My crudely stacked stone wall has been thoroughly dissed by two online personas I take to be Landscape Architects as dangerous and unstable. I have previous interaction with them so I have to take their criticisms with a certain amount of respect.
I have to wonder does my former reputation in that forum bring out a dark side in some or have Landscape Architects in general gotten so entwined in codes and laws and lawsuits and high end clients that they have forgotten the fundamental building blocks from which their craft began?
So being a little worried about my wall I wandered off into the ether again to read more about dry stacked stone walls.
From an article in Carolina Home and Garden, “Water always wins,” observes Archambault. “Mortared walls in the ground don’t last as well as dry stacked because of hydrostatic pressure.” Which led me to this beautiful stone mason's site in Asheville North Carolina, The Unturned Stone.
"Dry-stack walls can move with changes in the soil without coming apart, so don't need rigid foundations," from an article in the Seattle Times on building dry stack walls written by Phil Wood another Landscape Architect.
The book I read by David Reed another local Asheville stone mason at Circle of Stone and most of what I found online said a footing for a dry stacked wall was a simple gravel filled trench if a footing was needed at all. My wall has a 4" thick x 12" wide steel reinforced concrete footing with a slight back slope and one of those Landscape Architect personas thought it was "too thin to serve its purpose." He is from the Bay area in California so that may be an understandable view point for him.
Looking close at some of the pictures and the wall itself as it was pointed out by the other Landscape Architect persona who is from New England, the friggin motherland of dry stacked stone walls, there were two spots in the base of the wall on either end that did look a little scary, places were the bottom stones looked recessed and the stones above them were hanging over. But guess what I have tons of pictures of the wall from start to finish.
The second and third stones in the first course on the bottom left are the ones I'm looking at. They are in the same place now (the picture above is from today) as they were in the beginning. It was the same thing on the other side. That is just the nature of a rough rockpodge group of stones that are dry laid, some of them will project out further than the others. What is happening inside is what really matters.
This 18 to 20 inch thick, double stone wide, gravel filled, cement sitting bottom course is the basis of my wall. Each course after it followed the same recipe. Each stone was placed so that its weight pulled it towards the slope and so it felt locked in, resting comfortably and in good contact with the adjoining stones.
There were some flatter stones on this land or someone took the time to split the stones and make them flatter. I suppose I could have done that. Spent a lot more time shaping the stones themselves. Then I could have had a wall that looks more like them fancy store bought stone walls, all nice and rectangular if the stones indeed would have split that way.
But that's not what I got. I got the stones that were here and I let them fit themselves together in a method that has long been used to build walls that last for generations.
It might not look fancy enough or stable enough for internet Landscape Architects. And I don't claim to be a master stone mason. It possibly could all fall down. Last night it rained and it has snowed lightly all day. The ground is moist and it is headed for the teens. This wall and its new almost level back fill is about to be tested with its first big expansion freeze, but Lawdy when is it gonna thaw? This commin' week is lookin' to be brutal cold.
We'll just have to wait and see how long this wall will last.