Retaining Wall Construction

Project: Vermont Farmhouse, Episode 9, Part 1

Exterior work continues with construction of a new stone wall, and Bob speaks with Hector Santos, a local mason, about the techniques involved. Inside the farmhouse, a new staircase is being built. And Bob continues his look at the heritage of Vermont, by exploring some of the covered bridges in the area-- some of the oldest surviving examples of Yankee craftsmanship.
Part 1: Retaining Wall Construction
Bob meets up with landscape mason Hector Santos who is building a dried-laid stone retaining wall. He is using Corinthian granite from Champlain Stone in upstate New York.

Hector's rule of thumb for configuring the wall's proportions is that the base of the wall should be as wide or a little wider than the wall is high (in this case 3 ft.), tapering up in the back (which will be covered with soil and sod) as it rises.

Hector also angles the wall's face back slightly so that if it's pushed forward when the ground heaves, it will settle back. (If it were plumb and heaved forward, in time it would creep and fall over).

Hector's main concern is creating an even face to the wall. Abutting stones should come up level, allowing the stone placed in the next course to span the stones beneath it. Stones shouldn't wobble.

If a stone does wobble (and they will, because not every stone is perfectly flat), stick shims under it to level it. The caps should be as flat as possible, creating an even, rather than a wavy, top line. Hector uses a string as a guide to keep the tops on one even plane.
Part 2: Touring Covered Bridges in New England
Part 3: Building the Foyer Staircase
Part 4: Splitting Granite for the Retaining Wall
The wooded New England setting, with quaint towns and covered bridges, provides the perfect backdrop for building a traditional Vermont-style farmhouse.

Bob works with the Quechee Lakes Development Company to build a residence that hearkens back to the past yet satisfies the needs of a family in the new millennium.