How to Build a Stacked Stone Wall

What You'll Need
Stakes and line

A stacked stone wall has no mortar to hold it together, relying upon the skill of the builder and gravity for its strength.

Step 1 – Decide the Location

Identify where the wall will be built and mark out the area.

Step 2 – Dig the Footings

Dig a trench about 6 inches deep and compact the bottom. Cover the bottom with about 2 inches of fine gravel. Spread the gravel and make the surface level. The width of the trench will be depend upon how deep the wall will be from front to back.

Step 3 – Select the Stone

The stone used for stacked stone walls is usually sedimentary and has  a uniform thickness. This will enable you to build a wall that looks uniform. Using stones of different thickness can make it more difficult to have a level top to the wall.

Step 4 – Mark a Guide Line

Use 2 stakes and a line to mark the front of the wall. This will enable you to ensure that the wall is kept straight.

Step 5 – The First Layer of Stone

The base of a dry stone wall should be wider than the top. This gives the wall extra stability. Lay the stones in the trench over the gravel and arrange them so there are no large gaps. Since this layer will not be seen, it can utilize the worst stones.

Step 6 – Lay Subsequent Layers

As each layer is built up it should be slightly narrower than the layer beneath. This should also be reflected at the ends of the wall where each layer is slightly shorter than the one beneath.

Step 7 – How to Place Stones

Each stone should sit firmly in position. Do not use any stone that rocks. Use smaller bits of stone to balance stones or to hold them steady. Try to place stones so that the best looking edges are at the face of the wall. Try to place each stone to cover the space between two stones on the lower level.

Step 8 - Mix the Stones

Each course should contain a mixture of stone sizes. Try not to have the larger stones on one layer directly above or below those on an adjacent level.

Step 9 - Finishing the Wall

The top layer of stones should contain mainly large stones. These will help to hold the lower levels of stones in place and protect the wall.

Step 10 – Brace Wide Walls

If the wall is wide and is using two lines of stones on each layer, you should have stones across both lines to tie them together.

Retaining walls that are dry stacked should have large stones if possible and slope toward whatever they are retaining. Building a stacked stone wall is like doing a jig saw puzzle without a picture. You need to use your skill and judgment to place the stones. Each stone should be an integral part of the wall but the wall should still stand if one stone is removed.