The most common civil engineering use of gabions is to stabilize shorelines or slopes against erosion. Other uses include retaining walls, temporary floodwalls, to filter silt from runoff, for small or temporary/permanent dams, river training, channel lining. They may be used to direct the force of a flow of flood water around a vulnerable structure. Gabions are also used as fish barriers on small streams.
Gabion baskets have some advantages over loose riprap because of their modularity and ability to be stacked in various shapes; they are also resistant to being washed away by moving water. Gabions also have advantages over more rigid structures because they can conform to ground movement, dissipate energy from flowing water, and drain freely. Their strength and effectiveness may increase with time in some cases, as silt and vegetation fill the interstitial voids and reinforce the structure. They are sometimes used to keep stones which may fall from a cutting or cliff from endangering traffic on a thoroughfare
Gabions have also been used in building, as in the Dominus Winery in Napa Valley, California. The exterior is formed by modular wire mesh gabions containing locally quarried stone; this construction creates an environment of moderate temperatures within the building.