Dry Stone Walling - Guide to Good Practice
Armed with the right knowledge it is easy to spot poor workmanship with
a few simple visual checks. If you are wanting to try your hand at the
craft or have engaged a contractor and are concerned about the standard
of their work, the following guide outlines the key aspects of dry
stone wall construction. Don't accept badly built walls, they will only
cost money to maintain in the long term, whereas a sound wall will
stand for hundreds of years.
|Looking at a cross section of the wall while it is being
built you should notice these key points.
The wall is built with two skins that taper evenly to the top,
this tapering is referred to as batter. The width of the base of the
wall is determined by the overall height and should never be less than
600mm. Insufficient batter allows the two skins to peel outward and
should be even and looking along the face of the wall there must be an
even plane, without bulges or hollows.
The largest stones are used to build
the first course, the footing. As
your eye moves up the wall the height of the stones gradually
decreases, it is acceptable for some deviation from this point within
reason. The majority of stones should sit with their length into the
wall, all should sit firm and level.
The cavity formed by the to skins
is built up
with hearting stones. The quality of the heartings is
to the walls construction, they should be as big a possible and laid
with care, not a bucket of hardcore poured in at random!
About half way up the wall there
through stones which join both skins together these are ideally placed
every 1.5m but when suitable stone is not available this may not be
possible. Note there are practices to overcome this problem, using a
series of overlapping, alternate 3/4 length stones.
The wall is
finished with toppings
that stand up vertically and span the wall joining the two skins. Toppings
should be worked with a hammer to match the surrounding style, rough
and random , curved as shown or square faced and regular.
wall from the front
courses should follow reasonably straight level lines, again check the
size of the footings and that there is a fairly even decrease in the
height of courses.
Most importantly of all when
inspecting a wall
you are checking that all stones touch each other tightly and that
there are no straight joints. Every join on a wall should be bridged by
a stone above, unless two courses run into one thicker course.
When placing a stone on the wall any rocking should be eliminated by support from inside the wall with a pinning
stone. Check the face of the wall for small pins that have been used
to prop these rockers from the front, this is poor practice as the wall will settle
and they will fall out. In particularly shoddy examples, you can pull
them out easily.
walls follow the same rules and should be built with two skins even
though only one is
It is essential to have a solid foundation to build off so if the
ground is at all soft use compacted hardcore or even consider concrete
if the wall is to be particularly high.
The width at the base
of the wall should be 1/3 or more of it's height any less and the
ground being retained will overpower the wall over time. Larger stone
required to build retainers, especially in the footing (see pic below) and it is wise to get as many throughs in
The batter is more severe and the bulk of stones must be placed with their length into the wall. A wall built with a single skin with stones placed
length-ways along the face to increase build speed will not stand the test
of time and whilst may seem cheaper in it's material and labour cost, will be more expensive in the long
A stout retaining wall the open end shows the stones facing into the wall.
will be happy to advise upon your project from choices of stone to
letterforms. Whether you would like advice or a full written quotation,
don't hesitate to get in touch.
Contact us with your queries, we'll be happy to help
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