What is a gabion and what are its uses?

Posted November 5, 2015 in Blog, Landscape Design

Are you looking for something different for your backyard landscape design but just can’t quite put your finger on it?  Have you searched high and low and still remain uninspired?  What if I told you that your solution can either have an industrial, traditional or modern look that serves one or several purposes all at once?  Maybe you should think about contacting a professional to install a gabion.  What is a gabion, you ask?  Great question!

gabionYou have most likely seen gabions before, but never knew what they were called.  By definition, a gabion is a cage, cylinder or box filled with rocks, concrete, sometimes sand or soil for use in civil engineering, road building, erosion protection, military applications and landscaping.  You have most likely seen them on the sides of underpasses, around construction zones or along waterways.  Gabions have actually been around for thousands of years, were made of wicker and were primarily used as defense mechanisms during wartime.  With the evolution of the gabion, they are now made out of coated, galvanized or stainless steel to keep the shape of the structure and to ensure its longevity.  Quite recently gabions have made a resurgence in the landscape design world, in both functional and aesthetic applications.

For aesthetic purposes only, gabions don’t have to be filled with rock or concrete.  These types of gabions can be filled with anything from shells, brick, wooden logs, river rock, glass, basically anything weatherproof that is large enough to not slip through the cage openings.  Artistic gabions can be beautifully displayed as accent walls in your outdoor living space.  Imagine your garden having a back-lit gabion that is filled with colored glass as a dramatic statement piece or a gabion wall filled with shells that protects and sustains a vertical display of groundcovers and pocket succulent plants.  Perhaps you would like to display some of your favorite outdoor treasures or candles.  By leaving spaces in the wall, you create shelves to display just about anything, giving the custom wall and even more inviting feel.

More often than not, however, gabions are used to serve a specific purpose.  The most popular residential application is a retaining wall.  These gabiongravity retaining walls do not require any particular foundation or footings and are built on graded soil once all debris and plant materials have beengabion removed.  These walls do not require a foundation because of their weight, strength, permeability, ability to contour to the ground as well as expand and contract with freeze/thaw factors.  Other uses for backyard gabions include capped seating walls, the bases for outdoor furniture raised planters and even the surrounds for water features and fireplaces!  These features might not fit the style of every home, but when they do, they definitely command attention.

With every outdoor project, there are a few things to consider before moving forward  Here is a quick list of pros and cons to see if this could be the right structure for your landscape:

Pro

Aesthetic:  Gabions have a tendency to texturally tie into their natural surroundings, giving them their aesthetic appeal.

Installation:  By not requiring a foundation, it can be a cost effective solution to a backyard issue you may have.

Permanence:  The materials filling the gabion are permeable which lends to its longevity, as well as the cage itself being intrinsically durable and resilient.

Environmentally Friendly:  Gabions can be filled with recycled materials such as concrete or rock that is waste from construction projects, which would reduce landfill and fuel consumption.

Con

Style:  Not every home is a cohesive fit for a gabion feature.

Size:  Gabions take up ample space because of their bulk, which is needed to perform as a load bearing structure.  Gabions are not particularly suited for smaller backyards.

Size:  You must be sure that the filler material is at least 3″ in diameter to be sure that nothing can escape the cage grid.

Unexpected Guests:  Bugs and small animals may find their way into the gaps of the fill and set up shop.

If you think that a gabion is the creative backyard solution that you have been searching high and low for, be sure to contact a professional so they can lend their expertise.  While these structures may seem less involved than structures that require footings and precise masonry work, they still require a professional to design and install.  Load calculations need to be done to make sure that the structure remains sound and is installed properly, especially when used as a retaining wall.

If you would like to explore the true potential for your backyard and are ready for your own backyard transformation, reach out to MasterPLAN Landscape Design.  We are a design/build firm that is passionate, professional and believes that your outdoor living space is more than just a pool, deck or patio, but a place for you to create long lasting memories with your family and friends.  We are ready to turn your dream backyard into a reality, starting with the creation of your very own custom 3D design!

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