Dry stack slate stone wall

paul-murrayMay 12, 2010


I am about to begin installing a small 6 inch high dry stack stone wall and wanted to know if anyone had any advice. I'm thinking of using mortar to help keep the stones in place but I am not sure if it worth it as the stones will probably be stacked 3 or 4 high.

Do I need to do any prep work for example should I dig out a path and add pea gravel to lay the stones on.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Pea gravel is named pea gravel because it is the size and shape of peas. Little round balls. Slate will not stay put when stacked on it. Use aggregate. It has sharp edges and locks together, making a better, more stable base.
Keep the back of the slate just a tiny bit lower than the front so any settling will go back into the fill rather than bulging out the face and collapsing.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2010 at 8:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I would recommend that you read one of David Reed's books (see link). He explains the basics quite well.

Here's a pic of our dry-stacked stone wall:

We had the wall done by a contractor, but it could have been a DIY project. We did lay the patio by ourselves after paying the contractor to grade the base and spread the crusher run. The wall is 3' tall and leans back a little for every foot of height. It is set on compacted crusher run.

Here is a link that might be useful: David Reed

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 10:32AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
karinl(BC Z8)

Six INCHES? No, you don't need mortar or a base, or at least you wouldn't in my climate (zone 8). If you do use a base, heed the advice of Botann, above. Or you can use sand, but again, use sharp sand, not the one with rounded particles.

The question that determines whether or not to do a base has to do with what happens if you get frost heave or any sinkage. How difficult will it be to repair the wall and do you want to be bothered with that? Me, on such a small wall, I'd far rather have to do some spot repairs from time to time than mess with gravel and mortar to build it.

But definitely, there are some great books out there on building with stone.

Is this wall going to be a retaining wall, or free standing?


    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 11:41AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have found that the keys to a dry stack wall are keeping the courses level and using gravel (57 stone/crusher run) on the back side to keep the rocks stable and level. Fieldstone should be fine for a 6" high wall and no base is required. There are some good instructions on the net. You will just need a small trench to put the top of the first course at ground level.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 2:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

If you use mortar then it's no longer a dry stacked wall. It's a mortared wall.

6" is totally doable. *snerk*

(sorry. I must be chaneling a certain deviant designer...)

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 5:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

You do understand that this seriously challenges my claim to the World's Smallest Retaining Wall. Mine is about 12" high, and three feet long. It's been there for at least five years, or since I put in the brick edging for the bed, and the dry laid stone path extension that runs underneath it. I"m not even sure I bothered with burying much of the first course.

Unless it's a very long wall, just pile them up.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 6:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

... what KarinL said. All of it.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2010 at 9:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Spazzcat. Very nice! There is a book by Barbra Pleasent called Stone Gardening. I recomend this also as well as the one mentioned above. Well written and takes out the doubt of how to build stone walls, patios and paths etc... karinl nails it for this type of wall. Once you start using stone in garden design you will find many more uses for it. Get creative!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2010 at 10:34PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Wind, sun and what best fits my backyard
Hi everyone! Please ignore the grass situation, will...
Bed lines don't matter if....
They're covered in snow! It will be interesting to...
Privacy for Small Yard - Help!
Hi All! First time poster - LONG TIME reader! I'm in...
Spacing for Armstrong Maple and Crimson Spire Oak
I plan to provide height to the borders of my backyard...
Bob Sislow
Landscaping front yard, zone 5. HELP!!!! :)
We have recently done some work to our front yard (tearing...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™