Saturday, November 12, 2011

Building with Boulders

The way our property is sloped created a unique challenge for the back of the house. Our land gradually slopes down towards the road which is great for drainage but we have to make sure the water doesn't try to run in the back of the house. We ended up having the house up higher than originally planned to keep the water running away. When it comes to houses and water, they just don't mix well.

We have all this dirt that slopes up to the house but at the back of the house it drops off on the sides. To keep the dirt in its place we devised a boulder retaining wall that would be functional and look nice too.

Here is what the back of the house looked like with the final grade done. The dirt comes right up under the basement windows and then up to the sides of the house. We needed something to hold the earth back on the sloped sides.

A little hunting on Craigslist revealed a great deal on boulders only 20 minutes away in Lansing. Turns out these rocks were not only a good deal, but they also had some great history behind them. Our boulders were once part of the big horn sheep exhibit at the Lansing Potter's Park Zoo. These rocks were installed for the zoo around 1920 and were demoed in 2011.

We bought about 20 boulders that are blue and red granite. The truck load weighed about 9,000 pounds! Another interesting thing about these rocks: one of them set off a radiation alarm when it went through the truck weigh station. The thought is that one of them is part of a meteor. Pretty cool, our rocks have been through space and survived big horn sheep.

The next step was to get the rocks from the front of the house where they were dropped off about a month ago, to the back of the house for the retaining wall. Kyle's dad drove the van while Kyle and Kevin rolled the boulders on a metal grate. Then they dragged the rocks to the back of the house.

Once they were near the back, the boys rolled them off the grate.

Very glad that Kyle's dad and brother helped out, there was no way one person could move any of those rocks by themselves.

The boys rolled the rocks and Jamie and I supervised the rock moving, or rather we just took photos.

Then the area where the rocks would sit needed to be dug out a little. Thanks to our dense clay soil, digging was a bit of a challenge

The first rock took the most time to set into place. It had a nice squared edge on one side the would fit up nicely to the corner of the house.

It took a lot of trial and error to get the first one in the right spot. Thankfully no injuries occurred during the project.

We borrowed the help of a neighbor with a John Deere garden tractor to help lift up and move the boulders

After the tractor lifted the rocks the boys would roll them off in place and wiggle them to where they needed to go.

I helped towards the end of the boulder wall project by shoveling dirt in the areas between rocks.

The wall is not all the way done but it is looking pretty good. We now have 11 rocks in place. We have plans to plant some creeping vine type plants around the boulders to help root them to the earth better. The project took about 2 hours, 3 men, and 1 guy in a tractor to get those 11 rocks in place


  1. This was my mom's favorite part of the future plans for the house! Who would've thought you could get such great boulders from Potter Park!! Thanks again for showing her around... she was awfully impressed and really appreciated the tour!! Keep her in mind as a friendly neighbor if you ever need anything!

  2. Thanks Gina! I loved giving her a tour of the house!