Phase III – Walkway + Gardens – Westford, MA

In the next phase of this project we rebuild and reshape the garden walls and lay a new walkway/patio.  The existing gardens were badly overgrown and the walls were falling apart.  The paver walkway was deteriorating and overgrown with moss.

Original Front Wall

Existing Front Wall

Existing Walkway

Existing Walkway

Existing Garden Wall

Existing Garden Wall

Existing Landing

Existing Landing

Then by dismantling the front stone wall it leaves us enough stone to rebuild that wall as well as rebuild/extend the garden wall.

Extending the Garden Wall

Extending the Garden Wall

Next we lay the walkway.  For this we use a unique type of flagging called Goshen Stone.  It is quarried locally in Goshen, MA and has a silvery, lustery appearance.

Goshen Walkway + Landing

Goshen Walkway + Landing

Along with the stonework we weed and prune the gardens and transplant desirable plants as needed.  The hillside is also planted with a variety of perennial ground covering plants and a few select shrubs.  Fresh topsoil is also spread over the whole yard and hyrdro-seeded.

Goshen Walk and Garden Wall

Goshen Walk and Garden Wall

Rebuilt Front Garden Wall

Rebuilt Front Garden Wall

Completed walk and garden

Completed walk and garden

Hyrdo Seeded and Hillside Planting

Hyrdo Seeded and Hillside Planting

View from the stream bed

View from the stream bed

In the spring we can return to see the grass and hillside grown in.  Finished photos to come.

Phase II – Drainage – Westford, MA

After rebuilding the failed retaining wall and clearing the hillside, the next task is to solve the drainage issue.   With the house sitting behind a hillside, the front yard catches a lot of runoff and has nowhere to shed it.  In addition, the subsoil is clay which holds the water on the surface and has created swamp like conditions in the front yard and around the side of the house.

Swamped Yard

Swamped Yard

The gravel channel below the stone wall will catch a lot of water from the hillside and send it down the length of the wall.  From there we will pick up the flow and continue a stream bed on the surface to channel the water around the house and to a pool at the lower end of the property.  The dry stream bed will serve as a functional drainage ditch while also adding an attractive feature to the home.  Left over stones from the wall and other boulders from around the property are used to line the stream and the pond.

 

Shaping the Stream

Shaping the Stream

Dry Stream Boulders

Dry Stream Boulders

The pond is lined with bentonite, a substance that is mixed into the soil and that then swells to to create a water seal.  A drain is set at the the bottom of the pond with a shutoff valve so the homeowner can let the pond fill, or drain it completely.  An overflow drain is set slightly below the surrounding grade so that the water level never overflows the bank.

drainage pond

drainage pond

Back at the front yard more drainage trenches are dug with some surface drains added to ensure proper drainage.  All trenches are channeled to the stream bed.  At the end top soil is added back to the yard and graded to pitch water towards the wall and drains.

drainage channls

drainage channls

By using existing material and working with the lay of the land – we’ve solved the drainage issue, reclaimed a large portion of lawn that was overgrown with wetland growth, and in it’s place left attractive stone and water features. (finished photos to come)

Stone Walls: Dry vs Wet

Dry vs Wet laid Stone Walls:

One of the first questions many homeowners ask when proposing a new stone wall is whether the wall should be built with or without the use of mortar.  (A “wet” stone wall uses mortar, while a “dry” stone wall does not). Different factors can effect this decision, but we at Concord Stoneworks will most often recommend a dry stone wall.  In this article we will discuss why this is so and the advantages and disadvantages of either option.

split face stone wall

Mortared Stone Wall – Split Face Stones

A wet stone wall is designed as a rigid structure.   When external forces are exerted on the wall, (ground settling, frost heaving, errant snow plows, etc.), the wall is designed to withstand the forces and hold its form.   A well-built, mortared stone wall with a solid base and backing will hold up for quite some time, yet, it is inevitable that at some point movement will occur. When it does, and when the forces become too great for the wall to withstand, the material cracks. When this occurs the repairs are not easy. Patchwork will be unattractive and do little for the structural integrity. Rebuilding the wall or portions of it will be labor intensive and may require all new material.

On the other hand a dry laid stone wall is flexible. Water drains through it naturally, and any minor settling or shifting that occurs is absorbed by the wall and goes largely unnoticed. Even if major failure does occur for some reason, the wall or portions of it are easy to dismantle and rebuild using the same material.  Repaired portions will also blend seamlessly into the existing wall.

Drystack Stone Wall - S. Windsor, CT

Drystack Stone Wall – S. Windsor, CT

One of the advantages of a mortared stone wall is that it is easier to achieve a high level of finish. While building the wall, the mason can rely on the adhesive properties of the mortar to hold the stones in place. This makes it easier to focus on facing the wall to create a very flat and consistent finish.

A dry stone mason uses gravity only to hold the wall together.   Each stone is laid with structural integrity in mind. Instead of facing the wall with a stone’s flattest face, the stones are stacked so that the heft of the stone ties back into the wall and holds everything together. This produces a more rustic or traditional look. Extremely high finish dry stone walls do exist, but they take extra time and care to produce.

Lastly and most importantly, it is often less costly to build a dry stone wall. Wet stone walls require a rigid concrete base, mortar for the wall and the machinery/labor to mix the mortar, and proper drainage.  This additional prep work is necessary to try and prevent any movement.

Dry stone walls on the other hand are built with a simple gravel base and backing. They require no additional drainage and the only material needed is the stone itself.

Dry stone walling is a unique skill that not all masons fully understand and appreciate.   Although there is a time and place for wet stone walls, we at Concord Stoneworks much prefer the aesthetic, function, and efficiency of a dry stone wall.