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How to Build Stone Walls

Stone walls and their brick counterparts can serve a practical function or play mainly a decorative role (composing a pretty property border). Either way, they represent a substantial undertaking on the part of a DIYer; thus the need for these instructions. I think you'll enjoy reading the contributions of my colleague, Joe Norton, who builds stone walls and patios in Maine.

Building Stone Walls to Retain Soil
When can the DIYer build a stone wall to retain soil using the dry-laid method? Answer: for small projects. I get into the specifics in this tutorial and tell you how to go about it. These low stone walls also work great in raised-bed projects.

How to Build a Mortared Stone Wall
Find out all the tricks for building mortared stone walls in this article. As a bonus, this tutorial discusses how to undertake the project even in winter. The author, Joe Norton, is a mason in Maine, so he is all too familiar with building stone walls in the cold weather!

Choosing Rocks to Build Stone Walls
It may sound obvious, but one of the big decisions you have when building stone walls is what kind of rock you will select. I'm not talking geology here so much as simply what the rocks look like. Joe gets you thinking here about choices like old vs. new and round vs. rectangular.

How Much Stone do I Need to Build a Stone Wall?
Sorry to break the news to you mathophobes out there, but yes, there are some calculations involved in building stone walls. I don't mean simply determining the measurements of the wall, either. No, you'll also have to do some figuring to find out how much stone you need to buy.

Mason's Trowel or "Brick Trowel"
Learn how to use a brick trowel when building a stone wall with mortar in this article. That's right: brick trowels are not just for brick work! People use brick trowels (also called -- perhaps more appropriately -- "mason's trowels") when working on projects that involve concrete or mortar.

Pouring Concrete: Calculating How Much You Need
Will you be pouring concrete footings (for a stone wall, for example)? Then use this formula to figure out the amount you will need ahead of time. Joe Norton gives an example to illustrate how to use his formula. Aren't you glad now that you took math classes (or that Joe took math classes, at least)?

How to Pour a Concrete Footing for a Mortared Stone Wall
Will your stone wall be built with "mud" (mortar)? Then you must pour a concrete footing for it to rest on, because with mortared stone walls, the catchword is "stability." In this tutorial Joe leads you through the project blow by blow, from the layout and how deep to dig to mixing, pouring and curing the concrete.

Winter Hardscaping
"Winter hardscaping": the concept may make you uncomfortable if it doesn't sound downright impossible. But if you plan ahead, you can ensure your winter hardscaping project goes smoothly. The question is: Are you hardy enough for it?

Brick Hammers
As with brick trowels, so it is with brick hammers. Do not be fooled by the name, because they really aren't used just for working with bricks. Thus "mason's hammer" might be a preferable name. Learn how brick hammers are used when building stone walls in this article.

Brick Wall Design Idea: Cap It With Granite
Joe Norton always keeps his eyes open for interesting hardscape ideas when he is traveling. He encountered a brick wall with a granite cap on it in Harvard Square and snapped a picture of it for us.

Working With What You Have: Stone Wall Built Around a Ledge
Discover how to "roll with the punches" and coexist with pre-existing features rather than fighting them. This article reveals how a stone wall was built around a ledge that could have posed a serious problem. It's an example of working with obstacles in the land, rather than feeling daunted by them.

Intriguing Stone Walls
Joanne Smith researched stone walls in a small town in Connecticut (U.S.). The result? More than just another how-to on the art of building stone walls (although it provides that, too), this piece peeks into the history and idiosyncrasies of stone walls in a region famous for them.

Stone Wall Veneers
From walls of thin stone to walls of blocky stone, this site offers nice examples, through pictures (with short descriptions) of some of the different ways you can create a veneer using rock. Check out their "Glossary" tab if you have any questions about terminology.

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