How to build a stone wall

When it comes to building a free standing stone wall, there are 2 types; dry-stacked and mortared. For a dry stacked wall, each stone is carefully stacked side by side and on top of each other without any assistance from mortar. This style of wall can be found throughout England as it was the main way for dividing land and securing farm livestock.

Mortared walls are basically the same except they are built using mortar to keep everything in place. Most of the time a mortared wall will be built on a formed concrete footing to keep its strength, where as a drystack wall is built on a compacted crush base and has the ability to move with ground adjustments.

Where would I used a stone wall?

Walls with two exposed stone sides also known as a freestanding walls are mostly used as a perimeter or boundary wall. This can look very appealing on the front of the house, especially if you have a neatly finished natural stone cap to it.

Walls with only one exposed side, also known as a stone retaining walls are often used to create raised planting beds and to give a clean change to grades when creating divisions between two or more level areas. With this type of wall you only need to focus on the exposed side looking nice, making use of the best side to each stone and burying anything else into the ground within the wall.

When building any kind of retaining wall, always good to think about drainage and hydro-static pressure. Both of these, can cause problems for a wall over time if ignored when being built.

What sort of drainage does my wall need?

When building any kind of wall whether it is stone, wood or block, you need to think about the buildup of water and pressure behind the wall. To do this, there are two things you can do that can to fix this problem. First, installing drainage pipe and drain rock wrapped in fabric behind the wall, which is then in turn routed out and away from the wall. This will allow any buildup of water behind the wall, to escape and drain away from your newly built wall.

Secondly, when building the wall, don’t built it completely ‘plumb’, there needs to be a slight bit of slope on the wall. This allows the wall to lean back against the supporting bank or material. Also consider having the base several inches below the finished grade of the low side, this will prevent the wall from kicking out on the bottom over time, adding strength to the wall.

It is also advisable to check your local bylaws regarding retaining walls, to make sure you meet them. Usually walls over 3ft need to be engineered and signed off once completed. Also if the wall is high enough, you may want to consider some form of railing if people are going to be getting to close to the edge, especially if you have young children or pets on the property.