south bay quartzite retaining walls and lavendar garden bed

Why We Love Dry-Stacked Walls

If you want a beautifully, hand-crafted stone wall that can withstand a lifetime of New England winters, we recommend the dry-laid method. Not all masons have developed the skills to construct these walls, but our builders actually specialize in dry-stacked stone walls.


What Do You Mean “Dry-Laid”?

The first decision you’ll have to make when building a wall is whether you want it mortared or “dry-laid”. “Dry-laid” or “dry-stacked” refers to a construction technique in which stone walls are built without using mortar to hold the stones together. This craft has been mastered by builders around the world for centuries and requires a highly skilled waller. The waller must carefully consider placement of each stone to ensure the proper fit. The wall’s strength comes from interlocking and stacking stones on a slight backward and upward incline.


Round new england fieldstone retaining wall in front of home with perennial lawn
Design & Installation: A Yard & A Half Round New England Fieldstone
The Look

The dry-laid method produces beautiful stone retaining walls and freestanding accent walls. With a variety of stone shapes, colors, textures and sizes to choose from, a dry-stacked wall can enhance both contemporary and more rustic landscape designs. In particular, if you’re going for a more natural architectural aesthetic, you’re better off with a dry-stacked wall than a mortared wall. By sourcing stones local to the region, a skilled builder can even match the wall to the property’s existing natural outcroppings.


backyard goshen stone retaining wall surrounded by perennials
Design & Installation: A Yard & A Half Goshen Stone
Durable & Long-Lasting

For New England weather, it’s actually more appropriate to build walls without mortar. Whereas mortared walls won’t hold up long-term with our weather, dry-laid walls are more flexible, literally. They can expand and contract slightly with the earth during cycles of freezing and thawing, reducing the need for repairing cracks in the wall. Dry-stacked retaining walls constructed by the Incas over 500 years ago at Machu Picchu have even survived earthquakes!


Bluestone steps and curved southbay quartzite dry-stacked wall
Design: Sally Naish; Installation: AYAH South Bay Quartzite
Easier to Repair & Less Complicated

Repairing a dry-stacked wall typically only requires a builder to disassemble and restack the stones. Because the mortar in a wet-laid wall acts as a glue holding the stones together, those repairs tend to be more difficult and often more conspicuous than repairs for dry-laid walls.

Because water can easily permeate the dry-stacked stone structure, there’s no need for additional drainage system installation as there is with mortared walls. Additionally, dry-laid walls don’t require the installation of a conventional foundation.