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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.