Building a stone wall...

patty_cakesMarch 15, 2010

My 'plan' is to build a stone wall in the backyard to section it off, and make a smaller space to create *my* take on an English garden. The #1 most important question I need answered is, do I need to cement the stones together or can I simply stack them? I just read the post where the Polymeric Sand was mentioned, and am wondering if it could work on vertically placed stones, or just on the ground. Has anyone used this product on a wall? If not, how did you do yours~~the easier the better! TIA ;o)

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Polymeric sand is for flat work.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2010 at 1:12PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Yes, you can do either cement or dry stack, but if you want to cement the stones together, then polymeric sand is not the correct material - you need actual mortar, or cement.

There is a "right" way to do both cemented stone walls and dry stack, and I think you are far better off to look at a book or website where instructions are given than to get off-the-cuff instructions from a forum.

What we can maybe help with is in deciding which route you want to go. In dry stack, it's all about gravity, and using it to hold the wall together. If you are trying to defy gravity with your design in any way, then you will need the assistance of cement.

I personally prefer dry stack because it's less of a hassle to do and because it is infinitely reversible. You have the freedom to change your mind about the last rock you installed or about the whole wall, without having to chip mortar off the rocks. Also, if the wall fails in a hundred years or whenever, it is easy to rebuild it with the same rocks.

I've only used mortar when building a retaining wall with scrap concrete chunks, because I wasn't confident that the chunks were big enough to hold the soil and I didn't have space to adequately lean the wall to make sure. If your wall can lean correctly or is not retaining any soil and is merely decorative, then dry stack should work depending on the rock you're using. Flat rock makes for easy dry stack. Round rocks can be dry stacked, but that can require expertise, and a pretty fair width at the base to create a stable unit.

Useful books should be available at the checkout at your big box landscaper, or at a landscape supply yard, or even a bookstore or library.


    Bookmark   March 16, 2010 at 2:10PM
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So is that a flat out 'no' or have you never 'personally' tried the product for a vertical wall?

I found an on-line site that sells the product and sent an email to get a 'why not'. ;o)

    Bookmark   March 16, 2010 at 2:26PM
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Pattycakes ...

It's a "how are you going to hold the sand in the joints until you can get it wet?" question.

Polymeric sand does not set up hard like mortar. The purpose of the polymer is to hold sand grains together with gravity helping hold them in place on a path or between rocks.

It's not strong enough to hold up to a patio broom - you can sweep the sand right out of the joints if you sweep too vigorously.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2010 at 3:06PM
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Lazygardens, now that's a whole 'nother thought.....or not! LOL

Karin, thank you for giving such straight talk. It won't be a retaining wall, just a decorative wall....would it hold up if a dog(50lbs)were to jump on it? I won't be using boulders, just average size stone/rock. I'll probably use the flatter kind since i'll be doing it myself and need to do what's easiest for me to work with. Would it be best to start with a flat patio paver in the sand? I do have a book someplace, but it might be 20 years old and there might be newer techniques. I'm sure I could find instructions on line though. Thanks for taking the time to at least give me something to think about before tackling this project. ;o)

    Bookmark   March 16, 2010 at 5:27PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Patty, rocks haven't changed much in 20 years so a book of any age will likely do :-). The best base depends on your climate and the height of your wall, but the idea is lowering the centre of gravity so the taller the wall the wider the base needs to be and so on.

If you go to a good landscape supply yard they should have rock of various types suitable for wall building, and one of the rocks you get will function as a base so long as it is firmly planted and the right size. A thin paver is likely not the best base since it can crack if not adequately supported.

I've linked below to pictures posted by a forum regular. You might search up his threads by user name; the other thread has more pictures. These are walls and half; unless you have similar strapping young men lined up to help you, you won't be building them quite like this! But the same principles apply.

Once you have decided on the kind of rock you are going to use, you can get a better handle on building method too.


Here is a link that might be useful: Kaitain4's pictures

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 9:30PM
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If you had a truck full of rocks (any size) tipped they would settle into a rough pyramidal shape, that is wider at the bottom than the top. You could do the same with a wheelbarrow and tip one load alongside another and if you left them just like that they would settle (kind of) and you could claim it as a wall. The problem would be the amount of space this takes up and the rocks moving when a 50lb dog jumps on it.

So the job is to build a wall that takes up less space and is stable. If you stack the stones individually with nothing to hold them together you will need more stones and a certain amount of skill in placement as it is only the positioning of the stones that holds the wall together . If you decide to go with a mortared wall (polymeric sand won't work) you need a different footing and some skill as mortar can be messy.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2010 at 9:43AM
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