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HOW TO BUILD A WALL

All you need is a strong back and the proper wall construction technique

Proper wall construction is very important since it will delay wall failure as long as possible. I'm sure we've all seen bowed walls or ones leaning outward, in the wrong direction. Even though most walls will have to be rebuilt at some point in their lifetimes, due to natural forces such as the freeze-thaw cycle and soil settling, proper wall construction techniques will greatly prolong the life of a wall. High walls require special engineering to ensure their strength and safety, and may require a building permit from your local municipality if they are over 4 feet tall.

Materials used for walls: 
Constructing walls from odd-sized natural stone is an art, especially when each stone needs to be cut to a specific shape and size. Fortunately for the do-it-yourself crowd, there are several products available today using standard sized wall stones to help ease construction. That being said, most medium to large wall stones are heavy, and require a heavy truck for delivery and a strong back for construction.

The wall stones shown in the photos below weigh 59 pounds each, with a full shipping pallet of 48 stones weighing close to 1-1/2 tons. Ideally, you will find an area close to your construction project and one that is close to your driveway, to ease access and delivery. The pallets should be close, while not in the way.

 

  
STEP-BY-STEP WALL CONSTRUCTION

Layout
Determine the dimensions of the finished wall. Lawn areas can be marked with marking paint in a spray can or a string line.
Dig the wall footer to the manufacturer's specified depth and width. This wall project required enough depth for 6-inches of compacted fill and a base course of wall stone (6" + 6" = 12" depth below grade)

Wall footer

Base leveling pad
To create 6-inches of well compacted fill for the base leveling pad, this project used 'rock dust' (fine limestone) which is easy to work with due to its small particle size.
Most recommendations call for using an 'angular' gravel as opposed to rounded gravel, since angular stone 'locks' together.
Rock dust
Base course
The most important step in wall construction is installing the base course properly. Take your time.
A stretched mason's line can be used to ensure the blocks are straight. Use a level to make sure each wall stone is level side-to-side and front-to-back.
Any mistakes on the base course will compound themselves as additional courses are added.
This is also the stage of wall construction to add a perforated drain pipe along the lower back edge of the wall base. It's important to have good drainage behind a wall to reduce damage from the freeze-thaw cycle in colder climates.
First course of wall stone
Going up!
Once the base course has been leveled, more granular fill can be added around the base course of wall stones.
Now you can start adding the additional courses of wall stone to your base course. Clean off burrs from precast products to ensure each stone sits solid and doesn't wobble.

Precast wall construction

     

Running bond
For maximum wall strength use a 'running bond' alignment (like a brick wall on a house). Cover joints between stones by placing wall stones above them so they straddle the joint below. This construction arrangement helps 'lock' the wall together. Avoid lining up joints with one above another!
Stacking wall stones
Cutting stones
Use a brick hammer or hammer and stone chisel to cut wall stones. Most precast products are pre-notched to aid basic cuts. More complicated cuts can be made by scoring a stone completely along the intended cut edge. Wear good quality safety goggles to protect your eyes and alert bystanders to flying fragments. Rent a block splitter or diamond-edged cutoff saw for more precise cuts.
Cutting wall stone
Step back
Many wall products have a built-in 'step back' in their design. These stones have a 2-inch lip on the lower back edge which creates the proper step back.
With other wall stone you may need to create step back, or what is known as 'batter,' with the rule of thumb being a one-foot step back for every four-feet of wall height. This 'leans' the wall into the slope making it stronger.
Building the wall
Finishing your wall
Ensure there is good drainage behind your wall by adding more granular fill along the back of the wall stones and in the joints, prior to adding your topsoil mix.
Raised beds, like the one seen here, provide the perfect opportunity to create a good soil mix for excellent growing conditions. In this case, shredded topsoil was mixed with mushroom manure and 10-10-10 fertilizer. Other soil amendments might include compost, sharp sand or peat moss. If your soil mix needs lime to raise the pH into the proper range, this is the best time to mix in the lime. Reseed damaged lawn areas as needed.
Raised planter
Now it's time to enjoy the harvest!

MORE

Walls

Hardscape

Slope Plantings

 

 

   


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