Why consider a dry stone wall for my landscape?

Why consider a dry stone wall for my landscape?

Building with the dry-laid method is one of the earliest skills that humans developed. These mortar-less stone walls are known throughout various regions of North America and British Isles.

A properly built wall can stand for more a hundred years with minimum maintenance, with some even lasting for centuries. Every dry stone wall has two sides: the outside face of the wall you will see, and the inside heart of the wall you will not see, but serves the key element to preserving the wall.

The stones work in unison with one another to provide a permeable fluid unified structure.

Why no mortar?

History has provided a blueprint for this developing craft and modern engineering has allowed many forms of using stone in structures, but why no mortar?

Dry stone walls provide structural durability. It is nearly impossible for the freeze cycle to deteriorate a wall that is properly built. A dry-laid wall has built in flexibility so that ground movement has no effect and an expensive footing is not required.

The small spaces between stones permit drainage and air circulation, which protect the wall from hydrostatic pressure. The dry stone wall professes magnificence, the stoic mystery behind the craft and victory over the elements.

Why does it not fall over?

Every stone structure relies on its designer and builder to ensure all components are harmoniously working together, which makes the craftsman the most important element in preserving a walls integrity and lifetime. 

Every wall should have a solid foundation, properly calculated batter and methodically laid stones that support the neighboring stones in the wall. Every stone in the wall has a purpose, the stones you do not see are not gravel or scrap rock, which is the most common mistake made by uneducated masons.

Ultimately, the engineering behind dry stone wall uses gravity and friction to its advantage. Gravity pulls the weight of each stone upon the lower stones it sits on to hold them in place and friction to keep the individual stone connected to the contiguous wall.

Why the certification?

What defines a “dry stone” wall is not the absence of mortar, but the elements that keep the wall standing forever. Many people claim knowledge of this ancient craft but in reality only have the ability to sell a façade. 

The Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain (DSWA) and the Dry Stone Conservancy of USA (DSC) have educators, examiners and certifications in order to preserve the integrity of this craft. This provides you, the customer, with a known standard for the quality of work that you are paying for and expect. 

A trustworthy dry stone mason works hard to achieve this certification, studying and with masons from around the world, devoting endless hours building walls in every style and in every environment to prove their aptitude and proficiency. 

About this Angie’s List Expert: Daniel Arabella is the owner of Arabella Stone Co., providing landscaping services in Minneapolis. Since 2010, Arabella Stone Co. has specialized in building stone structures, dry stone walls and much more. You can follow this #ALExperts contributor on Twitter @ArabellaStoneCo.

As of March 13, 2014, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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