How and When to Use Gabion Baskets and Rock Mattresses

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Gabion baskets explained

The word gabion is descended from the Italian word gabbione, which translates to ‘large container’. The use of gabion baskets is not a new practice and can be traced back hundreds of years when they were used by the Romans for various structural purposes. Gabion baskets and rock mattresses are still a popular device to this day, owing to the relative ease in which they can be installed and their considerable versatility.

The baskets themselves are either shaped as boxes or cylinders and are most often compacted with rocks, although there are alternatives that utilise densely packed dirt or similar materials, as well. Gabion baskets are used extensively throughout the construction industry and are also a popular choice for environmental projects, too.

Their many applications

Over the years, gabion baskets have been used for a whole range of different tasks to great effect, including:

  • Being widely implemented by armed forces at the turn of the 20th century to help safeguard infantry from heavy enemy shelling
  • Being frequently used to establish strong and secure structural support systems in dams
  • Being used as a major erosion and sediment control solution for building sites and environmental initiatives

Beyond this, gabions are also a favourite apparatus used by landscapers. They provide essential erosion protection while also blending seamlessly into the surrounding environment. The combination of mesh wiring and tightly packed stone ensures that gabions have an aesthetic value in addition to their practical benefits. One of the most common uses by landscape designers is as an alternative to a regular paling timber fence. Such fences are easy to construct, look impressive and are completely immune to structural decay that would normally effect a regular timber fence.

Their strength

The wire mesh used by gabion baskets is available in a number of materials, including PVC, stainless and galvanised steel. Using a mesh compound that consists of both galvanised and PVC delivers the greatest level of durability, offering over 50 years of continuous use. There are also other specially formulated compounds on offer that guarantee a similarly impressive lifespan.

Designing the basket

The dimensions of your gabion basket all depend on its intended purpose. If it is to be used around your home, then developing a series of baskets that are placed on top of each like ordinary building blocks using the typical box shape, is the preferred technique of construction and deployment. If you have a slightly different use in mind, then a cylinder styled gabion can be used instead. The use of cylinder cages in conjunction with small box-shaped baskets can be used to great effect to create truly imaginative designs.

Designing the base

Before the baskets can be packed with stones or similar materials, the gabion base structure must first be constructed. The biggest consideration that must be made is the material to be used for the footing. Soft materials such as clay for instance, are not suitable. Clay by nature, contains minerals that are infused with varying amounts of trapped water. This is what gives clay its soft, malleable properties.

As gabions consist of heavy stones and other densely packed materials, their overall structural weight is substantial. A gabion erected upon a clay material would not have a secure footing. In wet weather, the foundation would become uneven, rendering the gabion hazardous. A much more sensible material to use is of course concrete. When opting for a concrete base, it’s imperative that surface is perfectly level and free from any plant roots that may threaten the integrity of the concrete. Once the base has been completed, the mesh baskets can be assembled and the internal components (rocks, shale, etc.) can be inserted.

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