Step 6: Tool The Joints

tooling the joints for building a fieldstone wall
Photo: Russell Kaye
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Trowel the joints between the capstones with a brick jointer, making them slightly concave to channel away water. On hot, dry, or windy days, mist the wall with water as you work so that the mortar cures slowly and completely. Finish by applying a wedge of concrete along the base course, front and back, to keep the wall from shifting. Use a brick trowel to make each wedge 6 inches high and 12 inches wide. Hide them with backfill.
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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.

    Shopping List

    SHOPPING LIST: Wall stone
    ¾-inch crushed stone
    Landscape fabric,
    Mortar mix
    Black mortar pigment
    Concrete mix