Introduction

Little girl with flowers on sitting wall
Photo: Kolin Smith
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Take a scenic drive through the back roads of New England and you will inevitably spot some of the 240,000 miles of stone walls built by 19th-century farmers trying to delineate their land. You may not have a large plot to mark off, but your patios and flower beds are still deserving of a border, and one that doubles as a place to sit down will make your landscape all the more enjoyable. But no need to dig up the yard looking for rocks like the Yankee farmers had to. As This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers shows here, a wall built from cast concrete blocks made to look like stone is just as beautiful and much easier to build—especially when your "planting season" is confined to the weekends.
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    Tools List

    • mason's line
      Mason's line and Line level

    • square spade
      Spade

    • tamper
      Hand Tamper

    • four-foot level
      4-foot level

    • mallet
      Rubber Mallet

    • mason's chisel and maul
      Mason's Chisels and Maul

    • brick hammer
      Brick Hammer

    • caulk gun
      Caulk Gun

    Shopping List

    Cast Concrete Block:
    Choose a block made specifically for freestanding walls, not retaining walls or pavers. To calculate how many blocks you need, multiply the length of the wall, in inches, by the height, and divide that figure by the area (length x height) of the side of one block. Add 10 percent to account for cuts and breakage.

    Paver Base:
    A mixture of ¾-inch crushed rock and stone dust. One yard covers 108 square feet 3 inches deep.

    Stone Dust:
    One yard covers 324 square feet 1 inch deep.

    Masonry Construction Adhesive