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2.20 Retaining Wall Workshop

2.20 Retaining Wall Workshop Overview:

When building dry stone retaining walls the focus always needs to be on structure.  This course adds to the basic principles in the prerequisite courses.  Participants will learn how to maximize strength for a retaining wall while following the basic rules.  Foundations, drainage, perforated pipe, filter fabric, geo-textiles and more are all discussed or demonstrated.  This workshop is intended to give you the information to make wise decisions on your own projects.  It is well suited for both homeowners and contractors.

Here in the North East, many of the walls people are building are retaining walls. While all the principals of a free standing wall apply there are additional rules and methods to follow when building retaining walls. The focus needs to be on a sound structure that will last for generations. The stone may be round field stone or flatter ledge stone. The rules and principals learned here can be applied to all retaining walls whether hand-built or built with large stones and equipment.

Over the course of the day each participant will build about 25 sq. ft. of wall (one side).  These workshops are taught using round field stone stone.  If you learn to build with round stone you can build with anything.  Participants will learn all the basic rules of structural dry stone walling that can be applied to any type of stone and project.

This workshop will feature hands on experience with a that is about 54″ tall.  There are sections of wall built with flat ledge stone, small round field stone, and large round field stone.  Participants will be able to see how the principals of construction apply to each, while gaining hands on experience with at least one type of material.   The information learned is directly applicable to all types dry stone retaining walls, from seat walls, to excavator set boulder walls.

Certified DSWA-GB Instructors will guide participants through the process of building a dry stone retaining wall.  There will be no more than 8 students per instructor, so there is plenty of direct interaction with the instructors.  Most workshops have 2 instructors with up to 16 participants.

This course is taught at:


The day will begin with an introductory discussion about how walls fail, and how we build to resist those forces.  Participants will dismantle the existing retaining wall.  Key aspects of the construction, both good and bad, will be pointed out during this process.  Participants will learn how to most efficiently sort material and set up the site for building a retaining wall.   Once the walls are dismantled, there will be and extensive discussion with visuals covering the foundation and drainage. will be discussed and prepared, and the batter frames all important string-line guides will be introduced.  Participants will then be guided through placing foundation stones, and beginning to build the wall.  Principles of walling as they are practiced in building a retaining wall are discussed, demonstrated, and practiced as the 1st few courses are built by the participants.

During lunch, participants will have the opportunity to ask the instructors questions about their own projects, and purchase a wide variety of tools, books and other supplies.

After lunch, building will continue.  Discussions on backfill and the use of filter fabric and other materials help the participants to know what materials to select and how to use them when building their own walls.  As with a free standing wall, throughstones will be, discussed, and placed.  The 2nd lift of the wall will be built, and cope stones will be introduced and placed on the wall.  The day will finish with brief clean up and review of the wall built that day.

A brief guided tour of the other walls and stone features at the location where the workshop is taught will be included for those who would like it.

At the end of the workshop participants will receive a certificate of workshop completion,  t-shirt, and a packet full of walling information.  There is also time to purchase tools, books and supplies, as well as ask additional questions.

Critical Information:

  • The workshop will run 9:00am-5:00pm with 1/2 hour lunch break.
  • Participants should wear boots and work clothes (have plenty of layers for cool weather)
  • What to bring:  gloves, rain gear, safety glasses, water, and lunch.  (There is no where close enough to buy lunch with in the lunch break)
  • All tools needed are provided.
  • Participants are welcome to bring their stone working tools if they wish.

Detailed info will be emailed to you once you register including what to bring and directions.

Licensed Landscape Architects can receive 7.5 LA CES credits for participating in this workshop.

Workshop quick guide:

  • Great 2nd or 3rd+ workshop for contractors and homeowners
  • Required prerequisite: any 1.00 level course, or 2.10, or 2.13
  • 1-day: 9am-5pm
  • Learn to apply the principles to retaining walls
  • Learn to make good choices for different situations
  • Taught at the Dummerston site
  • Typically offered twice per year
Retaining wall used for workshops

Check out The Dummerston VT Training site where this workshop is taught:

Landscape Architects receive 7.5 credit hours for taking this workshop through the LA CES system.

Photos from 2.20 workshops

Upcoming 2.20 Retaining Wall Workshops:

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All Upcoming Fundamentals (2.00) Level Courses

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