Gabions have become very fashionable. If you don’t know what that is, read on. Gabions are wire baskets filled with different stones. They are also called debris basket, wire gravel box or stone basket. They are available in very different designs and depending on this, the gabions are used. The narrowest baskets are usually used to build a gabion wall.
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Popular stone baskets
Gabions are not only used in private gardens, but also in landscaping, hydraulic engineering and road and path construction. The baskets are very versatile. A gabion wall serves as a privacy screen, but at the same time keeps back noise. The walls are also suitable as retaining walls or as embankment and slope reinforcement, but wider, more stable wire baskets are used for this.
Gabions can be filled with a wide variety of stones. Granite, basalt, dolomite and limestone are often used. The stones must be frost and pressure resistant.
Gabions can be easily combined with other elements. You don’t have to design a wall exclusively with these wire baskets. There are hardly any limits to the imagination. Gabions have become very fashionable in recent years. Today they usually replace the classic concrete walls. You can design better with gabions. They can be planted and blend in well with the garden.
A distinction is made between different sizes, widths, mesh sizes, wire diameters, surface alloys and of course their stone content. I admit I’m not a big fan of gabions. That would be nothing for me, they look too sterile, too precise, somehow cool and impersonal. The baskets even have many advantages. They don’t let anyone look through, absorb sound, provide insects with a valuable living space, store the heat of the sun for balmy evenings, can be planted decoratively and much more. Of course it’s a matter of taste and it’s just not mine.
Build your own gabion wall
You cannot build the baskets completely yourself. You have to have it delivered in parts or pick it up yourself. However, there are pre-assembled mesh baskets that no longer have to be assembled. Even the stone filling can only get very few themselves. Only for small walls I would do it myself. River pebbles are an option. It’s tedious and time-consuming, but doable. For a large wall, if possible a few meters long, it is better to buy the stones as well. Most companies give you the choice of filling the stones yourself or having the finished baskets brought to you. It is of course a financial question. It takes a lot of work to bring the stones from the unloading point into the baskets. You can’t shake well for this, so that they compact. Ultimately, everyone has to decide for themselves.
Measure wall area
Of course, it is important to measure the area well. How high, how long and how wide should the wall be? The ideal is to make a sketch. Then you can consider whether the wall should be made purely of gabions or whether other elements should be used. When everything is measured, you can order the baskets.
Important – the underground
To ensure that gabions have a secure and firm footing, they are placed on a flat, well-paved surface. Narrow and very high baskets are best anchored to the ground. In any case, a gravel foundation is recommended, especially so that the gabions do not sink in over time. For anchoring in the ground, we recommend screwing posts and beams to drive-in sleeves. These must first be anchored in the ground. Posts are fixed to them. Rubble and concrete are also suitable as a substrate.
Many companies building gabions recommend installing hardwood posts or, even better, scaffolding tubes for stabilization if the gabion is more than one meter high. These must also be anchored to the ground.
- For this purpose, 50 to 80 cm deep foundation holes (diameter 30 cm) are drilled into the ground with an earth auger (can be borrowed).
- The scaffolding tubes are aligned in the hole in the ground, placed in ready-mixed concrete and grouted.
- It is often recommended to also create a base layer of concrete between the posts to prevent the gabions from sinking later.
- This prevents the wall from being uneven in height, a so-called wavy shape.
- There should be no more than 1, maximum 2 meters between the scaffold tubes.
- Calculate one post per gabion, at least one for two gabions and two at the ends.
Which baskets are used?
Galvanized baskets made of twisted wire are probably the best. Those made of titanium zinc are particularly good. Nothing rusts there. Galvanized iron baskets can rust. This usually doesn’t even take long. Most offerings are made of steel with a zinc-aluminum coating (95 percent zinc, 5 percent aluminium). This is good quality too.
Highly elastic construction steel wires are used for spot-welded wire mesh. These have optimal stability, but also good elasticity. These also have the special coating (zinc/aluminium) mentioned above, which is two to three times more durable than normal coating.
- As a rule, the mesh size is 10 x 10 cm or 5 x 10 cm.
- A gabion wall can also make curves, there are not only straight elements. You can make arches, build columns, follow any course you want.
Which stones to use?
No matter which stone material you choose, it is important to ensure that the stones are larger than the grid mesh, at least 1.5 times larger. It is ideal to obtain stones from the region from a building materials dealer. They are usually the cheapest.
Stones for the gabion wall are available in hardware stores, building materials stores, directly from the quarry or from specialist dealers. Granite, basalt, dolomite and limestone are suitable as filling material, but also cheaper local stones such as greywacke, gneiss, river pebbles, rhyolite or andesite.
Once you have the individual pieces in front of you, it’s pretty easy to put them together. Some dealers offer special spiral gabions, a spiral that connects the individual parts at the corners. It’s a bit tedious to connect each element like this, but it holds like nothing else because all parts hold together over the entire surface and not just in a few places.
- assemble a long wall and the side panels
- these can also be connected to one another
- Front wall remains free
- place partially pre-assembled gabions around the posts or mount them around them
- Then come the front pieces
- Use the spirit level to check whether the gabions are exactly aligned
- Use spacers or tensioning anchors to prevent the gabions from bulging when they are filled with the quarry stones
- Now fill the baskets
Fill with rubble
Gabions must be filled evenly. That’s the only way they’ll stay upright. It is good to pour the small stones into the gabions by the bucketful. That is a lot of work, especially when you have to fill many meters. The large quarry stones are stacked by hand, flat side out and always as tight as possible. This creates the fewest cavities.
Many specialist companies recommend installing spacer struts (tensioning anchors) (bracing side or front and rear walls together) as soon as 1/3 of the stones have been filled in order to increase stability over the long term.
If the stones are layered, spray them all with a high-pressure cleaner or alternatively with a garden hose. They are always very dusty when they are delivered, that’s normal, that comes with the quarry. However, this rinsing usually makes quite a mess. You still have to clean slabs, paths or the like afterwards because there is a thick, wet layer on everything.
Cost of the gabion wall
Gabions are not exactly cheap, especially the tall ones. But it always depends on the size, the filling and whether you still have to adjust the subsoil. Overall, it all adds up. There’s a big difference in price, but during my research I’ve also found that there’s a huge difference in quality. You shouldn’t just focus on the price. I saw pictures of the gabion walls becoming crooked and crooked over time, with swollen bellies or a hollow back, rusted and breaking and much more. If you want to secure your property to the street or to the neighbors with gabion walls and that for decades, you should not go hunting for bargains, but look for quality.
Don’t be put off by the high unit price. This price usually goes down as you buy more. For example, I found an offer where the gabions cost €181 individually for one meter. Up to 4 the price was already 152 €, with more than 20 it was already 120 €. You often need a lot more meters.
Often the price for the pure wire mesh is not that high, but for high walls the scaffolding tubes, concrete and other things are needed. The work that comes up to you is not counted. Many who ask for an estimate are horrified when they have to pay a few thousand euros. You underestimate the effort. Of course it is much cheaper to do it yourself as much as possible.
- A kit for a gabion fence, 250 x 23 x 60 cm with 2 posts costs about 250 euros.
- A kit of the same dimensions but 200 cm high costs around 600 euros.
- Gabions are often cheaper in hardware stores.
You have to reckon with 1.8 tons of stones per cubic meter, i.e. 1,800 kilograms. The average price per kilo is 2 euros. So that also works out. Delivery usually costs extra.
1 cubic meter content is quickly reached. That is, for example, 5 gabions, each one meter long, two meters high and only 10 centimeters wide, i.e. 5 meters of privacy protection. That is not much.