How to Build a Fieldstone Wall

What You'll Need
Wooden stakes
Gravel or crushed stone
Tape measure
Steel-toe boots
Pencil and paper

Fieldstone walls are a beautiful addition to any property and once constructed require little to no maintenance. Though they are simple to construct, they are not easy on the body. Fieldstone wall construction is very labor intensive and can  take 2 to 3 days. Fieldstones are round natural stones that when fit together create a beautiful and rustic wall that can be constructed for aesthetic purposes or for retaining soil. Fieldstone walls are constructed without the use of cement or mortar. Be sure that you take your safety into consideration and wear shoes that will protect your feet from falling stones. Don’t try to move the stones without a wheelbarrow. Large fieldstones can be deceptively heavy.

Step 1—Map Out Desired Wall

Before you actually get started with you wall, you should grab a piece of paper and map out what you want the finished product to look like. Graph paper works good for this and you can actually draw it to scale this way. With it mapped out on paper, you can get a fairly good idea of what the wall will look like. This will also help you determine where to place you stakes.

Once you have the design laid out on paper, you can put your stakes into the ground at the specified points. You’ll then connect all of the stakes with string. Now you have a three-dimensional preview into the design of your wall. If you want to make any changes, now is the time.

Step 2—Level the Foundation

You’ll need to dig out a trench that goes about 8 inches deep. You want to make sure that this trench is level and about 2 inches wider than the stones. Next, you’ll need to fill the trench about half way with gravel or crushed stone, also called screening. Once the trench is filled, make sure that it is level. Don’t rush and be sure that the crushed stone makes a level surface. Otherwise, your wall may not last very long.

Step 3—Lay the Stones

Once the foundation is level, you can begin adding the fieldstones. Because fieldstones are not flat, you will have to pay close attention to how you fit them together. It is best to add large stones at the bottom and then interchange large, medium and small stones as you build the wall. Remember the first layer will be set into the trench. 

It is imperative that as you build the wall, you cover the seams and the openings left by the field stones. When you begin the second layer, you will want to place one stone on top of two stones to cover the seam. When you begin the third level, you will place two stones on top of one stone. The pieces should fit together like a puzzle. If you can’t find the perfect piece of fieldstone you can always shape it a bit with the chisel and hammer. You will continue in this manner until the wall is totally constructed. 

As you build the wall up, you will need to create a backward slope. Each layer of stones should be set back about 1/2 inch. This will help the wall fight the forces of gravity and stay upright.

Step 4—Add Capstones

Once you have built the wall to the desired height, you will add larger stones across the top. These are called capstones and “cap” off the wall. Try and leave the flatter surface facing up to achieve a neat uniform look.

That’s it. With a few tools and a lot of patience, you can build a fieldstone wall on your property.