Differences between a Dry stack wall and a retaining wall

When it comes to choosing what type of wall to build in your garden it’s important to understand the difference between a dry-stack wall and a retaining wall. Generally, a dry-stack wall will be the more cost effective and reliable option but depending on your landscape you may be better suited to a drywall. If you’d prefer the easy route, there are plenty of professional masonry companies like Centuia Masonry that can do all the work for you. But to first understand which type best suits you, let’s go through the differences between them.


Dry-stack Wall

A ‘dry-stack wall’ is so called because it is constructed without any motor (cement) to hold it in place. Instead, it relies on gravity and friction to hold it in place. Larger stones are better to use rather than small as they rely more on the two above principles. Your choice of what type of stone to use will be based on your area. Angular stones will fit together more tightly as they overlap whereas rounded stones like those from a riverbed and tougher to stack since they lack contact with the wall.

When constructing a dry-wall it is important that the stones overlap at the edges so they support each other. These will even become stronger as the wall settles. The great advantage of this wall design is that any rainwater will seep through the seams between the stones thus relieving pressure. Other wall designs require additional components to ensure proper drainage as this can severely compromise wall integrity.


As with all wall designs, a dry is first started by placing a ‘footing’, a layer of stones below ground level. Typically one line will do but depending on the height of the wall you may need more. Once construction begins the wall should be built slightly tilting against the back soil rather than vertical. This allows it t settle over time and increase in strength. A properly build drywall can be surprisingly strong and hold up under a lot of strain. There’s a reason it’s the longest used method of wall construction.


Retaining wall

If you live in an area with a sloped landscape and not much space then clearing a flat surface and removing the soil can be both time consuming and costly. One way around this though is with a retaining wall that will make use of the extra soil allowing you to keep it on site. By removing extra soil you can fill in low depressions and create a more flat surface. This can then be held up with a retaining wall. Soil that’s been moved is a lot less stable, even when properly compacted, and can push the wall out. A retaining wall so is a far better option in this scenario. Professional masonry companies can provide the whole service for you, like Centuria Masonry in Vancouver.

The key difference in style between the two types is the outward face. Dry-stack varies greatly in appearance and can appear sloppy in the wrong setting. A retaining wall, however, is much sleeker. Designed as a rigid structure and set with motor it can be a lot more aesthetically appealing to some landscapes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *