Deciding to build a dry laid field stone wall is not a decision to be taken lightly. It will require a great deal of your time and a great deal of physical effort to complete the job. There are several things to consider before starting your project, the least of which is cost.
First you must choose the type and color of stone that you are going to use to build your wall. There are literally hundreds of stone type and color combinations available today How to build a dry stone wall. If you have access to free field stones or pavers, that can save you many hundreds or perhaps thousands of dollars. A heavy duty truck is required to haul any actual amount of this stone as a car can easily become overloaded and can even be dangerous to drive.
Dry-laid country stone walls can be very beautiful when finished and will last for many, many years with minimal maintenance. All that is required is an occasional check to make sure children have not dropped or removed rocks while playing. Dry-laid means, of course, that no mortar is used to bond the stones together and instead dry-laid walls rely on gravity to hold and hold their shape over time. If you see a rural stone wall, stop and take a good look at the wall. You will see that both sides slope slightly towards the center of the wall and that the top is also slightly concave.
In most cases, it took farmers many years to build their walls with the stones removed from their fields while plowing for new crops each spring. Winter’s freezing and thawing pushed the stones to the top of the ground for the waiting farmers’ plows to find. How to build a dry stone wall ? These stone walls were not built for their beauty, but out of necessity to mark the boundaries between farms and to prevent stones from damaging the feet of their horses while pulling the plows.
If you are using natural stone for your wall, remember that the wall faces will not be perfectly flat like when using artificial stone or masonry units. There will be some ins and outs as the stone rises above the level. If you are laying the wall along a property line, it is suggested that you hold it back a few inches to allow some leeway in the design and to be sure that you are not building on your neighbors’ land. One of the best ways to do this is to use wooden stakes or steel pins at each end of the proposed wall and place a rope or dry line between them. Tie a loop at one end of the string and place it over the first pin and then pull and wrap the line around the second stake as tightly as possible. Whenever you place a stone, the edge of the stone simply cannot cross this rope line. Get as close as possible but never cross it. Keeping the stone faces as close to the chord as possible at all times will ensure as uniform a wall face as possible. Keep lifting the rope as your work progresses. As your ability and eye grow with work, you will be told if a stone does not fit properly or does not look as good as it should.
With the pins and rope lines installed, take a step back and see if the line is actually where you want the bottom of the finished wall to be at the end of the job. You don’t want to tear it down and move it around later, trust me. If the location is good, dig a trench the width of your wall, at an average depth of the diameter of your largest stones. If your largest stone is six inches in diameter, dig six inches deep. The trick here is to slightly incline each half of the width of the trench slightly down the middle of the wall. Slightly means just a little. You want the base stones to lean inward, but try to keep the top as level as possible at the same time.
Now start laying your base stones. Usually, but not always, these will be the largest stones. Many stonemasons prefer to place some of the larger stones randomly along the wall facade to add character and interest to their finished work. True stone masons also do not use hammers or stone saws to shape the stones they use. Each stone is turned over and over to see and then picks the best face to place to see and the best side to fit on top of the stones placed underneath. Each stone must fit into adjacent stones and not rock back and forth. Keep the largest stones on the outside face and then place the smaller, ugly stones in the center out of sight. Do not be tempted to place small vi