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Tag Archives: Dry-Stacked Masonry

Dry vs Wet Masonry for your Stone Wall in Hanover, MA

A lot goes into planning a successful hardscaping project. Towne Tree & Landscaping will make sure you’ve covered all your bases, especially since masonry is a fairly permanent landscaping feature. After you’ve decided on the size and location, you’ll need to choose between dry-stacked or wet-laid masonry. This choice will make a big difference in the appearance of your final product. Read on to learn more about which type of masonry is better for your Hanover, MA, stone wall.

Dry-Stacked Masonry

Dry-stacking is one of the oldest forms of stone masonry. Dry stone masonry involves laying stones on a secure footing of sand and gravel and does not use mortar to keep the stones together. A combination of skilled workmanship, gravity, and sand help keep the wall upright and intact. Each stone is carefully selected based on its shape and structural integrity. The stones are then skillfully stacked in such a manner that provides both stability and good drainage.

Where to Use Dry-Stacked Masonry

Dry laid stone provides a more rustic feel than mortared stone, but the look of dry stone masonry will vary greatly depending on the craftsmanship and type of stone used.  Boulder walls use large fieldstones laid in a single row for the base, with smaller stones to fill in the spaces. This type of wall works well for boundary fences and lower traffic areas. Modern dry-stacked walls generally use quarried or manufactured stones which provide a cleaner look. Dry-stacked stone can be used for retaining walls that are less than three feet high.

Related: Capturing the Timeless Aesthetic of the Stone Wall

Wet-Laid Masonry

With wet-laid masonry, stones are laid on a strong concrete base and mortar is applied between the stones to bind them together. Stone selection isn’t as crucial because the mortar fills in the gaps between stones. Wet-laid masonry walls offer more variety when it comes to the size and shape of your wall. Recessed mortar joints can be used to create the look of dry-stacked masonry while maintaining the durability of a mortared wall.

Where to Use Wet-Laid Masonry

Wet-laid masonry creates a cleaner, more formal look than dry-stacked. It provides excellent stability for your wall and is a better choice for high-traffic areas. Seat walls, walls, and counters for outdoor kitchens benefit from the structure and permanence of wet-laid masonry. Mortared masonry is also the preferred choice for retaining walls because of its strength and durability.

Related: 5 Essential Elements for Your MA Outdoor Kitchen

Which Method is Better?

While both dry and wet masonry are durable and long-lasting, they do offer slightly different benefits. For climates with extreme temperatures and a high freeze-thaw ratio, dry stone offers more flexibility and is less susceptible to damage from frost heave. Minor ground shifts are generally absorbed by the wall as the rocks settle together.

If damage does occur, dry stone is easier to repair, and rebuilt sections will blend well with old portions of the wall. Dry stone installations can also be quicker to complete than wet stone due to the lack of mortar.

Wet-laid masonry offers more permanence but can be more costly than dry-stack, due to the additional materials and labor required. And eventually, the mortar will crack and require repairs. Wet-laid masonry also requires extra drainage to move water away from the wall since it doesn’t have the natural drainage properties of dry-stacked stone.