How to Build Stone Walls & Steps
Natural Stone or Blocks?
I personally prefer the look of natural stone walls, and appreciate the craftsmanship involved in building with stone; however when a stone wall or steps are not built correctly they often fall apart, giving an unattractive look and most importantly become a safety issue.Building with natural stone can be more difficult than building with cement blocks, or the recently new landscape blocks such as versa-lock.When building with natural stone much more time is involved, and if you are hiring someone to build it for you, it can become much more costly than building with landscape blocks.The stone mason has to carefully select and shape each stone to fit in such a way that not only gives stability, but aesthetics as well.Whether you are planning to build steps or walls using natural stone or blocks, there are some basic building guidelines to follow that will ensure long lasting results.
Demolition on any construction job can be a lot of fun, but is not always easy.Just as much psychical work can go into taking apart stone steps and walls without the right equipment as building them, and if wanting to save the stone material to sell, or use for another project you will want to carefully dismantle your structure.A lot of landscapers look for natural stone for their projects, so if you have absolutely no use for the stone, and just want to get rid of it, have a landscaper come take a look.Most likely they will take it, and you may even make a few bucks.Also if the stone is of no value, look for signs and ads for clean fill wanted, and arrange to take it to those sites.
Once your pre-existing structure has been removed it is time to get your base established.Start by digging a trench minimally 6 inches deep and about 6 inches wider than the actual depth of your wall.Your first course of stone should be close to level with the ground. Before you start laying your first course of block make sure to add a layer stone dust, tamp it down and level it.Your first course should always be the most time consuming, but take your time getting this one perfect, for it will affect the whole rest of the project.
Building The Stone Wall & Steps
Now that you have your first course of block down and it is level on all sides, you can proceed to start your second course.Start by cutting one block in half with masonry saw, so that your joints are staggered.By staggering your joints you are increasing the stability of your wall.
Depending on how high your wall will be, and what your wall will be retaining, drainage is something that must be incorporated in the construction process.Before back filling your wall with dirt, back fill it with gravel leaving the top foot or so to fill with your final grade of soil.
Building steps can be a whole separate article in itself.The most important things to consider when building your steps are your height and run, and your pitch.The standard height is 7 inches and your run is 11 inches.Your run is not as important as the height, especially when building custom landscape stairways, but you do want to make sure that the steps can safely and comfortable be walked up and down by everybody.Be sure to have your steps pitch either forward or off to the side, so that water does not puddle up.In climate where temperatures get below freezing these puddles turn over to ice very quickly and step are definitely not the areas you want to slip on ice.
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