Building a Dry Stone Wall for Your Garden

A dry stone wall for your yard is not only beautiful, but very durable as well. Other options such as railroad ties and wooden fences may rot or even rust and may need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years. Stone does not deteriorate, lasting for a very long time. Stone walls are also bring a impressive look to your flowerbeds and gardens.

A dry stonewall is a wall without mortar that holds the stones together. Without mortar, the individual stones are able to shift slightly if frost heave occurs. Also, there is no need for a foundation for the stone wall. Building a stone wall for your yard or garden is no easy task, but the results are very satisfying. The following steps will help you create a freestanding wall or a retaining wall that will beautify your property for as long as you own it.

For this project, you will need crushed limestone screening and stone for building. Another name for limestone screening is stone dust or fines. You will need the following tools as well:

Paper and Pencil
Wooden Stakes
Long Handled shovel
Garden spade
Rear-tine tiller
Wheelbarrow or garden cart
Carpenters level
Stone chisel
3-lb. hammer
Work gloves
Back support

With your wooden stakes and string, stake out the inside line for your wall. You will need to calculate how much stone you will need. Make a drawing of the project and measure the length and the width of the proposed wall. Most stone is purchase by the ton and each type of stone will have a different length. If you take your measurements with you to the stone yard, a representative will be able to tell you how many tons of stone you will need.

Field Stone (round shaped), stacking stone (irregular shape), and a dressed stone (flat shape) are the three basic types of stone that you can choose from. Either of the three basic shapes of stone can work, but it will depend on the look that you want for your dry stone wall.

Start the creation of your dry stone wall by digging an 8 inch deep foundation trench. Your trench should be at least 2-3 inches wider than your proposed wall. With a rear-tine tiller, you can loosen the soil much easier. The next step is to fill the foundation with crushed stone screenings to the original ground level. This will allow you to have a stable foundation for your wall. Use a carpenter’s level to make sure the foundation is level.

Start building your dry stone wall by placing down the stones. Make sure you place the stones closely together like a puzzle. You can use the chisel and hammer to help you with fitting and shaping the wall. It is important to start out with laying down larger stones first, followed by the smallest ones. Larger pieces of stones should be used towards the end for stability.

The number of stones that run the full width of your stonewall is important for durability. Another important reason for the strength of your wall is one over two, two over one (basically overlapping). Systematically stacking stones one over top of the other is not as strong and will not last as long.

This task is lots of work, so it important that you are up to the task and willing to sweat. Make sure that you wear a back support for your own safety. Help from someone else is a good idea as well.

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