Fieldstone Wall Construction: Mistakes to Avoid

Fieldstone wall
  • 24-48 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 1.000-4,000

Constructing a fieldstone wall is not terribly difficult. Some would even call it easy. However, because of the patience required and the physical labor involved, stone wall building can present a number of challenges.

Due to ignorance and the desire to speed the process along, many do-it-yourselfers make a number of mistakes. Avoid making these mistakes and your fieldstone wall will be strong and beautiful.

1. Hurting Your Back

Many do-it-yourselfers finish their fieldstone wall construction and have a pulled back to show for it. Because the stones can be heavy it is best to wear back support and use a wheelbarrow to transport the stones from one place to another.

When you construct a fieldstone wall, you will be lifting hundreds of stones. The repetition coupled with the weight of the large stones makes it very easy to hurt your back.

This mistake is easily avoided. Take the extra measures and protect yourself.

2. Building on a Lopsided Foundation

large boulder retaining wall for a raised bed in a yard

Constructing a fieldstone wall is time-consuming and many do-it-yourselfers try to cut corners by skimping on the hard parts. You have to dig a level trench and make sure it is level.

If the trench and the crushed stone don’t form a level foundation, your fieldstone wall won’t stand the test of time.

To avoid this disaster, have a level on hand and check the foundation before you lay the first stone. If it is not level, add more crushed stone. You may want to drag the bottom of the trench and then check again with a level.

3. Building a Wall Over Three Feet High

A fieldstone wall should not be constructed over three feet high.

If you’d like a higher wall you can build a stair step and construct one wall on one level and another wall one step higher. This will give you the final height you need but will not diminish the integrity of the wall.

To avoid having to build two walls, many novice do-it-yourselfers will build one wall over three feet high. This is a mistake because the wall will more easily succumb to the pressures of gravity and any soil or sand it may be retaining.

A wall over three feet high will not last and will require quite a bit of maintenance.

4. Constructing without a Back-leaning Slope

Gravity is one of the many forces that will challenge your fieldstone wall. If you build the wall in a straight vertical line it will almost surely fall as time passes.

Lay each layer of stones back about ½ inch. This keeps the wall from falling over.

5. Forgoing Gravel or Crushed Stone

gravel surface

One of the biggest mistakes a do-it-yourselfer could make is to set the fieldstones directly into the soil.

Placing gravel or crushed stone into the trench before you lay the stones helps the stone wall make it through the freeze and thaw cycle that can tear down the exterior stone.

It helps the water drain from the stones and also stops plants from growing up into the wall from beneath.