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How to Build a Mortarless Retaining Stone Wall


If you have a backyard that slopes up or if you ever have a need to strengthen your retaining wall, you may want to consider installing a natural stone wall. A natural stone retaining wall can add value to your property as well as beauty to your landscaping.

In this article you will learn how to install a natural stone wall without the use of mortar. This is referred to a dry stacking technique.

Step1 Measure your wall area to find the height and length. Multiply these two numbers to give you the square footage. Multiply the thickness of the wall to get the cubic foot measurement.

You can then order from the garden stores your rocks or stones to use for your retaining wall by giving them your measurement. They can tell you how many tons of stones will cover a specific number of square footage.

Step2 After you have gathered your stones, you can start by digging a trench using a shovel. For a stone wall less than 4 feet tall, dig a trench for the wall so that the first row will be half the height of the second row, in this case around 2 feet. This will give you a terraced look and would make your stone retaining wall more stable. The trench must be deep enough to hold 6-inch layer of compacted gravel, ideally the depth of your trench should be around 10 inches.

Step3 Pour gravel up to 6 inches deep and then start compacting. Use a level to make sure that it is even and flat. This will ensure that the base course of large stones is level.

Step4 Start building the wall by putting the biggest stones at the base. This may take time because you have to make sure that the installation is level on the base course before stacking on top of it. Once the base course has been established you can then stack up the succeeding levels. Use medium sized stones for the middle level then gradually using smaller sizes for the top portion. Pour a few inches of gravel behind the stone walls as it goes up higher. Use a weed barrier cloth to hold the retained soil and to prevent it from washing into the gravel.

Step5 When stacking the rocks, make sure that it is stable. Stack the stones leaning slightly into the slope. Test it by walking on top to ensure that it will not wobble, which may cause the stone wall to collapse later on. Follow the basic rule of building a stone wall, one rock should sit on two, and then two rocks will sit on one. This will ensure that the rocks are properly stacked. Make sure that the seams between the stones are not too wide. Put a rock to block the path of the seams. The seams or spaces in between should be the open to allow proper drainage of water and to allow enough space for expansion of the soil behind the walls. Use a hammer and chisel to break the stones to fit properly.

Step6 Use flat and smooth stones to cap the top of the retaining wall. This may be used to step or sit on by people while on top of the stone wall.

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