Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Stone Wall.

Sometimes I get bored.  I'll start one project and become frustrated with how long it is taking to finish, switch to another and at some point in the future, return to the first project (sometimes not).  So when I started to take apart one of our retaining walls, my wife gave me a scared look.  Call it "deer-in-headlights".

My plan for this past Sunday was to take it easy, what with my squished foot.  Thinking of easy tasks, I ventured into the back yard.  On my way out, I passed one of our sad looking field stone walls.  The previous owner, by her own volition, wanted an o'natural look to everything which basically meant a lack of property maintenance.  She loved climbing ivy plants, the type that root into and damage wood and masonry.  This rear entrance retaining wall was covered in ivy, so much so, that it actually hid the collapsed section of the wall.  It was an eyesore.  So I spent the entire day "restoring" it.  My legs, back and every other muscle in my body can attest to it.  There's no "taking it easy" when working with stone.  I am an idiot.

Mound of English Ivy.  You cannot tell from this photos but there's a beautiful stone wall hidden underneath.

I tore out as much of the rooted ivy plants as I could.  In doing so, I was also removing the stones.  Those ivy plants dug in deep and with the wall a bit disheveled and leaning outward, eventually, I just tore apart then entire south end of the wall.

Bit by bit, I reorganized the pile of stones.  Finding the right stone to fit the corner, or face, is not so difficult, just heavy. Basically, the larger flat sided stones are for the face of the wall and any stone that has two flat faces next to each other make a corner.  All other stones are filler, either for leveling the larger back-breaking stones along the face or within the wall to add mass.  Stone dust is a wonderful filler to fill the voids.  It's similar to sand in that it's a fine material, however, it is more coarse and compacts nicely.  In the photos, the stone dust is the grayish colored "sand".  Luckily, it's the same material used to level the brick walkway.  A surplus amount of it was left around the area.  

Layer by layer, large flat faced stones were placed around the perimeter.  Behind the large stones, smaller pebbles and rocks were stuffed in.  Some stone dust was shoveled around the pebbles until the layer was flat (or as flat as came be).  I hand tamped the stone dust to get it compacted and repeated this process for the next layer.

After trial and error, I eventually got the stones to fit just right.  The shear weight of some of these stones made it difficult to continually place, rotate, remove, etc., especially as the wall grew in height.  Now since this wall was already established, I used the bottom most rows and my eye as a guide to keep the wall straight.  Though, if I were to start this wall from scratch, I would've used a reference line.  Two stakes with a string tied between them makes a great guide for laying the first stones.

I ran out of the free stone dust and was about eight to twelve inches short of the walkway elevation.  I used earth for the rest of the fill and it actually worked out pretty well. I threw some grass seed on top to help curb any soil erosion.


A vast improvement to the Before images.  Notice that the stones are now leaning slightly in as oppose to out, making the wall more stable.

I am pleased with the outcome.  It was honestly my first attempt at a field stone wall.  We have another much larger wall that will need some repair in time.  I would also like to install a small two to three foot high wall along the front of our property.  Done correctly, it will last a lot longer than a rickety fence.  I just love the strength and appearance of a stone wall, don't you?