Business isn’t rocky for builder of walls |

Business isn’t rocky for builder of walls

John Seelmeyer

So you think you’ve accomplished something when you stack a pickup truck load of blocks from the lumberyard and create a 2-foot retaining wall in the garden? Ha! Bill and Kevin Parsons, whose Parson Bros.

Rockeries has installed 9 million square feet of rock retaining walls around the West in the past 30 years, move more rock in five minutes than most folks move in a lifetime.

Among the latest jobs undertaken by Parson Bros.

in Reno is approximately 150,000 square feet of rock walls over the next four years in the Somersett development of northwest Reno.

That job will stretch over four years.

Here’s how you build a real rock wall, one of those 10- and 15-foot-high structures that increasingly come into play as development in Reno crawls up the hillsides: If you can, quarry some rock on the job site itself.

That way, you don’t have to haul the rock very far and hauling big ol’ rocks gets expensive quickly.

After the rock is quarried, swing a “headache ball” – the name says it all – into the big chunks to create workable pieces of rock.

For the bottom of your wall, you’ll often need rocks about four feet in diameter that weigh a couple of tons.

Your life will be a lot easier if you can get some square side onto your rocks, but you probably won’t be so lucky.

Haul a load of rocks down to the place where you’ll build the wall.

Use your hydraulic excavator with a grapple you do have a hydraulic excavator with a grapple, don’t you? to pick up the rocks one at a time and put them into place.

Here’s the tricky part: Pick the rocks so their edges will fit tightly together.

It’s sort of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle without a photo showing you how it should be done.

And it’s more challenging yet because you’ll have no more than 30 or more rocks from which to pick at any time.

That’s about a truckload.

You’ll use some smaller rock to backfill behind your rock retaining wall, and you want the structure to be tight enough that it will be standing for centuries.

For your inspiration, look to the rock walls built by the Romans.

That guy on the ground? He’s there to help keep the line of the wall straight, and he’s learning the craft of wall-building by watching your work.

Maybe later you can let him jump into the excavator and place a rock or two.

The Parson brothers, who got into the business with their father in 1972, expanded the company’s operation into Reno in 1989.

Parsons Bros.

Rockeries also has operations in Las Vegas and Sacramento two other cities where development is climbing out the flatlands into nearby hills.

The company usually has five or six crews of two people each building walls around Reno at any given time.

The Somersett work alone will keep four crews busy.

The company’s total employment in the area is 16.

Its work ranges from fairly modest retaining walls in residential subdivisions to sweeping curves of stone wall, sometimes three terraces high, along streets in hilly neighborhoods.

Kevin Parsons said the designers increasingly call for use of rock walls.

“They don’t crack.

They don’t leak.

They’re real natural looking,” he said.

Bill Parsons, the president of the company, said big Reno-area projects of the company have included work at Winfield Springs and International Game Technology.

It’s also handled jobs ranging from Squaw Valley at Lake Tahoe to the University of Washington in Seattle.


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