Stone walls - Repair and Rebuild

Left untended, every wall will come apart, tumble to the ground, disperse over acres of soil, and be buried by encroaching vegetation.

A well-built wall deserves the small amount of annual care needed to keep it standing. Each spring patrol walls, replacing stones knocked off by weather or visitors. You get to know your walls this way, get to know good and bad points of construction too, as the same faults crop up in the bad sections year after year. See Guidelines for Stone Wall Maintenance.

When repairs are necessary, it is extremely important to use traditional techniques. This means dry laying and chinking to build the strongest wall possible. A dry-laid wall can move and settle and has superior drainage, whereas a mortared wall, while appearing stable, may harbor serious structural flaws.

The cardinal rule in building (or repairing) a drystone wall is placing the stones “one over two, and two over one.” If possible, each stone in a wall should rest solidly against at least two others. Avoid a stack bond that relies on one stone upon another upon another, creating a vertical running joint, visually ugly and structurally ruinous.


Two pry bars (or pinch bars) 6 – 8 feet in length to use as a levers for moving large stones.

Metal wheelbarrow – When loading, put wheelbarrow on its side and slide in the stone, taking care to load most of the weight back near the handles, not over the wheel. True, you lift more, but you’ll find you can actually control the thing.

Chisel and hammer for shaping stones and safety goggles to protect eyes.

Two timbers / planks (2x10s or 2x12s) to lean against wall as a ramp for heavy stones.

Heavy gloves with long gauntlets to protect the hand and forearm.

Protective footwear

Stone Wall Safety Tips

When handling a stone, squat down over the stone with elbows against knees and back straight. Bring the stone close to your waist and lift with the legs. Alternatively, put one knee on the ground and use the knee as a ramp. If your clothes don’t get dirty, your back will suffer.

And remember, stones are the shelter for countless creatures, many of whom are not benign.