Lawn + Garden Projects
Dry Stone Wall
BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 120 Projects
Stone walls are beautiful, long-lasting structures that are surprisingly easy to build provided you plan carefully. A low stone wall can be constructed without mortar using a centuries-old method known as dry laying. With this technique, the wall is actually formed by two separate stacks that lean together slightly. The position and weight of the two stacks support each other, forming a single, sturdy wall. A dry stone wall can be built to any length, but its width must be at least half of its height.
You can purchase stone for this project from a quarry or stone supplier, where different sizes, shapes, and colors of stone are sold, priced by the ton. The quarry or stone center can also sell you Type M mortar—necessary for bonding the capstones to the top of the wall.
Building dry stone walls requires patience and a fair amount of physical effort. The stones must be sorted by size and shape. You’ll probably also need to shape some of the stones to achieve consistent spacing and a general appearance that appeals to you.
To shape a stone, score it using a circular saw outfitted with a masonry blade. Place a mason’s chisel on the score line and strike with a maul until the stone breaks. Wear safety glasses when using stonecutting tools.
It is easiest to build a dry stone wall with ashlar—stone that has been split into roughly rectangular blocks. Ashlar stone is stacked in the same running-bond pattern used in brick wall construction; each stone overlaps a joint in the previous course. This technique avoids long vertical joints, resulting in a wall that is attractive and also strong.