At some point, no matter how beautiful, all walls must come to an end. There are several ways of terminating walls.
Retaining walls easily alter contours and allow for new usable space. At some point, the newly created area has to meet up with the surrounding grades, either at the property boundary or limit of work. One common way is to curve or turn the retaining wall into the grade so that a smooth, gradual slope can be used to marry the upper and lower grades.
If a more prominent feature is desired, and the grading allows, an exposed corner can be used. Having an exposed corner can be quite an architectural feature in itself.
However, for a retaining wall to have an exposed corner, all three sides of the corner need to be faced, and the retaining requirements of the wall transition into more of a free standing component at the end. This enables the design of a true “corner” or end and can be used to frame an area or be used as an architectural piece.
When considering steps or stairs, two major components should be considered: traffic flow and design intent. Stairs should be no less than 4’ wide if they will be used on a daily basis. Anything less than 4’ will not allow more than 2 people at a time, which can be less than desirable. Prior to design and construction of steps, always refer to your local building codes for railing requirements.
Durable products should be considered, especially in the New England area. Snow removal, salting, and constant foot traffic are just three of the many factors to be considered in stair “life”.
When designing secondary steps, sky is the limit. Secondary steps can take on fun curves and be constructed out of almost anything. Without the requirements of traffic flow, the possibilities are endless.
Using the same stone materials as the wall in facing the stairs enables the steps to better blend in with the landscape. Using contrasting materials such as granite steps with fieldstone walls, will draw your eye to the stairs.
These rough guidelines can help decide the building materials at the outset. By simply widening a set of stairs or using contrasting materials, you can guide “traffic” to either your primary and secondary steps.
Another major finish of any wall is its top. Typically, the stone used in the wall carries through to the top creating a simple natural stone top with mortared joints. Traditional fieldstone walls are constructed this way, and it works quite nicely.
To change things up, specific styles of cap stones can be used to drastically change the look of that same wall. Thinner broken pieces of fieldstone can give a more rustic feel, while the addition of a cut granite or bluestone top can add more of a structured or architectural look.