Question on building stone walls with mortar or cement


Old 11-08-11, 09:09 AM
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Question on building stone walls with mortar or cement

Hi all,

I have a very basic question on how mortar works when building stone walls:

If you have irregularly shaped rocks (with the exception of the face that shows) and you put the wall together with mortar, what holds the wall together?

1) The fact that the mortar sticks to the rocks like a glue?


2) The fact that the mortar (or cement) is a formable matrix that gets in all the nooks and crannies of the irregularly shaped rock and then sets - locking the rock in place?

or both?

or neither?

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Old 11-08-11, 09:19 AM
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You have offered a very vague description of the materials (stone, rock, size), but even less on the wall (height, length) or the purpose (retaining, privacy or decorative). Also, it is always good to give the location so repliers can guess at the conditions and determine if it is in severe cold climate of just the facing of an interior fireplace.


Old 11-08-11, 10:08 AM
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Hi Dick,

I'm a newbie to building stone walls so I admit I don't know all the factors that matter. So I'll try to fill in the info you list:

Exterior wall in New England (North of Boston). Maybe 2 feet high and a foot wide and 15 feet long. Not a retaining wall - decorative. Made from irregularly shaped rocks (i.e. not smooth round rocks) each about 8" x 8" x 5". I can't tell you what species of rock it is - it's not granite for example, or sandstone or limestone etc - except to say people around here call it "blue stone". It's very hard and when you crack it, it has very sharp edges.

Last edited by Saville; 11-08-11 at 10:30 AM.
Old 11-09-11, 05:40 PM
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I think the answer to your question would be a combination of both both things you've listed. Because in reality, your Option (1) takes place in Option (2). But something you left out is the force of gravity, with the mass of members pushing everything downward and outward against adjacent members.

I've built a few mortared rock walls over the years, and I remember a former girlfriend's father (a grizzled mason from way back) telling me how he hated them, because as he put it, "Anyone can make them look good, no skill required--it takes a real mason to lay up brick or block." I don't think that's true, as I've seen a lot of rock walls poorly done and falling apart.

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