A DIY Stacked Stone Wall – Part 1

Mr. D&D and I have always loved stacked stone walls. We’ve long been inspired by this very lengthy wall that borders a main road near our neighborhood.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 8.07.53 AM

via Google Maps (streetview)

…as well as this mortared one in front of an old farm that we pass by regularly.

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via Google Maps (streetview)

We’ve also noticed short rows of stacked stone in front of many homes as part of their landscaping and added a small one a few years ago to our (currently neglected) perennial garden.

perennial garden1

And last summer, we built a short DIY stone wall around our hosta garden.

Hosta Garden with DIY stacked stone wall

It was a fun project, so I was not surprised when Mr. D&D suggested another more ambitious stacked stone wall for this area.

pachy berm


There’s a drainage swale (ditch) that runs the length of our yard, located directly behind the pachysandra in the photo, and well below the bushes on the right. So the area in the photo above is divided and inclined on both sides. We’ve been increasingly using that part of the yard and the view of the swale looks a little “meh”… so it’s been on Mr. D&D’s wish list for some time.  (If you’re not interested in the “how to” and just want to see the finished walls, click here.)



I’ll start out by saying there are many ways to skin a cat (and who actually would skin a cat, anyway). Mr. D&D researched plenty of web tutorials, and this post describes the combined version that we came up with…as amateurs and hobbyists.

That said, there are also plenty of one-time stone walls near our house—some built by landscapers—that are now long, crumbled heaps of stone.

A few weeks ago, Mr. D&D got busy hacking out weeds and brush.  This photo offers a better view of the contrast in the two areas.pachysandra bermLast year we had some stone left over from the hosta garden project…so to the left of the area shown above is a hastily assembled stack of all the leftover stones (with no preparation, drainage, or backfill of any kind). So far, it has held up fine and kept the brush from creeping forward.
hasty stacked stone

Given the slope of the hill, we decided the new section will be a dry stacked stone retaining wall, divided into two levels.

Mr. D&D cleared away all the remaining brush, chopped up even more of the dirt and started to envision where the path of the wall would lay.  (And while he was doing that, I got busy weeding out the nastiness under the willow tree below…)Retaining wall project
Once the space was identified, he dug trenches that were about 6 – 8 inches deep, which we lined with landscape fabric and filled with bags of drainage stone. He also dug a deep hole at the front left corner for a granite directional marker that we had purchased at a nursery clearance sale last fall.

DIY stone wall prepFollowing some on-line tutorials, we sloped the drainage stones ever-so-slightly downhill and folded the fabric over the stones  It was a little breezy that day, so I placed small stones on the folds, planning to remove them once the big stones were ready to be placed.

Prep for DIY stacked stone wall
We selected four pallets of stone (we plan to use the fourth, and leftovers from the third, in another area). We looked for somewhat uniform color and size for the wall stones, and added a pallet of thinnish stones because they can easily be stacked to match thicknesses.

We ended up using about two and a half pallets of stone for this project, but having extra stones to choose from was VERY helpful (as it minimized bickering and accusations of stone stealing 🙂 )

DIY Stacked Stone Wall
The stones looked so perfect on the pallet…like all we’d have to do is just take off a row and put it into place. Foolish earthlings…

We loaded the stones into a dump cart (many, many times, while reminding ourselves, btw, that we technically might already be eligible for AARP cards) and hauled them into the area where we were working. There was much complaining under the hot July sun.DIY Dry Stacked Wall

As we unloaded the stones, we sorted them into piles: large-area stones, chunky thick pieces, skinny shims, medium sizes, and stones we thought were too-small-to-use (hold that thought, because they turned out to be pretty important and useful).

Sort the Stones for the DIY Stacked Stone wall

There was barely room to walk to the work area…tripping hazards were everywhere!  Spread out before us were dozens of pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and the next step was to assemble them into a wall…or two.

But it was hot, and we were getting testy…which is always a VERY good time to take a break.  (Be sure to check out this post: DIY Stacked Stone Wall – Part 2 for the finished walls.)

waterbreak  Kelly thought it was time for a break, too.

Too hot for these old dogs
Note: Professionals might have different or other methods.  In fact, some of the tutorials we surveyed were a downright contradiction to each other, so WE went with what we thought would work for us.  Again, this is a documentation of a hobbyist project.

If you have a constructive comment or suggestion that would be helpful, you are enthusiastically invited to leave it below. 



    Beautiful!! Did you have to visit the chiropractor when you were finishd?

    • EmDirr

      Hilarious! Not this time (…but there HAVE been other endeavors that triggered some sciatica…UNfun!).