What is a Gabion?
You may not be familiar with the term “gabion,” but you’ve likely been able to see what they can offer to enhance your landscaping or your outdoor living space. A gabion is a kind of wired basket stuffed with a variety of soil or rocks that can help stop erosion, hold slopes, or act as landscaping elements. They are often found in streambanks and other areas that have steep slopes. Gabions have been utilized for centuries to serve a variety of reasons that range from landscaping to road building, even military use.
If you’re looking to make use of them as an obstruction or to plant a few veggies they can be an excellent addition for your landscaping or gardening requirements. This is what you should be aware of about gabions.
Types of Gabions
Nowadays, people think of gabions as an ordinary metal crate with rocks (gabion baskets). But, there are many kinds of gabions specifically designed for different purposes.
Here is a listing of the gabions that are available:
- Gabion Baskets – made of twisted or welded steel wire mesh that is different in dimensions. They are utilized in landscape and retaining wall applications.
- Mattresses are also commonly called reno mattresses. They’re named mattresses due to the fact that they’re shaped like the mattress of a bed and are utilized to contain rip rap and combat erosion.
- Sacks Gabion sacks Gabion sacks are most commonly used in difficult-to-access areas like along the banks of streams. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes.
Gabion Wall Basket & Fence
Gabion fencing works almost exactly the same way as Gabion walls, they just have a different purpose. In most cases, Gabion walls are used as a retaining wall.
What They Are & Benefits of Using Them
If you’re fond of gardening or landscaping, there’s a good chance you’ve already seen Gabion walls, baskets, or fences.
Or perhaps you’ve heard of them before while researching your options. But you might not be fully familiar with what they actually are.
Gabion walls have been with us a long time, used to create solid, sealed structures since the ancient ages, most famously along the bank of the River Nile.
But today, they’re used for both aesthetic and structural reasons in thousands of gardens.
Here, we’re going to look at what, exactly they are, and help you figure out if they’re the options that your garden needs.
What are Gabion Walls
Gabion structures are most commonly seen as full gabion walls. Gabion is descended from the Italian word for “big cage” and that’s a fitting term for them.
Essentially, they can be thought of as the marriage between rocks and wire. They are simplistic in nature, where a wire cage is erected and filled with rocks piled on top of one another.
Sometimes, the rocks can be replaced with different materials, such as tiles, broken bricks, even pinecones and pebbles. The material you are using may require a different thickness of wire, as a thinner mesh may be required to stop finer materials like pebbles from spilling through.
Beyond having impressive integrity, able to withstand a lot of pressure, they have a rustic, natural look that makes them an eye-catching feature in many gardens as well as a practical choice.
What are Gabion Baskets
When looking at Gabion structures, you will likely come across a few different terms that can seem hard to separate at first. As well as Gabion walls, you may read or hear about Gabion baskets.
Gabion baskets are simply the wire meshes used to contain the material that makes up the wall. You have to take care when choosing the right baskets, as mentioned, to fit the material that the wall is made out of.
In most cases, the wire is made of galvanised steel, but there are some other options here, as well. For lighter materials, you can use a wide spaced light welded mesh.
However, when using heavy materials or building a retaining wall, you want sheet steel wire mesh and a heavier wire diameter to ensure the structural integrity of the wall. They are often sold as flat pack kit-sets that you can then unfold and fill with the selected material.
Gabion baskets are easy to assemble and long-lasting, coated with Galfan so they can remain strong and secure for up to 50 years.
What’s more, they are a flexible tool, too, coming in many different shapes and sizes. Besides simple flat Gabion walls, you can get curved cages to choose a more rounded look for the garden.
What is Gabion Fencing
Gabion fencing works almost exactly the same way as Gabion walls, they just have a different purpose.
In most cases, Gabion walls are used as a retaining wall. This means if you have a garden or any landscape that is separated into levels, Gabion walls will help retain the soil or pebbles so that it doesn’t spill out onto the lower level.
Gabion fencing, however, isn’t used to retain a higher level, but rather as a divide between one space and another.
Gabion fencing can be trickier to build than a wall. The weight of the material alone can make it dangerous and liable to topple over. For that reason, make sure you’re consulting with a professional builder or structural engineer who has experience in working with this particular material.
Do Gabion Walls Need Foundations?
Gabion structures, whether walls or fences, do not need a concrete foundation. However, they do need some work under the surface. Otherwise, as heavy as they are, they would be easy to topple over.
How you create the foundation depends on a lot of factors, such as the material used for the wall, whether you’re using it to retain or fence, the condition of the site subsoil and more. You have to remove the soft, peaty topsoil if there is any and some of the subsoil before replacing it with a harder base course.
If you’re building the wall on bedrock, then you only need around 25mm of base course. Unlike many other walls, Gabion does not require a concrete foundation. For heavier materials, a double width base gabion might be used beneath the main structure in order to improve the wall stability.
In some cases, this is used where there is softer subsoil so that the weight of the wall is more evenly distributed across it.
Smaller, light Gabion walls don’t need thorough soil testing, but if you’re building a larger, heavier wall or fence, you should make sure you have the experts check foundation testing in order to find out the subsoil bearing strength.
Gabion Walls Cost Per Metre
The cost of installing a Gabion wall can vary hugely. Much of it depends on the materials you’re using to build it. Even without considering the stone filler, you can be looking at price ranges of £15 to £125 per meter of Gabion basket.
The reason this varies so much is that there are many different kinds of baskets. Wire diameter, weight, and material can all play a factor in the overall pricing. Your standard galvanised steel mesh that’s 50mm thick can cost around £30-35 per metre.
Then you have to factor in the cost of the stones, bricks pebbles, or whatever else you want to add to them. Gabion structures can be relatively expensive compared to other retaining wall options, but their unique look and relative ease of use makes them a popular choice amongst gardeners and landscape designers all the same.
How To Use Gabion Baskets, Walls and Fences In The Garden
Before you begin work on building your own Gabion wall or fence, you have to do your research. Whether it’s used as a fence, retaining wall, or something more decorative can change what kind of baskets you need, as well as whether you need to a thicker base or to replace the subsoil.
What’s more, you have to consider what material you want to use to fill the baskets, as well. You have to choose the basket type and the construction process that ensures the maximum security of the wall, regardless of what you’re using it for.
First, you have to prepare the ground itself. For lighter Gabion walls, this might simply mean removing the topsoil to give enough room for the base of the wall to slot into the ground.
If you have softer subsoils, you may have to remove some of it and replace it with a harder base course, too.
If you’re building a fence, you may need concrete footings or to create a wider gabion wall at the base to better absorb and distribute the load of the wall itself.
Gabion baskets are easy to erect once you’ve laid the groundwork, however. As mentioned, they tend to come in flat packs, which can be unfolded and erected without little hassle.
If it’s a taller wall or fence, you may have to consult a professional as to whether it will also need any lateral support to stop it from toppling to one side of the other.
Once the fence is erected, it’s as simple as filling it with the rocks, broken bricks, or whatever other material you might have chosen for the wall.
For larger materials such as stones or bricks, this can take quite a lot of time. If you’re building a thicker wall, you may also choose to use the stones and bricks on the exterior layer, but fill the inside with smaller stones to save some time.
Once the wall is fully erected, give it a quick hose with water. This is simply to ensure that the dust and debris of all that shifting material is cleaned away and you’re left with a smooth, clean looking wall.
Materials Used For Gabion Fencing / Walls
Which materials you use for you Gabion fencing or walls will depend primarily on what your intended purpose for it is. Are you building a retaining wall, a tall fence, or something more decorative?
For more practical applications, you will need heavier, harder materials and stones have been one of the favourites for these kinds of uses.
For more artistic uses, however, you can use whatever you want. Some will use smaller pebbles, colourful tile pieces or even acorns to achieve the particular look they want for their garden.
The Gabion baskets that contain the different filling materials have some variety, too. Once, wicker was used to make them (and still can be for some projects).
Nowadays, however, most baskets are made of either galvanized, coated, or stainless steel in a variety of different diameter weights.
Choosing the right materials means thinking about your needs. What size will the wall be? Does it need to resist water erosion if you’re including a water feature? Is it built to support an earth wall or just for aesthetic purposes?
Have your needs in mind and ask a professional what materials will be best for your project.
Examples Of Gabion Walls Used In The Landscape
One of the reasons they’re quite so popular is because they’re so incredibly versatile, as well. As mentioned, you can buy Gabion baskets in 1000s of sizes, so walls can be as high, thick, or long as you want them to be.
Traditionally, they are used as retaining walls, as mentioned. If you’re creating raised flower beds or bringing order to a sloping garden, they can create a nice, even divide between the different levels.
Otherwise, Gabion structures are most popularly used for aesthetic purposes, such as creating fences. Shorter gabion fences can be used as capped seats and benches or shelves for outdoor displays.
They can also be used as the foundation for outdoor planters or even the surroundings for fireplaces, though these projects take a little more work than your standard Gabion wall.
What are the Benefits of Using Gabion Structures
The immediately noticeable benefit of a Gabion structure is the aesthetic. People love materials with a natural look, especially in the garden. Gabion walls allow you to use natural materials like stones or pebbles to avoid the more artificial look of concrete walls or metal fences.
Beyond their aesthetic appeal, gabion structures have plenty of benefits. Widely used for retaining walls as they are, it should be no surprise that they are particularly tough and good at bearing heavy loads. The wire around the material is a lot stronger than it looks and with the right support, it acts as the main reinforcement of the structure as opposed to just a framework.
What’s more, Gabion walls don’t require the extra work of a conventional foundation. As long as they’re installed properly, most of them have a firm base that fully supports the weight itself.
Gabion structures are highly permeable, allowing air and water to flow through them. This stops the walls from building hydrostatic pressure which can damage the integrity of other walls. Because the force of the water is absorbed and allowed to pass through, this also stops erosion from wearing away at the material.
The ease of use is another reason these structures are so popular. As mentioned, depending on your needs, a little prep work might be required to ensure that the wall stands strong against heavier loads and its own weight.
But the process of actually building the wall is as simple as assembling the kit and filling it with the right materials. As they’re not fixed to the ground, Gabion structures can be moved from one place to the other with relative ease, as well.