Dry Stack Stone Wall Cost Guide
Dry stacking is a traditional form of building still popular today in many different cultures and locations. The stability of dry stack stone walls comes from interlocking stones and compressional force rather than a mortar, so the strength, shape and size of the building stones is a key to the durability of the final product.
Average cost per square foot of purchased materials for a dry stack wall:
- Minimum = $5
- Maximum = $60
Because building a dry stack stone wall is labor-intensive, the bulk of any contractor's bill for this task will be for the cost of labor. If a homeowner decides to tackle the work of a dry stacsk stone wall him or herself, the bottom line will be significantly cheaper, but maneuvering large stones will take a physical toll and may require additional help or equipment. The final costs of a dry stack stone wall will depend on the geographic location of the home and the stones readily available. If suitable stone exists on the property, material costs will be virtually zero, but if a homeowner is interested in a particular type of stone for aesthetics, the cost of the project can quickly skyrocket.
If one chooses to complete a dry stack stone wall as a DIY project, the costs of the project will come exclusively from tools and materials. Although dry stack stone walls do not require mortar or a highly-specialized skill set, a homeowner does need a few basic supplies including a heavy hammer, a pick and a shovel, a 3-foot level, selected stone and backfill materials. Stone screens, landscape fabric, string, wooden stakes, a wheelbarrow, a tape measure and gloves will also come in handy, but the most costly materials will be the stone and the backfill materials.
Although stone is available in a wide range of types, colors, sizes and shapes, one should carefully consider local stone for the best price. Most landscape supply yards will carry a range of wall stones and flagstones that are locally mined and quarried. If a homeowner chooses a type of stone quarried from farther away, the materials will need to be specially ordered, adding time and money to the project. Manufactured stone veneer is also an option and typically costs less than natural stone.
In addition to the building stones, one must acquire backfill materials. When planning for a dry stack stone wall, homeowners should estimate one-third gravel and two-thirds soil of backfill to ensure proper drainage.
When planning for the cost of building a dry stack stone wall, a homeowner should plan for 10 to 15 percent extra stone; then, he or she has extra from which to choose the best-looking and best-fitting stones.
In order to choose the best stone for a dry stack stone wall, a homeowner needs to be familiar with the range of landscaping stone types available.
These three stone choices can be used for dry stack stone walls but are better suited for patios and walks:
- Flagstone is quarried stone fractured into flat slabs at least 1 1/2 inches thick. It is often used for paving and works well set in sand or mortar. It is available in many varieties, most commonly bluestone, granite, limestone, redstone, sandstone and slate. Because of its irregular shapes, it is most frequently used in geometric patios, walks or stepping stones and set with mortar.
- Cut stone is flagstone with straight-cut edges and square corners, making it a better choice for dry stack stone walls. Pieces range from about 1 foot to 4 feet wide, and the thickness varies.
- Cobblestone is small, relatively consistent-sized stones cut primarily for use in walks or paths. They can be square or round, flat or slightly domed. The diminutive size of cobblestone makes installation easy but very time-consuming.
The following four stone choices are best suited for dry stack stone wall construction:
- Ashlar is a stone cut into fairly regular shapes with relatively flat sides. Because it comes in different thicknesses, ashlar has an interesting and distinctive look when stones are placed in alternate courses on a dry-stacked wall.
- Fieldstone, literally stone that is gathered from fields, comes in various sizes and is almost always round. To make the dry stack wall construction easier and the final product sturdier, homeowners should look for quarries or landscape suppliers that offer split fieldstone with at least one cleft edge.
- Rubble is quarried small stones of irregular sizes. One side is often cleft.
- Stone veneer can be either natural stone or a stone-like material cast from concrete or synthetic material. Typically, stone veneer is cut or molded into thin sections and applied as a cosmetic facing material on walls, but it can also be used in smaller dry stack walls.
When a homeowner is deciding on the best stone for a dry stacked wall, one should keep in mind stone that is flat on the top and bottom or stones that have a more block-like shape will be easier to build with, thus taking less time and energy. Larger stones can also be easier to use and give a more uniform final product than smaller stones, and the largest stones should always be used in the base to give the wall greater stability.
Another material that will give the wall stability is the backfill. As a general rule, the bottom third of the backfill should be gravel with a large piece of landscape fabric running underneath and then wrapped over the top to prevent the top layer of soil from seeping into the gravel and preventing proper drainage.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Dry Stack Stone Walls
Dry stack stone walls are stable, durable and long-lasting if properly assembled. If they are built from local stone, they are inexpensive, and they have a nature beauty that lends itself to landscaping, making them both aesthetically pleasing and functional.
Unfortunately, installing a dry stack stone wall, including trenching and hauling large stone, can be very labor intensive. This material is best for walls between 2 and 4 feet high because any dry stack wall built higher than 4 feet is sure to topple. Because of their structure, dry stack stone walls are also difficult to move and can be hard to repair or replace.
Last updated on Apr 1, 2015
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