first time building short stone walls

Old 09-10-05, 10:23 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 79
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Question first time building short stone walls

We want to build short stone walls around our front flower beds. They will be about 2' high or so. There is a pic at the end of the question.

We've heard tons of different advice about foundations for this type of stone wall including "don't try to do it yourself." We really don't have the money to hire someone for this. We've done everything ourselves on this house (my boyfriend and I are very handy), and I'm sure we can do this too -- with some good instruction. We aren't super picky about the type of stone-- we haven't picked one yet, but we are looking for something relatively inexpensive and natural looking--like you'd see in an old stone wall on a farm. Any suggestions on what type of stone? Also, how do we go about laying the foundation and stacking them with mortar so this wall lasts a long time? Thanks for any and all help. I live in Southeastern PA.


Last edited by jeastith; 09-10-05 at 10:48 AM.
Old 09-10-05, 10:46 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 5,650
Received 1 Upvote on 1 Post
first time building short stone walls

Considering the low height of the wall and your climate, I would shy away fron building a wall with mortar.

This is a rigid wall that requires a foundation. The foundation should be below the frost line if you want to hold the wall together. The frost can heave a portion of the foundation up and cause the wall to crack. Your local building code office can tell you how deep a footing should be if you chose a mortared wall.

The longest lasting stone walls are common in your area and going north into New England. They are dry stacked stone walls using local stone and no mortar or concrete foundation. Because the stone is local, the cost can be less, but you will lose some choices of color.

All this type of wall requires is a firm gravel base. Since you are building around your house it should be level to make it easier to keep close the horizontal lines of the house.

A dry stacked wall is natural and has the benefit of allowing the moisture behind to drain away from the house, which is alawys desireable. Do not let the wood portion of the wall or soil come in contact with the soil

There should be a lot of sites with suggestions on dry stack gravity walls.

Old 09-11-05, 10:43 AM
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: United States
Posts: 2,484
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Dry stack is the way to go. It will outlast mortared walls at this height. I did such a wall, about 2-1/2 feet high 11 years ago and it still looks good. It was built on a slope.

A couple of suggestions.
If any downspouts will dump water into the beds, then connect a pvc pipe to the downspout and run the pipe thru the wall. close the bottom.
Backfill with gravel on the inside edge of the wall and dirt as you build the wall. Tamp the dirt down as you go.
You also want a slight inward lean to the wall. The inward lean isn't much - an inch or so off plumb over the two foot height.
Before planting anything, let the dirt settle for several weeks. Dirt will compact 25%. Tamping as you go does help. So will watering several times/week.
Old 09-12-05, 08:23 AM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 222
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Having done something like this recently, I have a few points to add.

Check your house foundation scrupulously for any cracks [I am assuming a field stone foundation?], and repair them first. [We had a bit of speepage before everything settled in.]

If you can afford the extra material, start the wall below the soil line and use the excavated earth to fill the [bottom of] the flower beds.

Check the paper and the Want Ads for material; some people are willing to sell cheaply or even give away stone left over from a project.

I tried to make the job absolutely perfect, and got a nicely slightly uneven and aged loook.

Remember, two on one, one on two.

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Ask a Question
Question Title: