Dry stone walls stand test of time – News – recordonline.com
Ever heard of dry stone walls? It’s worth investigating if you’re looking for a sturdy, green fence that will stand the test of time. Read our interview with John Bland from Montreal’s John Bland Stonecraft and discover the ancient craft of drywall.
What is a dry stone wall?
A dry stone wall consists of only one ingredient – natural stone. There is no mortar sticking everything together or a backup made of concrete blocks.
How does it stay up?
You create structure by laying stones intelligently and holding them together using gravity and friction.
I follow a few basic rules, like “two bricks over one and one over two,” like in bricklaying. Rate your stones – largest at the bottom, smallest at the top. The walls should actually be inclined into each other so that a cross-section has a rough A-shape.
Do you need a foundation?
Questionable. I always bury my first stone course. I like making the basic course a lot wider than the rest of the wall so that it serves as a foundation. Here in Montreal we have clay soil so I would add a gravel bed for drainage.
What is the advantage over a mortar stone wall?
Longevity. Mortar walls are subject to freeze-thaw cycles that cause the mortar to deteriorate, crack, and eventually fall apart. However, dry stone walls are weather resistant – ideal if you live in a cold climate.
A dry stone wall behaves like a bicycle chain; it can move, but it stays connected to each other even in the spring when the ground moves like crazy. Every joint in a mortar wall is very hard and stiff, but every joint in dry stone is essentially an expansion joint.
What are dry stone walls used for?
Decorative fences, fire pits, tables, a base for a grill in an outdoor kitchen with a niche for firewood. I’ve made a couple of bridges. Anything you can do with masonry, you can do with dry stone.
How green is dry stone wall?
Possibly very green. Most of the walls I build are field stone; No quarry is necessary. Since I don’t use mortar, no greenhouse gas producing cement or lime is needed. Most of the time, stone is actually collected from the property I’m building on, so the only carbon footprint is driving to and from the site.
When I go to work I bring a bucket and a couple of hammers and chisels … no glue, no power tools, no dust, no noise. A crowbar and dolly will help, but that’s all I need to run my business.
Which stone shape works best?
To be honest, lately I’ve been enjoying working with ugly stones, really gnarled, horrible looking ones that most people would call trash. It’s funny; You don’t need a perfect stone to build a beautiful wall.
What kind of maintenance is it?
The worst enemy of a dry stone wall is vegetation. If you notice a small seedling growing in the base of the wall, remove it before it becomes a full-grown tree and destroys your wall. This is the only maintenance problem to my knowledge.
How long does a drywall last?
Over 150 years, sometimes far more. If you are building on bedrock there is no ground movement and who knows how long your wall could last?
Is drywall feasible as a DIY project?
Yes. There is no right or wrong way to do this. You can take stones and stack them however you want. However, I recommend doing some exercise first. If you want to build a wall that is relatively high, you will have to work with a lot of weight on drywall. You don’t want it to fall over and hurt anyone.
The Stone Trust in Vermont offers workshops that anyone can sign up for, as well as certification training.
How did you get into your job?
I studied at Heritage Masonry College because I loved the historic architecture in Old Montreal. As a student, I helped restore a fort, a Park Canada heritage site. It was cool, but we had to stick to a diagram. The work did not occupy my creativity. Shortly afterwards, I was introduced into dry stone walls and thought, “This is amazing!”
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.