How Retaining Stone Walls Are Made

Stone walls are as old as the hills. These walls date back to as far as before the birth of Christ. They are timeless pieces with both aesthetic and functional benefits for your landscape. Building a stone wall usually cost a lot of money not only in materials but also the labor cost. This might be discouraging, but it doesn’t have to. You can always do it yourself, especially if you’re not building above three or four feet, depending on your area building codes. 

There are two ways of building the wall. Either the dry stack method where you use only stones or the mortared wall method which requires concrete. Whichever method you choose to use, the steps for building a retaining stone wall and the things you should consider remains almost the same.


First, look into your area’s building code and talk to your neighbors if you’re building on land borders. You should also call 811 to know whether there are utility lines underground your property.

Determine the type of stone you’re using. It is advisable to go for local rocks because transportation cost is cheaper and they are adaptable to the climate. Flat cleaving stones and sedimentary rocks are the best choices as they usually break into easily-arranged pieces.

Design and Assembly of Materials

Plan the outline of your wall. The height, length, shape, and any other information you may need. The higher the wall you’re building, the broader and deeper its base should be.

Now that you have a plan. Get the materials and equipment you’ll need. These include stones, wheelbarrow, twines, stakes, boots, gloves and goggles, crowbar, shovel, etc. 

Organize Your Stones

Arrange the stones into different categories based on size and shape. This makes selection quicker when you start using them.

Excavate and fill the foundation

After marking out the area you intend to use with stakes and twines. Dig the trench that will serve as footer. If you’re using the dry stack method, the misshapen and worse stones in shape should be arranged at the footer and the gaps in between filled with smaller stones to give it a solid base. For mortared walls, it is concrete and steel rods that go into this trench.

Lay your First Course

The largest and heaviest stones should be at the bottom. Ensure they are flat so they will be level and stable. If it’s a mortared wall, this process is followed by concrete all over the course. Place a tie stone – a stone laying crosswise every 6 feet to tie the walls together.

Second course

They are laid in the same way as the first except that’s you stagger the stones here. This balances the strength of the wall. You can also set the stones about a half-inch back from the first course to create a batter. This helps the wall resist slope forces

Repeat the Process

In the same way, you’ve been laying the courses. As you go higher, raise the level line too and ensure you’re maintaining a straight and balanced wall. Install long stones that reach back to tie the walls to the earth by the third course.

Lay the Capstones

The stones at the top should be the best. They should be long, flat, and balanced but not too heavy to avoid weight unevenness to the top.