DIY Rock Wall Saves Money

Build functional rock walls with rocks you collect.

| July/August 2009

  • Backdrop for a dramatic planting
    Rock walls provide backdrops for dramatic plantings.
    Jerry Pavia
  • Children on rock wall
    A stone wall offers a wonderful pathway for children.
    Terry Wild
  • Mortarless arch
    A mortarless arch in a dry-stack rock wall.
    Jerry Pavia
  • Climbing plants love rock walls
    Climbing plants often use rock walls to head for the next level.
    Lori Dunn
  • A backyard in Lawrence, Kansas
    Darren Owen's landscaped backyard in Lawrence, Kansas, includes a number of stone walls and stone-covered walkways.
    Diane Guthrie
  • Stone-covered walkway
    Darren Owen's landscaped backyard in Lawrence, Kansas, includes a number of stone walls and stone-covered walkways.
    Diane Guthrie
  • Cow behind rock wall
    This rock wall is being put to use for livestock.
    Peter Bowater/Photo Researchers Inc.

  • Backdrop for a dramatic planting
  • Children on rock wall
  • Mortarless arch
  • Climbing plants love rock walls
  • A backyard in Lawrence, Kansas
  • Stone-covered walkway
  • Cow behind rock wall

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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