The Dry Stack Difference
A dry stack wall is a wall without mortar. It is usually a retaining wall that holds back a hillside. A mortared stonewall needs weep, or seeping, holes to allow water to pass through it so water pressure doesn’t build up, but dry stack walls can channel out water.
There are several special features that I’ve developed in my walls.
I like to have the ends of each wall flow down to fade and blend into the pathway so they appear to grow out of the earth. Another feature are the thick, wide and very level caps on the top of the wall. These are pleasing to view and make the wall look strong. I also like to set huge stones in my wall for a different look. These rocks fit especially well on the ends because they help anchor the wall at its weakest place.
I’m all about wall strength and durability. I’ve never had a wall move or fall over. The only way to remove it is take it down! One of my walls even went through a flood. I place about 2 ft of rock from front to back. This much rock provides mass and weight to the wall. I build walls so they are not only thick, but backed with rock and gravel and no dirt. This “no dirt zone” means that dirt will not bleed out the front of the wall every time it rains.
A dirt-backed wall makes a weaker wall, creates holes in it, and can shift over time and settle as the dirt leaves the wall. When properly built, a wall should stand for generations. Some of the old stonewalls where I live were built 150 years ago. Walls around the world have lasted 2,000 years. The ancient Machu Piccho in Peru is made with dry stack construction.
I look forward to each wall as a new challenge in creating the best artwork I can make. I find a lot of enjoyment in stacking stone because I go into an almost mindless space. As I’m working, each step makes perfect sense without having to think about it. It’s satisfying to build something that looks amazingly good when I’m done and lasts a long time.
The beauty of a dry wall is that I can create it as I go along. This helps me to fit the wall to my artistic vision, a particular stone or the needs and ideas of my many clients. I’m able to make curves and height variations as the building progresses as well as blend the wall with the surrounding landscape.
I have been Stacking Stone in and around Nevada County for over 20 years. Over that time I have learned many things that have helped me develop my own technique and style. Many of these Old Style Techniques are concepts that have been used for centuries to create art that is both permanent and functional.
The stones I use come from a variety of quarries. Many are handpicked or special stones that have been gathered by my clients or me personally. They often provide a variety of color, shapes and sizes that help make the wall interesting and pleasing to look at for years to come.
I always like doing new styles. Each wall I do is suited to its surroundings, making it different even if I use the same stone. In the last eight years, I have learned to do mortar work where it is needed, such as a free standing stone wall. This enables me to have a thinner, free standing wall when needed. The mortar is usually not visible, but tucked in behind the stones so the wall looks like a dry stack. Unlike a true dry stack style which is backed by dirt, a mortared wall can be built on level land.