Building a Stone Accent Wall
A stone accent wall can be used to make another feature more interesting or simply more attractive. Here is a handy step by step guide to help you make an accent wall.
Step 1 – Type of Wall
Dry stone walls use no mortar. Mortared walls hold the stones together. A third type of wall is built to look like dry stone but uses mortar where it cannot be seen.
Step 2 - Size
The dimensions of the wall should be calculated so the wall fits into an area without dominating it. The base of the wall should be wider than the top to give strength and stability to the wall.
Step 3 - Materials
Use stone that appears elsewhere to help the wall blend in. Whatever material you choose, try to find stone that is fairly regular in thickness. This will make controlling the level of the wall much easier. Using material that you can move around easily is a good idea.
Step 4- Dig Footings
Start your wall by digging footings for the foundation. The depth of the footings depends upon the height of the. Higher walls need deeper footings. For a wall 18 inches to 24 inches high footings should be 6 inches deep.
Step 5 - Level the Footings
Use sand or fine gravel to provide a level surface in the footings for the first layer of stones. Use a level and long piece of wood to make the base horizontal.
Step 6 - Mortar
If you are using mortar, mix it to a firm consistency--in a wheel barrow to protect your lawn.
Step 7 - Guide Line
Use 2 sticks or iron stakes that are at least 12 inches longer than the desired height of the wall. Insert these into the soil at the extreme corners of the front of the wall. Make sure that they are held firmly upright. Tie a piece of string horizontally between the 2 stakes. The string should be level with the top of the first layer of stones. As each layer is completed, check the level by moving the line to the top of the next layer.
Step 8 - Add First Layer of Stones
The first course of stones will define the dimensions of the base. Try to use stones that are of similar thickness. Drop a trowel full of mortar onto the surface in the footings and press the first stone into it. Make sure the stone is level. For the ends of the wall, select stones that are as square as possible. Using the guide line to ensure straightness, do the same with other stones until you have the base covered.
Step 9 – Add Additional Layers of Stones
Each layer should be laid so it is slightly narrower than the layer below. This will taper the wall to the top and add strength. Use the string to keep each layer straight. After the first layer, use only enough mortar to create a joint. A stone wall looks much better without thick mortar lines. Use smaller stones to maintain the horizontal line.
Step 10 – Final Layer
The final layer will be the cap stones. These will preferably be the full width of the wall and regular in shape. They can be the same as the wall stones or of a contrasting material. Slate or marble makes excellent cap stones and offers a nice surface to sit on.
Step 11- Finishing Steps
Finish the wall by using the mortar to tidy up the joints in the wall.
Once the mortar is dry, the wall will be secure and will last many years. If you have not used mortar, the wall will still be sound but can be susceptible to stones being forced out of place by frost. Check the wall each spring.