7 helpful pointers for building a garden wall

June 19, 2015

Whether you need to mark a boundary, highlight a border or hold back a slope, a wall adds structure and texture to the garden.

7 helpful pointers for building a garden wall

Your wall

Select a material that fits your style and budget.

  • While you can build a wall yourself, hire a professional if you want a wall over one metre high or if you don't want to deal with mortar.
  • Also, check with your municipality to see if there are restrictions on wall size and location in your area.

1. Shop locally for stone

  • When building a wall, look for a type of stone you like that is locally available in good supply.

Chances are good that once the wall is built, you will want to add other stone features to your landscape. They should match the type of stone in your wall.

2. Buy faced stone

  • Buy faced stone, which is flat on two sides for easy stacking.

You won't need to cut or shape the stone — simply sort through the pile to locate the best stone for each place in your wall.

3. Prepare a good foundation

Stacked stone requires a nearly level foundation that tilts slightly backward towards the slope.

  • A foundation for a brick wall must be absolutely level.
  • Cut the foundation into the soil with a spade, then use a thin layer of crushed stone to sculpt the foundation into perfect condition.

4. Bricklaying is an art

If you want to tackle a brick wall yourself, be sure to keep it level and plumb-check often with a string guide, level and bob.

  • If you set a brick too high, tap it into the mortar with the trowel handle.
  • If a brick isn't plumb, remove it, scrape it off and reset it; don't wiggle it around in the mortar.

5. For a professional finish

  • For a professional finish, use a pointing trowel to bevel the mortar on a brick wall while it's still moist.
  • Give horizontal joints a slight downward slope so they shed water.

6. Help water drain

  • Help water drain from a retaining wall built of landscape ties by drilling "weep holes" into the ties with an extension bit.
  • Or lay a piece of perforated drainage pipe behind the wall before backfilling with soil, and position the pipe's outlet where the water can do no harm.

7. Batter up

The slight backward slope of a wall, called the batter, helps the wall withstand pressure from the earth behind it.

  • Slant the wall 2.5 centimetres for every 30 centimetres of height.
  • Check the angle with a wooden "batter frame" and a plumb bob.

Clever cover-up

Conceal an unsightly wall by turning it into a shelter for stacks of firewood.

  • Add a small lean-to with a tile roof to protect the logs from rain.
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