DIY Rock Wall Saves Money
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Get a feel for your medium. Natural fieldstone has some undulation to it; use a hammer to knock off sharp points. If you need to break a stone, score a line where you want the stone to break with hammer and chisel. Hit the chisel with moderate force and repeat several times until the stone breaks.
Step back frequently to see the big picture, Owen says. “You have to see where you are and where you want to be.” If you note a problem, fix it, even if it means redoing an entire course (row of stone).
Remain patient. Remember, you are working on a puzzle that revels in imperfection.
Roll up your sleeves
A retaining wall is a good starting project.
● Lay out your stone in plain view, grouped by size and shape.
● Mark the outline of your wall. For a curved wall, Owen recommends a garden hose or spray paint. For a straight wall, use wood stakes and mason string.
● Dig a trench about 8 inches deep and about 3 inches wider than the base of your wall. (Base usually runs at least half as wide as height.)
● Fill the trench with crushed stone (Owen uses AB3, a compacting gravel) to about 4 inches from the top.
● Compact the gravel with a hand tamper or vibrating plate, adding a little water as you go. Make this base nice and level.
● Begin laying your courses. For the first course, select your heaviest stones, saving your best wide, flat stones for the top.
● As you build, the stone above should overlap with the stones below (like you would lay bricks). Place any long stones perpendicular to the face of the wall to anchor it to the bank.
● Fit stones snugly, tapping lightly with a hammer. Occasionally, you may need to break stones into wedge-shaped shims to fill gaps, or use crushed rock to level uneven stones.
● Backfill with gravel, tamping it down after completing each course.
● Set each course back about 1/2-inch, creating a continuous back-leaning face. As each stone tilts down toward the middle, gravity pulls the structure together.
● Taper ends back into the hill.
● Lay larger flat stones (capstones) on top to hold your wall in place and provide a finished look.
● Plant the soil being retained. This adds beauty and helps anchor your wall.Carol Crupper is a writer from Lawrence, Kansas.
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