DIY Rock Wall Saves Money
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A freestanding wall follows the same basic rules.
As Carl Dill notes, you are essentially building two walls back to back, slanting slightly toward each other, the inside filled with less desirable stones. For this structure, the standard slant (batter) is 1 inch for every 12 inches of height. This lean will tighten your wall as frost heaves it upward. Make sure that the top of every face and end stone tips slightly inward.
Use a mason line held in place by short stakes to outline length and width. Dig this area 3 inches deep. Spread 2 inches of gravel in the trench and then start your wall. Rearrange the gravel to accommodate any odd configurations on the bottom so the stones set solidly in the trench fit tightly side by side.
Don’t build on frozen ground because, when it thaws, your stones will settle unevenly. Also, avoid building too close to trees so the roots don’t interfere with your wall.
Arrange stones into four groups. Group One, the largest stones, will form the base. Rearrange gravel to accommodate any odd configurations so that stones fit snugly side by side. Group Two, face stones, have desirable sides that will show. Group Three, the fill stones, go inside the wall. Hide Group Four from yourself so you won’t be tempted to use them in a pinch. You will need these large, flat, attractive stones for the ends and top.
As you build, obey the Cardinal Rule: “1 over 2 and 2 over 1,” meaning that any face, end or top stone must cover the joint of the stones below it. Eliminating vertical seams strengthens your wall.
Start building one end up a few courses, then move to the other end. Next, work toward the middle. Drive stakes about 6 feet apart along the outline of the wall. Connect them with a mason line at the proposed height of the wall and attach a line level. This will keep the wall straight and level.
To finish, arrange capstones, keeping seams as tight as possible and filling voids with smaller stones. Put small amounts of stone dust over the seams and brush it in. Pack the dust down. After the first rain, go back and refill where the stone dust has settled into the wall. This step prevents leaves, seeds and debris from working into the wall and forming soil where trees and brush will grow, their roots forcing the stones apart and collapsing the wall.
For more details, visit the website at www.Stonewall.UConn.edu/BuildBuilding.htm.