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Building a Rock Wall | Ask the Expert

Building a Rock Wall | Ask the Expert
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Too often, Gardner adds, novice builders pay too much attention to the individual stones and not the rock wall as a whole. “They look for beautiful stones and then lug them around trying to find a spot for them,” he says. Instead, look at what the wall needs and find stones to fit those areas. “It’s a matter of becoming more attuned to what your materials will do and staying patient,” Gardner advises.


A sturdy wall, Gardner says, is one in which “the independent stones are not dependent on just one other stone to hold their position.” To enhance stability, builders incorporate the two-over-one/one-over-two practice, which caps the seam between two rocks with another stone above it. Long seams running up or across the wall, Gardner adds, weaken the structure’s strength significantly.

Staying Straight

One simple method for keeping your wall straight and looking level is to build within a defined area marked by stakes and string. Another, and Gardner’s favorite, is to use an element of the surrounding landscape–such as the clapboard lines of a house–as a visual reference. “That means that in the end, even if it’s not dead level to an instrument, it looks level,” Gardner explains. “In the end, it matters how it appears, not what it is.”

Ian Aldrich


Ian Aldrich


Senior editor of Yankee Magazine: Ian, a native New Englander who has worked and freelanced for Yankee for the past decade, writes feature stories, home pieces, and helps manage the magazine's up-front section, First Light. His stories have ranged from exploring the community impact from a church poisoning in a small town in northern Maine to dissecting the difficulties facing Nantucket around its problems with erosion. In addition to his connection to Yankee, Ian worked as a senior editor of Cincinnati Magazine for several years.

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