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Exterior renovationsHow to Build a Stone Wall in Your Backyard
A traditional white picket fence isn’t for everyone. Some homeowners are looking to add strength and character to their yard. A stone wall is a beautiful addition to a backyard and if built correctly can last a lifetime. Although building a stone wall may seem simple, certain steps must be followed to obtain a result that lives up to the expectations of yourself and your loved ones.
Putting together a stone wall is fairly difficult but it will add old-world character to a yard that you won’t be able to find with other types of fences and walls. So, if you’re ready to take on the challenge and get started, keep reading and we’ll give you the lowdown on how to build a stone wall.
Getting prepared for this project is one of the most important steps, as the number of materials you need as well as the stone you choose will have a huge impact on time as well as budget. For this reason, before you get anything going, make a valiant effort to plan out every part of this project. Begin with these two subjects early on in the process:
The size and dimensions: As with almost every renovation project, the size and dimensions will determine most other factors moving forward. When it comes to building a stone wall, deciding these elements early on is essential. For example, if you plan on building a one-meter tall stone wall, you will need to dig a foundation that is 40cm deep. Also, note that the width of your foundation will need to be larger than that of your wall, so in this case, size does matter!
The stones: Choosing and sorting through the various types of stones that will be used to build your wall is another important step that will have a major impact on the final result. This is because the size and shape of your stones will play into the installation technique. The smaller stones and the ones that have an irregular shape should be installed in the middle, whereas the regular ones should be kept for the sides and the longer stones will serve to create the base of the wall.
Remember, you must comply with the rules and regulations that are currently in effect in the municipality where you live. The height of the wall and the depth of the foundation must abide by local regulations. Likewise, depending on whether or not you are building a stone wall that is meant to separate two distinct sections of the yard or a retaining wall, the depth and width of the foundation will differ.
This is the first real step of the stone wall building process and that is digging a trench. To begin this part of the process, you’ll need to layout and define the curve of the wall in the area where it will be constructed. This can be completed by stretching out a cord between posts to mark each side of the wall.
Anything can work to measure this area, including a garden hose, a household extension cord, some rope and so forth. If the wall will be built in a straight line, you can use string so choose according to the shape of your structure. Next, sprinkle chalk on the cord to mark the wall's specific outline onto the grass. Following this, you can begin digging the trench.
Begin by removing any grass from the area where you’re digging. As you start to dig up dirt, set it aside for later use. If you are crafting a particularly long wall, then we’d suggest renting a backhoe or tiller. If the intended length is fairly short, then you can use a long-handled shovel. If possible, enlist a friend to help as digging a trench can be fairly hard on the back. Again, when choosing the size of the trench consider the size of the wall; a good rule of thumb is to add 6” to the stones you’re using.
Once the trench has been completed, don't forget to place a 4-inch layer of gravel inside the hole. This gravel will help keep water away from your wall. The gravel needs to be sturdy and solid, and thus you’ll need to tamp down so that it is compact as well as level. For this part of the job, you will need to use a damper and there are two types on the market: a hand tamper and a power tamper. Either will work for this job, so choose according to your personal needs.
Once you have installed the wall's foundation, you're ready to install the stones. To get the best possible result, be sure to brush and wash the stones before you install them. This might be time-consuming, but bear in mind that this wall should last a lifetime and thus, you should start it off right!
Now, apply a layer of mortar on which you will install the cornerstones. A highly recommended mortar product is air lime and hydraulic lime, known for its strength and durability. Next, you can start installing the other stones along the cord.
Once the previous steps are over (installing the first layer of stones), you may choose to install drainage in the form of PVC pipes. This can be completed by adding gravel to the back of the first layer of stones and then tamp it down. As we mentioned, the gravel acts as a drainage aid. The PVC pipes will be laid on top of the gravel, with holes faces out to facilitate the drainage of water. Once you have the pipes in place, cover them with gravel.
Now, you can simply build the rest of the wall by laying stones and applying mortar between each layer, and this can be completed with a trowel. Don't forget to check regularly if the mortar is vertical. To do so, use a spirit level or a plumb line.
For some, this might not be the simplest DIY job and therefore, for optimal results be sure to hire a qualified contractor!
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Last modified 2023-11-07
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