Botanica Atlanta | Landscape Design, Construction & Maintenance


Atlanta Garden Design

Dry-Stacked Walls in the Landscape

Posted by Author on March 29, 2016 at 8:15 PM

Images: Mark Wheadon & Diamond Geyser


If you imagine a wall, there is a good chance that your mind goes to mortar. Mortar, considered all but compulsory on brick and stone buildings in the modern world, certainly has its advantages. Mortared walls are firm and fixed; crisp and refined; and can readily support such attachments as swinging gates and light fixtures.


Images: Jon Hill & Diamond Brooke


It is worth noting that -- when you are building a landscape wall of brick, block, stone, or even wooden masonry units -- you have a choice. Selecting a "dry stacked" or "dry laid" wall has some distinct advantages.


Images: Karl Norling & Anthony Tong Lee


First off, with nothing to "glue" the wall units together, there is flexibility for some amount of movement. In essence, the open joints can absorb soil settlement without noticeably cracking but also without requiring the construction of an expansion joint.


Images: Duncan Cumming & Bart Lumber


The reason that cracks do not emerge in a dry-stacked wall is that deep, shadowed joints are simply part of the design. With lower expectations for formality and precision, dry-stacked walls require shallower, simpler foundations, and often all that is needed for a solid base is to bury a few inches of the first course below grade. Weep holes, required for through-drainage in concrete and mortared retaining walls, can also be omitted due to the loose structure of a dry-laid wall.


Images: Sonja Lovas & Robert J. E. Simpson


While there is a lower baseline for craftsmanship with a dry-stacked wall, the level of care, experience, and creativity that goes into one of these walls is easy for anyone to detect. The most impressive and durable dry-stacked walls are built by old-school craftsmen, often with a great degree of laborious tooling, chinking, and brainpower. A builder who is both creative and skilled can tailor a dry-stacked wall to harmonize with the landscape and nearby architecture; walls can take on an ordered ashlar pattern or incorporate large boulders and small pebbles into an organic composition.

Images: John Seb Barber & Rick Payette


At the bottom of the heap - in terms of stability, craftsmanship, and cost - is simply a linear pile of rubble. With a range of options, it is critical to reflect on the purpose of any new walls in your landscape. Do you need a perimeter wall for safety or security? Are you trying to hold back the sea or just keep your pets on your property? Do you need a wall or just a visual border? Ask yourself these questions before laying the first stone.


Image: Al Crompton



Categories: Landscape Construction

Post a Comment


Oops, you forgot something.


The words you entered did not match the given text. Please try again.

Already a member? Sign In

1 Comment

Reply Johnson
7:04 AM on March 18, 2017 
Wuzza tree Service cut down two trees in our backyard. They were super fast and we were impressed with how well they cleaned up as well. From the estimator to the crew that cut down the trees to the office staff we had a very consistent experience: they did what they said they were going to do when they said they were going to do it with great customer service at ?.