Types of Natural Stone Walls

Types of Natural Stone Walls

Here at Concord Stoneworks one of our favorite landscape construction projects are natural stone walls.  There are a variety of different methods of building a natural stone wall with a variety of different materials.  Because of this, each wall is a bit different and a poses a new and interesting project for us to take on.

As a customer you will want to understand what your options are so you can choose a stone wall that best fits your style and budget.

Fieldstone Walls:

Fieldstone refers to any stone that is harvested from the ground or a ‘field’.   Having been tumbled in the ground for centuries they are generally more rounded as opposed to freshly broken or quarried stone.  Fieldstone is harvested locally and relatively cheaper than other wall stone, although, the price will go up as it gets sorted into more consistent batches of shape, size, and color.  A typical stone yard will have separate piles of flats, rounds, weathered stone, sizes, and a mixed pile.  They will also have pallets of fieldstone that have been further sorted and selected for certain characteristics.  Fieldstone will vary quite a bit supply yard to supply yard and season to season so is something we must go and see in person before purchasing.

Fieldstone is suited for any type of stone wall, from low freestanding walls, to large structural retaining walls.  Seeing as it is a lower cost stone, and the stones can get quite large, they are especially well suited for larger scale walls.  A fieldstone wall generally has a lower level of finish than some other stone walls.  That is to say the face/cap aren’t completely flat and consistent, although, with enough care a high level of finish can be achieved.

Fieldstone walls can be either dry laid or set with mortar.  There are advantages and disadvantages to either method which you can read more about here.  We will most often suggest a dry laid fieldstone wall, but there is a time and place for either method.

fieldstone natural stone wall

Fieldstone Wall

Fieldstone Natural Stone Wall

Fieldstone Wall

 

Pennsylvania Fieldstone Wall:

Pennsylvania Fieldstone is a particular type of fieldstone that is common to our local supply yards.  PA Fieldstone is a smaller, flat stone.  It comes prepackaged on wooden pallets and will cost more per ton than the general fieldstone that can be bought by the truckload.  The smaller sized stones are good for building smaller scale walls but can be used for larger walls as well.  PA Fieldstone walls are usually set in mortar to keep the small stones from jostling or getting knocked out of place.   Although mortared, the stones are still stacked in the way that gravity would dictate so will have the appearance of a traditionally dry laid wall.

Pennsylvania Fieldstone Wall

Pennsylvania Fieldstone Wall

 

Colonial Wallstone:

Colonial Wallstone is another flat stone and is used in the same way as PA Fieldstone.  Colonial Wallstone comes from the bluestone quarries and is produced from cast off pieces that aren’t nice enough for the large, flat bluestone patio stones.  Colonial Wallstone is freshly broken/quarried, this means the faces are very flat, and as a softer stone it is easy to work with a chisel and hammer.  Colonial wallstone can be used to produce a very tight fitting, clean, and consistent finish.  And although often mortared, this stone is stacked in the way that gives it a dry laid appearance.

Colonial Wallstone stone wall

Colonial Wallstone stone wall

Colonial Wallstone stone wall

Colonial Wallstone stone wall

 

Antique Granite Wallstone:

Most of our local fieldstone is some sort of granite, but, here we are referring to the quarried white granite that you often see used as steps, cobble stones, posts, curbing, etc.  Quarried granite has usually been split into rectangular pieces and make it easy to piece together for a nice tight fitting wall.  Antique granite is great for drystack or can be mortared if necessary.

Antique Granite Wall

Antique Granite Wall

Antique Granite

Antique Granite

 

Split Face/Mosiac Wall

Split face or Mosiac Walls refer to some sort of freshly broken fieldstone or quarried stone.  Having been split, the stone has one very flat side that is used to face the wall.  In this sort of construction the focus is on facing the wall first, not stacking the stones for sturdiness.  This means that the wall must be mortared together, and to the trained eye it is apparent that the mortar is holding the form and not the weight of the stones.  Using split face stone and mortar it is easier to achieve a clean, flat finish, however you lose some of the visual weight and authenticity of a traditional stone wall.

Mosiac Stone Wall

Mosiac Stone Wall

Mosiac Stone Wall

Mosiac Stone Wall

 

Veneer Wall:

A veneer wall is a type of mortared stone wall in which the face stones are adhered to a structural concrete base/backing.  Veneer walls are often used on houses and foundations among other applications.  There are many different types of veneer stone.  Some have been manufactured and sliced to ~1″ thick and are more installed like tiles.   Others can be naturally flat stones similar to the Colonial Wallstone or PA Fieldstone mentioned above.  They may range from 1-4″ thick and the wall is pieced together with the larger flat face exposed.  Veneer stones are easy to cut and piece together to achieve a clean finish.

Veneer Stone Wall

Veneer Stone Wall

Veneer Stone Wall

Veneer Stone Wall

Veneer Stone Wall

Veneer Stone Wall

 

Modular Block Wall:

Concrete wall blocks are a manufactured product that can also be used to make masonry walls.  These blocks come in a wide variety of styles with different engineering systems and specs.  They are dry laid systems and can be installed much faster than natural stone walls.  Concrete block walls can look nice, are effective, and will often be more cost effective than natural stone walls.

wall block6 wal block5  block wall

In Conclusion:

This article includes a good sampling of the types of natural stone walls available to you.   As always there exists a number of other particular types of stone and methods of cutting and shaping them to fit together.  If there’s a particular natural stone wall you’ve always admired, bookmark it or snap a photo and we can do our best to match it.

So take a look around and see what catches your eye and get in touch when you’re ready to start planning your new natural stone wall.

 

Stone Walls, Patios, and Steps – Somerville, MA

Stone Walls, Stone Patio, and Stone Step Installation + Design:

This home in Somerville, MA was recently renovated inside, and the homeowners were now ready to create a new yard and entrance with stone walls, stone patios, and stone steps.  The existing front walkway, steps, and walls were made of concrete and rather unattractive, and there was need to retain the side of the driveway.

Existing Walkway, Steps, Wall - Somerville, MA

Existing Walkway, Steps, Wall – Somerville, MA

The backyard is mostly a blank canvas.  A previous construction project had used this area for staging material, and had spread dirt and gravel at the end.

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Existing Backyard – Somerville, MA

 

Landscape Design – Somerville, MA

With little experience with this sort of project, the homeowners sought our help to design their new space.  The front was fairly straightforward in layout, however, there were many details to consider with the pitch of the bluestone walkway, pitch of the stone walls, height of the stone walls, and height and location of the stone steps.

The backyard was a clean slate but again had grade issues to consider.  The whole yard sloped down towards the house, and there was an excess of material left over from previous construction. Given the conditions we proposed an idea to make use of the excess material instead of paying to haul it all away.  We did his by proposing a raised stone patio area to the left that is hemmed in by low stone walls, and natural ground to the right.  The patio runs flat and meets the natural grade towards the top of the yard.  A long stone wall runs along the back of the yard as a planter, and two wooden planters will sit on the patio in the sunny section for edibles.  The owners also requested a Bocce court pit which was included in the original design:

landscape design plan

landscape design plan

After determining the layout and grades we decide on materials.  We present some different options and the homeowners decide to use a thin stack style wall call Colonial Wallstone, solid granite steps, and thermal bluestone for the walkway + patio.

Installing Stone Walls, Granite Steps, and Bluestone Patio:

After excavating and disposing of the concrete we can start building our walls.  Colonial Wallstone is a thin flat type of stone that comes from the bluestone quarries.  It is the same material as bluestone, but the broken irregular pieces rather than the large flat paving stones.

stone wall installation - somerville, MA

stone wall installation – somerville, MA

 

stone wall installation - somerville, MA

stone wall installation – somerville, MA

The wallstone is stacked at the front and then back filled with gravel.  The mortar is kept hidden so that the joints appear natural, and various pores are left in the joints so that water can still drain through.  This avoids the need for unsightly weep holes or drain pipes.

The bluestone walkway is dry laid in a bed of stone dust.  These hefty stones will stay in place with gravity, and dry laying them is a less expensive and arguably longer lasting method:

bluestone walkway installation - Somerville, MA

bluestone walkway installation – Somerville, MA

The walls will also be capped with the bluestone pavers.  Since it is the same material as the wall stone it will blend in nicely while providing a consistent, flat cap.  In the manufacturing process the bluestone pavers are cut to shape and so the edges have an unnatural sawn edge.  Usually you don’t see the edges as the stones are set in the ground, but, since we are using them to cap the wall we must ‘rock face’ the edges so that they look natural.  This is done with a special stoneworking chisel that basically chips off pieces of stone to give it that natural appearance:

rock facing bluestone - somerville, ma

rock facing bluestone – somerville, ma

Here are the completed front stone walls, bluestone walkway, and granite steps:

IMG_1259 IMG_1260 IMG_1261 IMG_1262

Raised Bluestone Patio and Stone Walls:

Next we move on to the back yard.  Similar to the front we face the front of the walls and then backfill with gravel.  The difference here is that the wall will stand taller than the patio, so once the wall comes above patio level we face the wall on both sides.

raised patio and walls - somerville, ma

raised patio and walls – somerville, ma

raised patio and walls - somerville, ma

raised patio and walls – somerville, ma

raised patio and walls - somerville, ma

raised patio and walls – somerville, ma

According to the plan the stone walls enclose the patio but end about halfway up the slope where the patio level will meet the natural grade.  This will provide an easy transition from patio to ground, and no need for extra steps or walls.  Here you can see how the grades come together:

raised patio and walls - somerville, ma

raised patio and walls – somerville, ma

Next the rear retaining wall goes in.  This will retain the uphill yard and serve as a planting bed:

stone retaining wall - somerville, ma

stone retaining wall – somerville, ma

stone retaining wall - somerville, ma

stone retaining wall – somerville, ma

 

stone retaining wall - somerville, ma

stone retaining wall – somerville, ma

Next the bluestone patio goes in, the walls are capped, and we spread wood chips on the ground to keep mud/weeds down for the winter.  A base for the wooden planters has been set along the fence edge and a carpenter will come to complete that portion.

completed stone walls and patio - somerville, ma

completed stone walls and patio – somerville, ma

completed stone walls and patio - somerville, ma

completed stone walls and patio – somerville, ma

completed stone walls and patio - somerville, ma

completed stone walls and patio – somerville, ma

We will return in the spring to check on things and take finished photos.  There are plans to grow climbing plants beneath the bordering garage in attempt to cover the concrete block with greenery, and grow herbs in the wooden planters on the patio.  In the end the yard should be hemmed in by greenery to produce a nice cozy and private environment a midst a densely settled neighborhood.

In this stone wall, stone patio, and granite steps project, by considering the existing grades and material we’ve created a simple but compelling landscape design that will serve the homeowners well.

Stone Stairway and Walls – Maynard, MA

At this charming home in Maynard, MA the front entry way and retaining walls were in disrepair and unsightly.  With an appreciation for stonework, the homeowner desired to replace the wooden stairway with a natural stone stairway and to sure up the existing retaining walls.

Maynard, MA - before

Maynard, MA – before

Maynard, MA - Before

Maynard, MA – Before

After considering the site and deciding on materials, we draw a simple plan so that the homeowner can better visualize how the stairs will be situated.  Granite steps will be used for the stairs, bluestone pavers for the landings, and Pennsylvania Fieldstone for the walls.

Maynard, MA - Landscape Plan

Maynard, MA – Landscape Plan

Next we break ground and excavate for the new stairways.  Any good sized stones are saved to aid in the rebuilding of the walls.

Maynard, MA - Excavated Site

Maynard, MA – Excavated Site

Next the stairs and walls start going in.  We set the step, and then build the walls up to meet the level, and so on.  The stairway walls are mortared with cement but are meant to look like they aren’t.  The side walls and retaining walls are dry laid without the use of mortar.

Maynard, MA - Stone Steps

Maynard, MA – Stone Steps

The walls grow higher.  The #3 is salvaged from the original wall and set at eye level in the new stairway.

Maynard, MA - Stone Steps and Fieldstone Walls

Maynard, MA – Stone Steps and Fieldstone Walls

The stairs and walls reach finish height.  The upper retaining wall is built higher than the original was to help flatten out the steep grade of the gardens.  The side retaining walls are built with the existing stone and supplemented by the larger pieces of the PA wallstone that were purchased for the stairway.  Cobble stones and clay brick make up the bottom landing while bluestone is used for the upper landings and to cap the stairway wall.

Maynard, MA - Stone Steps and Stone Walls

Maynard, MA – Stone Steps and Stone Walls

After the railings go in the project is complete and some nice fall decorations bring it all together.   Take a look at the before and after.

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before

Maynard, MA - Stone Stairway and Fieldstone Walls

Maynard, MA – Stone Stairway and Fieldstone Walls

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Maynard, MA – Completed Granite Steps and Stone Walls

IMG_1158

Maynard, MA – Completed Granite Steps and Fieldstone Walls

IMG_1156

Maynard, MA – Completed Stone Stairway with Bluestone Landing