How to Build a Dry Stone Wall

If you’re looking to add a bit of charm and character to your garden, a dry stone wall can be a great addition. Dry stone walls are made from stacked stones without the use of mortar or cement, making them eco-friendly and cost-effective.

Traditionally dry stone walls were built dry, without the use of mortar. However, for practical purposes of making the wall stronger and more durable, mortar can be used when building a dry stone wall. It can either be mortared behind at the back of a single wall or in the middle of a double-faced wall. If you still want the wall to look ‘dry’, mortar can be used like when building a brick wall and can be used in all joints. 

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps of building a dry stone wall in your garden:

Purbeck Drystone
Purbeck Drystone

Step 1: Gather Your Materials 

Before you begin building your wall, you will need to gather your materials.

This will include:

Step 2: Plan Your Wall 

It is important to plan your wall before you start building. Consider the following before you start.

The purpose of the wall: Will it be purely decorative or will it serve a functional purpose, such as retaining soil? 

The size and shape of the wall: Measure the area where you want to build the wall and decide how high and wide you want it to be. 

The type of stone: Choose stones that are native to your area and that will match the aesthetic of your garden. For instance, Purbeck, Cotswold Yellow or Devon Rustic Slate dry stone walling.

Step 3: Prepare the Site 

Clear the area where you want to build your wall. Remove any plants, rocks, or debris. Use your measuring tape and level to mark out the boundaries of your wall. 

Step 4: Lay the Foundation 

The foundation of your wall should be wider than the wall itself. Use your shovel to dig a trench that is at least twice as wide as the base of your wall. The depth of the trench will depend on the height of the wall. For walls that are less than 3 feet tall, a trench depth of 6 inches should be sufficient. For taller walls, the trench should be deeper.  

Fill the trench with crushed stone or gravel. Then pour a minimum of 8 inches of concrete on top, topping it off 2 inches below the starting level of the wall. Use your level to make sure the foundation is level. 

Step 5: Start Building 

Without cement mortar:

Begin building your wall at one end of the foundation. Choose a large, flat stone as your first stone. Place it firmly in the foundation, making sure it is level. Continue stacking stones on top of each other in a staggering manner, working your way along the length of the wall.  

As you stack stones, use smaller stones to fill in gaps and create a stable structure. Make sure each stone is level before adding the next one. 

With cement mortar:

Dry lay the first course of stones and once happy, remove the stones and layer a base of mortar and tap the stones into position on this bed of mortar. Once all are in position, fill the gaps & joints with mortar, either just at the back of the stone, or all the way across the stones and then work upwards. You can fill the core, which will not be seen, with smaller pieces of stone and then mortar.

Tip: some stones will need help staying level, so use smaller pieces of stone or wood to hold the stones in position and then pack mortar around these stones and remove the wood or keep the small stones in place.  

Step 6: Finishing Touches 

Once you’ve reached the desired height for your wall, you can decide on a capping. This will help prevent water from seeping into the wall and causing damage. 

You can choose from made-to-measure wall copings, tumbled or hand-dressed stones, or pick out walling stones to lay on the end to create a ‘cock & hen’ style capping.  

 Building a dry stone wall in your garden can be a rewarding and satisfying project. By following these steps, you can create a beautiful and functional addition to your garden that will last for years to come. 

You can find more information on our walling stone here. If you would like more information on dry stone walling, you can contact our team on (01844) 279274, or email us at

Written by;

Ellie Parker

Sales Manager

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