Build a Sturdy Stone Sitting Wall
Keep the look of a traditional dry-stack stone wall, but strengthen the core with mortar and finish with a bluestone cap.
Synopsis: A stone wall is an appealing feature for any yard, but building a sturdy wall requires patience and skill, especially when selecting stones to be placed in the right location. Mason Brendan Mostecki shares his lessons about the best techniques for building a wall with a classic dry-stack appearance but that uses mortar to make sure that the wall holds up over time. A good wall starts with a solid base, proper drainage, and a poured footing. The first course goes on top of the cured footing, and stones are then stacked in layers. While Brendan looks for stones that are appropriate for the face of the wall, he also does improvements when necessary with his bricklayer’s hammer. After the first course is set, he places a layer of mortar and continues building the wall. This article includes sidebars about customizing a wall cap with a “rock and thermal” finish, creating appropriate drainage for a stone wall, and mixing mortar.
I used to get annoyed when I heard people compare building a stone wall to assembling a jigsaw puzzle. Stone walls have no precut pieces, and they certainly don’t come with a picture. Then one day I sat down with my two sons to put together a jigsaw puzzle. As these things often go, they quickly ran off with the box, and I was left with a pile of pieces but no road map. That’s when I realized that a stone wall wasn’t so different from a puzzle after all. I start each wall by emptying and sorting a pallet of stone into four categories: base pieces, face pieces, cornerstones, and caps. I lay out the first row, establish the corners, then work in toward the middle, just like a puzzle but without the picture, of course.