What are Gabion Baskets?


The term, ‘gabion basket’ may be unfamiliar to you. A gabion basket is a strong wire mesh case or cylinder filled with rocks, stone, concrete chips, bricks and/or soil. The mesh is formed by welding or weaving galvanized or plastic coated wire. Gabion baskets are flexible, affordable and easily constructed by unskilled labor. Generally they are small units that can be connected to form very large finished projects. Use them for many purposes including erosion and flood control. When filled with stone, they can be effective as interior and exterior walls and wall retainers. When filled with soil, they are used as enemy firing protection by infantrymen in the army and as flood control deterrents.

Gabion Baskets Used for Erosion Control

Gabions have been in use for centuries by the Egyptians and the Chinese. The Italians may have been the first ones to use the modern wire mesh version of a gabion basket more than a century ago. The word, “gabion” is a version of the Italian word, “gabbione”, which means “big cage”. A very popular use for the basket is as river or stream bank or bed stabilizers. For this type of use other configurations of gabions are very useful. Gabion mattresses and sacks as well as baskets have anti-erosion capabilities. Gabion mattresses tend to be flatter and can protect river beds from erosion, while the sack gabion is simply a smaller basket. The traditional use for a gabion basket along a river’s bank is to stabilize slopes, river’s edges or to protect man-made construction near the water’s edge.

Protecting the Gabion Basket

When in use, the gabion basket used along the banks of a river stream or integrated into a landscaping project may start to support growing plant material and other living organisms. Grasses and small organisms can thrive and ultimately help to create a more pleasant looking basket. The thing to avoid under all circumstances is woody plants growing in the baskets. They can grow to be too large and eventually cause the basket to break as it gets heavier and the roots grow through the mesh.

The Longevity of the Gabion Basket

Most gabion baskets have a guarantee of fifty years, while some survive for up to 60 years or longer. The wire mesh outer construction is either galvanized or coated with PVC in an effort to extend the basket’s lifespan. Naturally the material contained inside remains viable forever since its primary contents are usually stones or sand.

Current Use of the Gabion Basket

Today, you’ll find more and more gabion baskets being utilized to build outdoor and indoor walls. In New Zealand they are used with stone filling to build a perfectly suitable wall in a bar and the exterior of a garage. In Austin, Texas they form the outside of a two-floor home. In Australia, gabion baskets were used to form the exterior of a single-floor office building with floor to ceiling black trimmed windows and a flat roof. The fill is local stones of varying shades, so its architectural simplicity really makes a statement.

The Ecology of Using Gabion Baskets

By using gabion baskets, several ecological goals are accomplished. Very little concrete was used to construct these buildings reducing CO² emissions. Aesthetically, the local stones used are more sympathetic to the surroundings of the buildings. Using this material also cuts down on construction costs and transportation costs of materials as well. To further enhance the ecological effect, over time the interstitial spaces of the baskets may grow plant life and contribute to making the building an even more natural looking component of the surroundings.

Gabion Baskets serve a vital purpose in construction. Not only can they protect the land from eroding, they can form functional elements like dams and retaining walls or be made into large projects like office buildings and multi-floor homes. Because of their compact size and their capacity to be connected, they are very flexible and can be used successfully in various ways. And, because of their longevity, they can be used for both temporary and permanent structures.