Dry Stone Walling – Guide to Build Amazing Wall

Dry Stone Walling – Guide to Build Amazing Wall

Mar 27, 2023

We are living in the stone age. Of course, not in a primitive era, but the advanced stone era. Now, again the dry-stone walling is trendy albeit, with the high-quality source material and highly trained professionals to give you sophisticated dry-stone walls and structures. World of Stones USA is illustrating a perfect guide to build amazing walls using modern dry-stone walling technologies and techniques. Let’s learn it.

In the modern era, Dry Stone Walling is a buzz in the construction industry, particularly in hardscaping projects. The application of dry-stone walling is equally trendy, like natural stone paving projects.

If you believe in an age-old myth that dry stone walling is good for farms and fields, you might prove wrong when you see it in the sophisticated places like outdoor patios, gardens, and façade of expensive homes.

Indeed, the dry stone walling trend is prevailing in the construction of a courtyard boundary and retaining wall projects in recent years. However, you can find decent dry-stone walls in Kings’ places in global history.

History of Dry-stone Walls

In Europe and other geolocations, dry stone walls are existing dated back to the 7,000 BC (Beginning of the Neolithic Age) when humankind has begun domestication of animals. They needed drystone walling to keep animals wandering off by creating protective boundaries in their inhabitants.  

What Is Dry Stone Walling?

As its name suggests, it is a wall made up of dry stones without mortar or binding/gluing stuff/solution. The dry-stone wall structure is sustaining based on gravity and friction principles. 

  • Friction: It exists between stones and keeps stones from sliding apart.
  • Gravity: It comes with a weight of stones and ultimately increases the friction.

Skilled dry-stone walling professionals have created taller walls and even the entire temples in the ancient era of civilization. They are so stable and strong that Malta’s Hagar Qim Temple, built in the 4th century B.C., is standstill even today with all required safety and security for its visitors.

How to Build Dry-stone Wall – A Step-by-Step Guide

Unlike mortar-based or cement-concrete wall construction, dry stone walling is an art and demands especial skills in it. Therefore, modern technical universities and colleges are running certificate and diploma courses to train aspirants to work at a professional level, meeting the modern challenges using the latest technologies and tools.

However, in most of the cases, people prefer to go DIY (Do-it-Yourself) ways. So, we are going to simplify the guide accordingly.

Step One: Learn the Basics of Dry-stone Walling

Without learning the basics of dry-stone wall construction, we cannot create a quality structure that can last long. 

  • A moderately deep foundation requires for dry stone walling project depending on the nature of the soil and height of the wall.
  • Install 4” protruding foundation.
  • Select large, medium, and small sizes for dry stone walling.
  • The dry-stone wall must have a batter, which has a narrow top and wide bottom to give wall stability against the wind, water, snow, and other forces. 
  • We can depict batter as a ratio of the run (Horizontal distance) to rise (Vertical distance). The typical ration is from 1:6 to 1:10.
  • 1:6 ratio means for every 6” of rising (height) the wall gets 1” of the run – narrower 1” on each side.

Step Two: Accumulate Required Tools

Professional dry-stone wall masons have a range of basics to sophisticated tools and equipment to carry work at a professional level. However, for DIY enthusiastic, basics tools are enough.

The first set of tools is Batter Frame. 

  • It has a horizontal and vertical component to give it a battered shape and help in running threads of strings on each side at different levels as the work progresses.
  • The leg is a horizontal component in batter, indicating the height of the wall below throughs. In typical cases, it is 18.”
  • A tie is indicating the height of the wall below top-stone or cover-band in Scotland. 

The second set of tools is of shovels. It is to dig the ground for preparing the dry-stone wall foundation.

The third set of tools is of hammers. 

  • Brick or mason hammer of about 22 oz for fixing the stones. 
  • 2 to 4lb hammers help in stone trimming. 
  • 6 to 10lb sledgehammers use for breaking the large stones.

Other essential tools are as follows.

  1. Mason string line to guide stone facing and set run.
  2. Bucket to carry small to mid-size stones.
  3. Gloves to protect your hands from cutting skins and dirt.
  4. Tap measures to the various measurements.
  5. Protective glasses.
  6. 2-feet level.
  7. Line level.
  8. 1-foot level.
  9. Brick hammer.
  10. 2lb drilling hammer.
  11. Chisel to cut stones.

Step Three: Sourcing the Material

Here, dry stone pieces are only the material used in the construction of dry-stone walls. 

Where to get the dry-stone walling material?

In the old days, dry-stone walls constructed from the stones available in the general vicinity. In many instances, people have re-used stones from the broken walls or the waste dumping sites. However, today it is illegal and prohibited by most States and countries in the world. 

Stones from quarries are the best option to explore for quality and quantity at a time. Fortunately, today, we have natural stone suppliers like World of Stones USA, which has a vast network of distributors, and you can catch one of them in your vicinity. 

stone supplier who is processing for dimension stones used to have by-products and wastage of different sizes and types of stones. You can find the right raw materials for your dry-stone walling projects at a comparatively cheaper rate and excellent delivery facilities in a bonus.

Step Four: Stacking the Material

Right staking of the raw material for the construction of a dry-stone wall can ease the tasks a lot. Let’s learn it.

  • Keep the large size category of stones near the wall, but leave a gap of 2 feet to ease working around.
  • Doty the stones in the piles of a large, medium, and small sizes. 
  • Keep the smaller size of stones at the farthest distance. The mid-size of stones at the middle, and the large near the wall. It helps stonemason to pick the right one quickly and carry heavyweight at the shortest distance. 
  • Select the right size for Coping (tie) and Through (leg) stones. Place those away from the regular stacks of the stones. So, you can avoid mistakes. 

Step Five: Laying Foundation

Strong and stable dry-stone walling is only possible with a strong foundation as per standard recommendations in the industry.

  • Dig a shallow trench for the foundation/footing with the desired depth & width of your dry-stone walling according to your plans.
  • Set footing in a trench somewhat wider than the wall. 
  • Dig down up to firm soil base or prepare a base by appropriate base material like stone aggregates or gravels.
  • Press the base to make it even and flat and a thin layer of sand as a cushion layer.
  • Use the largest stone pieces like throughs or coping running from one face to another.
  • Avoid rounded shape stones; instead, use flat and anti-skid surfaced stone pieces to avoid slide when pressure on the top increases.

Dig square edges at both sides and fill those up with crushed stone aggregates or smaller pieces of wastage of stones.

Step Six: Building Layers of Dry-stone Wall


  • Stack the biggest stones in the bottom and smaller on the top portions of the dry-stone wall.
  • A joint in one course must bridges by a stone in the next course.
  • Select solid angular shaped stones as hearting stones and place those carefully as you go. 
  • Use batter and strings to keep the face of the wall accordingly to give it a perfect shape.

Through Stones:

  • The role of throughs or leg stone is to hold to sides of the wall together. It stops the wall bellying out and collapsing. 
  • Throughs mostly placed at the mid-point of the rise or total height of the wall if the wall is short like three feet. If the wall is high place throughs at the regular intervals.
  • Throughs decide the lifts in the wall, and the ideal height of a lift is 18” or something.


The topmost stone layer in the dry-stone walling is coping. The role of coping is akin to throughs, holding the stones below together, and provide a decorative element by applying different styles of coping.

Step Seven: Finishing Touch in Dry Stone Walling

Keep the wall face smooth and follow the batter to give it a neat shape. There are some additional structures to support the walls.

Wall heads:

It is a kind of pillar to hold the wall up. So, use the larger pieces of stones in rectangular shapes to create wall heads. 

Professional Approaches to Dry Stone Walling

In the ancient era, skills of dry-stone walling were passing in unorganized ways, mostly by one-on-one learning. However, today, ASLA and DSWA-GB, like non-profit and valid institutions, are providing professional-level courses like certificate and diploma programs.

ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architect) and DSWA-GB (Dry Stone Walling Association-Great Britain) are organizations providing standard training to create certified professionals.
By examining their projects, we can see the differences in DIY and professional work. They built dry-stone walls quickly and with superb finishing, as well as can keep high quality for various properties like strength and durability.
An ASLA Project of Dry-stone Walling

The Modern Applications of Dry-stone Walling

There are plenty of applications of dry-stone walling found in the modern era. The following are some peculiar instances.

A Dry-stone Wall with Curvature:

Of curse, create a curve in dry stone walling projects is daunting, but some are doing it outstanding ways.

An Outdoor Staircase with Dry Stones:

Outdoor stairs or steps are essential when you were landscaping the odd and uneven territories. Dry-stone walling techniques also work here beautifully and give the structure and aesthetic appeal.

The Garden Landscaping with Dry-stone Walls:

Garden landscaping is demanding creativity and varied components to include. Dry-stone walls are competent to provide different shapes and styles in landscaping like steps, retaining walls, planters, and slopes. 

A Flower Hicks Landscape with Retaining Dry-stone Walling:

Flower hicks or planters of different shapes and sizes also become a possibility with dry-stone retaining walls.

Dry Stone Garden Bridge

If you think the dry-stone technique is only for creating walls, it is not always true. You can see professionalism in the creation of a garden bridge with dry-stone material as sturdy as mortar or concrete bridges.

Where to get a better source of material for dry-stone walling?

World of Stones USA is a renowned supplier of natural stone raw material. If you wish to save your time in wondering for dry-stone walling material, it is a perfect destination for you in the USA. It has a wide network of distributors, and you can easily catch anyone in your vicinity. Alternatively, you can place your order online via our website.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.