How to build a fieldstone wall.
The individuality of field stone lies less in the type of stone as it does in
how the stone is found. The term fieldstone, and the stone itself, came from
old farms. Every spring, following the frosts and snowy blanket of winter,
farmers would have to contend with stones pushed up by frost heaving during
the cold months. These stones littered the farmers’ fields, which they could
not successfully plow with removing them. The rocks were piled off to the
side and later used in retaining walls or foundations.
What is fieldstone used for?
It is used mostly as building blocks for retaining walls, walkways, and patios (usually small garden walls) that fieldstone survives today. Although it is also used as a veneer on home exteriors. Fieldstone offers a rustic, natural beauty and strength that is unparalleled. A properly built fieldstone wall can last for hundreds of years without even a drop of mortar (called dry-stacking). As evidence, many walls built in colonial
times still stand on farmland today.
How long does it take to build a fieldstone wall?
Building a fieldstone wall can take a good deal of time, mostly for
selecting and separating stones, but the result will be worth the effort.
There is a significant amount of art and patience that goes into a
fieldstone wall. Many professional masons and
landscapers spend years
cultivating an eye for this work. The process is rather simple
but, for the DIY adventurist, be prepared to take some time and have fun in
The Fieldstone process.
The process begins with some measurements and a trip to the local quarry.
To determine how much stone you’ll need,
simply measure the length and height of the wall and take these numbers to
your local quarry or masonry supplier. On average, for an 18-inch wide wall, one ton of stone will be needed per 10 feet of wall lengthwise.
Categories of fieldstone.
The two main categories of fieldstone are aged and quarried: *aged
fieldstone* having been out of the ground for more than 75 years and *
quarried* having been recently removed. Within these two categories there
are several different types of stone, most tied to a geographical
area, like<http://www.thecolonialstoneyard.com/>New England Flat or
South Bay Quartzite. Fieldstone comes either flat or
round as well. *Flat stones* are rougher and you’ll often seen masons
chipping away at them — or “dressing” them — so that stones will fit
perfectly together. *Round stones* are typically used as is.
Footing and prepping the area for your fieldstone wall.
In preparation, all grass, sod, and other debris should be cleared away. You
should then dig a footing to stabilize your wall. Make it roughly 4-6 inches
deep and as wide as 2/3 as the height of the wall and run the full length.
The footing should be dug out evenly and the soil tamped down adequately.
Then fill the footing 3 to 4-inches crushed stone and tamp that. Crushed Lime stone is essential to a properly built fieldstone wall. It provides drainage to
prevent water from backing up behind the wall and to keep the wall from
shifting during winter frost heaving.
Building the wall.
Next lay the base stones. These should be large, flat, heavy, and wide. For
an 18-inch wall, try to lay two-foot stones at the base. Be sure to fill in
behind the wall with more crushed stone as you build it up. All joints
should be staggered to provide both strength and a professional and
aesthetic appeal. As the wall is built up, it is important — in addition to
back filling with crushed stone as you go — to lean the wall back slightly
into the hill or raised bed. This will ensure a strong and sturdy wall.
Sorting fieldstone for your wall.
Whether on pallets or not, you will have to do some sorting ahead of the
corner stones, and face stones. Cap stones are large, smooth, and heavy for
the top of the wall. Base stones are large, flat, and wide for a strong
foundation. Corner stones will have at least one 90 degree edge. And face
stones have one flat edge suitable to make up the face of the wall.
Sloping your fieldstone wall for rain.
As you build, not all stones will set down level and easy. In that case you
can use smaller stones or crushed stone to shim the larger stone until it is
sturdy and roughly level. It is okay to tip the stones just slightly down
toward the outside of the wall to promote water runoff. Capping the wall
should be done with large, heavy stones. Their size and weight will help
keep the stones in the wall from shifting. The wall is finished when you
reach the final grade of the flower bed or earth to be retained, allowing
rain water to run off the top of the wall.
Settling and your fieldstone wall.
What we want you to do now.
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Build a fieldstone drystack wall, drystack garden border, or mortar on a fieldstone vineer. Visit our locations to buy your drystack fieldstone by the pallette.
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