DIY Rock Wall Saves Money

Build functional rock walls with rocks you collect.

| July/August 2009

Carl Dill grew up in the lumber business but fell in love with stone. For more than two decades he’s been turning granite, schist and bluestone into dry-stack rock walls around New Milford, Connecticut.

Instead of mortar, dry-stack building uses friction and gravity to hold stone structures in place. “It’s a hobby, a wonderful hobby,” says Dill, who recently retired from the building supply business. And if it’s something you might enjoy, too, Dill advises, “Get started. It’s not rocket science; it just takes practice.”

Dill’s “practice” began when he bought a stone house in need of repair. After fixing his home, he headed outdoors, where his first efforts at wall building proved less than stellar. Seeing the results, he figured, “Maybe I ought to do this the right way.”

Trial and error turned him into an expert. To date, he’s built about 25 walls for himself, his friends and his church that he feels confident will stand the test of time. Stone feels right, he says. “It just seems so permanent and reassuring.”

In New England, Dill notes a growing interest in preserving and constructing stone walls. As developers began bulldozing these historic structures, citizens rallied for the structures’ protection. At the same time, people began wanting walls of their own. Doing the work yourself brings satisfaction, says Dill. Plus, “having people build it is not cheap, about $100 a face foot.”

Wall-building classes that Dill teaches at the local college fill fast. Most students are middle aged, and about a third are women who typically want a garden wall.

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