Stone walls can be beautiful additions to your home. You can use them to enhance the landscape of your garden, create waterfalls, and use in many other structures like terracing.
You do not always have to call in a professional stone mason, for small wall jobs can be done yourself, and this is why it can be helpful to know how to build a stone wall, on your own. This is a great DIY project, if you are good at following precise instructions, which will give you more pride, especially when you make a beautiful structure.
The first thing that you need to do, is map out the location of the wall. You should define where the wall will lay.
This can be done easily, by using lime, or landscape friendly spray paint. This should be done over the full length of the wall.
You should also use tall sticks as markers to indicate the ends of the wall. Make the stick markers be long and clearly visible.
Next, get some stout string and stretch it taught across the two sticks. You need to attach the string to the first stick, ensuring that the stick marks the height of the wall, and then stretch the string to the stick at the other end of the wall. This string is important in keeping the wall straight and level.
Stone Wall Foundation Excavation
Once you have marked your wall, and stretched the string, you can now proceed to dig out the foundation trench of the wall. The depth of the foundation will depend on the height of the wall. The higher the intended height of the wall, the deeper the foundation trench has to be.
The foundation should be wider than the largest stone, and should be a foot deep, for every 4 feet, in height. You should then fill the trench, almost to the top, with gravel, on which you will lay the stones.
Pick out the best stones, and lay them out on the gravel, for a dry run. This is done to determine which stones fit best with each other, before you begin adding mortar. The best fitting stones will provide the best stability for your wall.
After the dry run, you can set the stones aside, near where they will be set in mortar. This will help you keep track of where each stones goes, when you begin adding mortar.
It is important that you keep a row of neat stones for the top of the wall, for a good, finished look.
Get a wheel barrow, or a huge empty drum, and mix your mortar. Read the instructions on the packaging, so you mix it to the required standards.
Some manufacturers produce mortar that is already mixed, and all you have to do is add the required amount of water. Mortar that has been well mixed will slide off the trowel.
Take a good portion of the mortar and lay it on the gravel. After doing so, place the first stone, on top of the mortar. Give the stone a gentle push, or a tap, to ensure that it is seated well upon the mortar. You should repeat this process, with other stones, as you work your way, across the full length of the wall.
You will need to use a level, in order to keep the stones leveled out. You can add more mortar to a stone, if it seems like it requires being slightly elevated in order to keep the level. Once you have reached the end of the wall, you should set out another dry run, for the second course of stones.
Similarly, remove the second course dry run stones and keep them near the position where they will be set in mortar. Using your mortar, once again, work your way across the length of the wall, ensuring that the joints are staggered for stability.
Repeat the whole process, and move horizontally, so that you can easily stagger the joints. This will add beauty and strength to your wall. You should then finish off the top of the wall, using the stones that you had set aside earlier.
If there are drips, or clumps, of mortar on the wall, you should clean them off before the mortar dries up. You can use a stick, to remove the clumps. When the mortar is set, but has not dried up, you can use a brush to scrub the wall. This will make it beautiful to look at.
Photos by smoob (top) and ARNOLD Masonry and Concrete (mid-page), Creative Commons Attribution