How to Lay Stone Walls


People have constructed stone walls for centuries to mark property lines, contain livestock and edge gardens. Laying a stone wall can be hard work, but the imposing yet beautiful result is well worth the manual labor. Although constructing a mortared stone wall is also an option, laying a stone wall by dry-stacking the rocks is an easier-to-build style because you don’t have to deal with mortar. Albert Jackson, co-author of “Popular Mechanics Outdoor and Garden Projects,” suggests that you keep your dry-stacked stone wall under 31/2 feet to reduce the chances of collapses. Taking the time to create a sturdy footer is a key step in properly laying your stone walls.

Things You'll Need

  • Stones
  • Hammer
  • 2 wooden stakes
  • String
  • Spade or shovel
  • Gravel or sand
  • Choose appropriate stones for your stone wall. Popular options that you can get at a stone supply yard include granite and quartzite. If you’re on a tight budget, consider harvesting field stones from your property or that of a friend or neighbor. Look for large flat stones that will stack well together. It may take some time finding the rocks and a lot of hard manual labor getting them to your wall location, but it’ll certainly keep more money in your pocket than if you purchase stones.

  • Clear and mark the bed for your stone wall. Hammer a wooden stake at both ends of your proposed wall location and run a taut string between the two stakes. The string marks the front—or face—of your about-to-be-built stone wall.

  • Prepare the footer. Using a spade or shovel to remove a 2-foot-wide section of turf along the entire path of the wall. Make sure the front edge of the turf is in line with the string marking the face of your wall.

  • Dig a 6-inch-deep trench into the exposed topsoil with your shovel. As a general rule of thumb, the trench should be approximately as wide as your stone wall’s height. For instance, if your stone wall is going to be 12 inches tall, the trench you dig should be about 12 inches wide as well. Fill the trench with gravel or sand to within 1 inch of the surrounding soil.

  • Lay the stones. Place the entire bottom row of stones first, choosing your largest flat stones to provide additional stability. Make sure the front edge of the stones are in line with the marking string. Lay the second row of stones on top of the first, being careful to stagger the joints between the two rows of stones. Repeat this layering process until your stone wall has reached the height you desire.

  • Use care when moving the stones. Roll as many stones as possible to reduce possible back strain. When you have to lift stones, bend at the knees.

Tips & Warnings

  • Back injuries may occur when lifting the stones.

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  • “Popular Mechanics Outdoor and Garden Projects;” Albert Jackson & David Day; 2006
  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images
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