How to Build a Drystack Garden Wall
A handsome, natural stone retaining wall adds beauty and value to your property.
It is true that an experienced “stone wall installer” can readily build the “perfect” stone wall – and it will last forever. But the building of a stone wall is a project that can be undertaken by a homeowner – with great success.There are two types of retaining walls. One, a dry wall where the stone are stacked and no mortar is used. The second is a stone wall, using mortar and a foundation.
HOW MUCH STONE WILL YOU NEED? First determine the length of the wall (in feet) and the height of the wall (in feet). A general rule for most communities is that you can build the wall yourself if it measures 4-feet or less in height. Otherwise your local ordinances may require the wall to be engineered. Check with your local code office. If the wall is to be no more than 4-feet high, than you can use stones which measure about 1-foot deep.
Remember, stone is heavy (it lasts forever), so don’t get discouraged when your salesperson talks about price per ton of various stones.
Let’s say you determined that your wall will be 50-feet long, 2-feet high and an average of 1-foot deep. Here is the formula: 50’ x 2’ x 1’ = 100 cubic feet (cf). Allowing for airspace between stones, you will need an average of 135 pounds per cubic foot. 100 cf x 135 lb/cf = 6 ¾ tons (2000 lb/ton). Take a little extra stone to allow for a good selection.
HOW TO START: Dig a trench about 6 inches deep and 12 inches wide (or as wide are your larges stone) along the base of where the wall is to be built. There is no elaborate footing required for a “dry” wall. Since no mortar is used the stones are NOT BONDED together and they will rise and fall with the frost – causing no damage to the wall.
Place your largest stones in the trench, end to end. For best results, lay all of your stones down flat as they would lie naturally on the ground. Now as you begin to stack the wall, working from one end to the other, you must remember to slope it back towards high ground, or “batter” the wall. This is accomplished by simply standing your level on end and measuring to the face of the wall as shown in the drawing.
As you build, try to avoid continuous horizontal or vertical joints by breaking them up with larger or smaller stones. Place stones so they fit tightly together for strength and a nice appearance. Fill in the area behind the wall with dirt and compact as you go. Every now and then turn a long stone into the hillside to act as an anchor or “bond” stone. This will improve the stability of your wall.
Save some flat stones to cap the wall on top.
TOOLS & MATERIALS REQUIRED:
1. Heavy Hammer
2. Folding rule
3. Carpenters level
4. Pick & shovel
5. String line
6. Selected stone and a cheerful disposition!