Step 2: Lay The Base Course

placing first stones for building a fieldstone wall
Photo: Russell Kaye
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Connect the stakes with a mason's line set just above grade. Place the first stone at a corner with its face grazing the line. Position the next stone against the first, face to the line, and so on until the first course is laid. Repeat on the opposite side. Fill between the two rows with smaller stones, set flush with the tops of the face stones. Top this course with a bed of mortar.
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      Q: "I'd like to build a fieldstone wall. What's the best way to do it?"
      —Norma Laren, Blackstone, Mass.

      Roger Cook replies: Stone walls are a handsome way to define and improve your property. Building them is backbreaking work, but if done correctly, the wall will last a lifetime, if not a lot longer.

      I like to set stones in mortar because you can't beat a mortared wall for strength, which is important if a wall serves as seating or holds back earth. To preserve a dry-laid look, I set the stones in a mortar that's pigmented a dark gray and then rake the joints clean.

      Freestanding mortared walls, like the fieldstone one I'm building here, need a stable, frost-proof footing to prevent shifting, and that requires a lot of digging in cold climates.

      Ask a stone yard to help determine how much material you'll need, and have it delivered as close to the site as possible. Once built, you'll have a rock-solid wall without all the heavy mortar lines.

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    SHOPPING LIST: Wall stone
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