the wall is far thinner and less massive, major condensation is unlikely. But tar paper beneath would carry water harmlessly to the base of the wall where the L trim then channels it away from the building.



Some good ideas, Dale! You do bring up the point of the rocks condensing though (I use that natural occurrence to keep fruit trees alive in a desert environment on property 3 hrs from me). I'll have to sit on that for a while, after recuperating some sleep. However, my initial thought, albeit foggy, is of concern...concern that you might be creating the opposite of what you're intending... a moist environment against a wall that needs to stay dry. This may be a non-issue in a thinner splash guard wall as you say, I don't know. Other variables would need to be factored in too. Maybe someone else can chime in.

In my case, there's a space between my dry stacked recycled concrete and the earthen plastered wall, so condensation is a non-issue. Putting the splash guard against the wall as you suggest though would be cleaner looking and could make for some interesting/esthetically pleasing results.


Dale Hodgins wrote:

The Photos- Is anybody else bothered by having to upload photos in reverse chronological order ?



Ha...yeah, that is a bit strange. Took me a couple postings to figure out what was going on. Now that I'm aware of it, my challenge will be to see if I can remember to post photos in reverse order. A challenge it'll be for my oft times absent noggin.....
 
Dale Hodgins
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Rock piles have huge thermal mass and they are connected to the cool soil beneath. This turns them into dripping dehumidifyers.

A thin splashguard is going to heat up in the sun and because there are no fine particles in the mix, thermal conduction is drastically reduced. Put a dozen potato shaped rocks in a pail and have a look. They will have numerous points where they touch but the total area of contact is very low. A pea gravel roof can have huge temperature stratification due to this. If the same roof were paved in flag stone, it would all heat up together.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I've priced out all of the components. Using run of the mill mesh in two sizes (one sized to hold the pebbles and a larger mesh to hold the weight and maintain the plane) the wire can be bought for as little as 75 cents per sq. ft. . With top of the line hot dip wire, the price goes to $1.50 or more per sq. ft. These prices are for systems backed with good quality tar paper.

The fine 1/2 and 1/4 inch mesh wire is twice as expensive as the heavier support wire. So it would be cheaper to build a wall 3 inches thick containing 1 1/2+ material than to build something 1 inch thick. The smaller stone is a bit more expensive but in any case the stone is never more than 20% of the cost. Depending on the thickness chosen, wire makes up about 70% of costs with stone, tar paper, drip edges and nails making up the remainder.

The geotextile was almost $2 per sq. ft. I won't be buying any of that unless I stumble into a good deal.

New or discarded indoor-outdoor carpet is far cheaper and would likely work as well.

So, not counting labour a stone wall could run between $1 and $2.50 for a simple no frills system when smaller pebbles are used. It could be done for as little as $ .60 if only the larger mesh is used on a wall 3 or 4 inches thick.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Photos of a similar look to the gabion system.

1. This beautiful garage is Victoria's most distinctive small building. It was covered in stone in 1962. That's 50 years ago.

2. Many tourists take this to be the year of construction. Victoria is actually about 160 years old. It's the street address.

3. Another view. The lady in the photo is 93 years old. She carries those heavy buckets like they're filled with air. She helped her husband build the garage and many other stone garden structures. She was 43 when the garage was done. She said the garden was his passion and she feels conected to him through the many works of art they built together, now that he's gone. He also lived to an advanced age. This lady is the picture of health as she cultivates her large, well kept garden. Work does the body good.

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Dale Hodgins
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Posts: 6796
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Dale Hodgins
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There are now three people living in the cottage. The siding will not be done this year.

I'm consolidating all of my green building inventions and adaptations under one roof. The thread is called "Dale's Marvellous Inventions and Adaptations." and links to other ideas and inventions. Here's the link --- http://www.permies.com/t/19303/green-building/Dale-Marvellous-Inventions-Adaptations
 
Dale Hodgins
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I've started a new thread which explores using the gabion system to contain pumice or charcoal as a means of insulating cob walls, concrete, hot tubs and furnace rooms. Here's the link --- "Pumice or Charcoal Gabion System - Insulates Cob and Concrete Walls - Stucco Over Wire.
"
http://www.permies.com/t/19421/cob/Pumice-Charcoal-Gabion-System-Insulates
 
Paul Miller
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forest garden hugelkultur wofati
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The plan is to create a thin, dry stone wall against any wooden, cob,or other type of wall where a solid stone finish is desired. No mortar or masonry skills are required. Heavy galvanized stucco wire will be held a given distance from the support wall by tie wires. A solid spacer will be used to allow tie wires to be bent to the right length to create a flat surface. Once the wire is in place, the wall is filled with pebbles.


I like your idea of Gabion rock walls! I have several pieces of field fencing I can't bear to throw away. The vertical spacing is variable so placing it upside down and using large rocks at the bottom graduating to smaller at the top would be my plan. Depending on the orientation to storms, a Gabion could provide protection for the lower part of the wall while a fairlly large overhang would protect the upper part of the wall. The combination should be attractive.

Since the rocks shield the moisture barrier from sunlight I am thinking the numerous pieces of poly tarps I have that were not exposed to the sun could be used.
 
Mark Livett
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Photos of a similar look to the gabion system.

1. This beautiful garage is Victoria's most distinctive small building. It was covered in stone in 1962. That's 50 years ago.

2. Many tourists take this to be the year of construction. Victoria is actually about 160 years old. It's the street address.

3. Another view. The lady in the photo is 93 years old. She carries those heavy buckets like they're filled with air. She helped her husband build the garage and many other stone garden structures. She was 43 when the garage was done. She said the garden was his passion and she feels conected to him through the many works of art they built together, now that he's gone. He also lived to an advanced age. This lady is the picture of health as she cultivates her large, well kept garden. Work does the body good.



I like the stone garage, up close it looks like one of those 3D pictures you have to stare at cross eyed.

How are the pebbles held in place? I was under the impression that pebbles had to be buried at least 3/4 into mortar to stop water getting between the pebbles and frost forcing them out. Must be a heavy wall!

Thanks for sharing the pics.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Mark Livett wrote:

I like the stone garage, up close it looks like one of those 3D pictures you have to stare at cross eyed.

How are the pebbles held in place? I was under the impression that pebbles had to be buried at least 3/4 into mortar to stop water getting between the pebbles and frost forcing them out. Must be a heavy wall!

Thanks for sharing the pics.


The stones are mortared in. The longest points go deeper into the mortar. Frost is only a problem if the mortar is soaked with water. The overhang protects the walls. Each stone acts like a little shingle since they are all sloped to run water. It would have been a tedious process.We have quite mild winters as well. No frost so far this season.
 
Dale Hodgins
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The tenants have done almost nothing to improve the farm since their arrival. Their greenhouse is a pile of broken glass propped against a tree, their root cellar is a hole that the other tenant dug with his excavator. Nothing has been done to it. No trails have been built. Nothing has been planted in the 1500 sq. ft. of hugelkultur beds that I started. They were to make improvements in lieu of rent. All farm production was to be theirs. They have sold 100% of nothing. I'm taking over. They will be gone in three weeks.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
My first priority is to build a heating system and bathing space. There will be an outdoor shower and an indoor bathroom as described here. --- http://www.permies.com/t/32710/green-building/Dale-living-bathroom#254831

 
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The $50 and Up Underground House Book by Mike Oehler - digital download
https://permies.com/wiki/23442/digital-market/digital-market/Underground-House-Book-Mike-Oehler
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