A stately stone wall surrounding your garden will create a classic atmosphere reminiscent of the established garden walls in the English countryside, or perhaps the ivy-covered stone wall surrounding a forgotten cottage nestled in the hills of Ireland. Tidy brick walls can also make wonderful additions to urban gardens—if you're considering adding a wall to your garden, you'll be pleased to discover that it's easier than you think.
The technique for building a wall is quite simple. It is important to prepare the materials in advance and to follow a set procedure, but it's not rocket science! To get started with building your wall, you'll first have to check whether or not you need a permit while your yard is under construction, and whether the land is suitable for supporting the weight of a stone wall without sinking in. If you live in a humid climate with soft ground, a wooden fence will put less weight on the ground, and will sag less as a result.
Once you've got the go-ahead, there are the steps for building your own garden wall:
Calculate how many bricks you'll need to build the wall. A single wall requires about sixty bricks required per square meter. If you find it difficult to calculate the number of bricks you need once you start considering corners (and having some extra left for small mistakes or miscalculations), you'll find there are several useful tools that will help to determine the exact number of stones or bricks you'll need for building your wall. Our advice? No matter what, always round up—it never hurts to have a few extra on hand for any experiments or mistakes.
Good tools are everything. Aside from wearing a pair of pants and shirt you don't mind ruining, you'll want a bucket of water and another bucket for cement mix (or mortar mix, etc. Hardware stores often have an enormous number of options when it comes to mix-it-yourself cement). You'll also need is a hammer, a chisel, a spirit level and trowel. The trowel will help to spread the cement evenly between the bricks or stones—if you have a few spade shapes and sizes, all the better, as it will help you to reach all of the cracks.
A few safety tips: Work with goggles on, and put on gloves and work shoes that will protect your toes against any falling bricks. Work boots will have steel toes and a protective sole—not a bad investment if you find that you're often rather accident prone.
Even the smallest wall requires a solid foundation. That said, the softer the surface, the more important it is to focus on creating a solid foundation. The size and depth of the slot that you have to dig for the foundation depends on the height and width of your wall. To give you an idea, a wall three feet in height requires a ditch one and a half feet thick. The foundation will require placing a layer of mortar in the ditch. The good news about this step is that it's much simpler than it seems—if you use ready-made concrete mix, the only thing you'll need to do is add some water. If your wall is a larger undertaking, you'll have to consider renting a concrete mixer, but it's most likely that you can get by with your own cement mix and bucket for most projects. The layer of concrete that you place in the ditch will pull tight around a plank of wood placed upright.
Using a trowel, add the first layer of stones. Try to stay within the guidelines you've constructed—this will help you get the best, most even results, and it will also help save your cement. Once you have the first row of bricks laid, you'll need to check to make sure everything looks even. You do this with the level. Rocks that protrude slightly beyond where you'd like get tapped further into the cement. After you have the first layer of bricks all set, you start with the next layer. It's a logical process: work from bottom to top to build your wall the right way.
It's important to protect your masonry from drying out. You can do this by misting your wall with water. Do this as long as the wall absorbs more water. This will prevent your wall from becoming too dry (causing the mortar to develop improperly).
On the other hand, too much moisture is also not good thing. If it's raining hard for days on end, when you make your wall, you'll want to cover it afterwards with a tarp so that the mortar has a fighting chance at setting. Also, make sure that any water that might accumulate at the base of the wall can run off, away from the wall. This can be accomplished by adding a strip of gravel (or drainage pipes, if you're feeling ambitious).
Stonework is an attractive and sustainable way to make a wall, and the procedure is relatively simple. However, simple doesn't mean easy—building a wall like this can be a time-consuming task. If the time commitment goes beyond what you're comfortable with, you can find a professional to do the work for you (there are many here on homify). Likewise, you can choose a material such as wooden posts, slats or panels, plastic or aluminum materials, metal wires, or a combination of any of these. And don't' forget, a hedge or green wall is also a fairly simple DIY garden wall option!
Looking for more garden ideas? Read this design lesson from homify and learn how to use lighting to create the right mood in your garden!