I was thinking about making a short retaining wall for a flower bed in front of my house. We like the way Tumbled Bluestone looks and I was looking for any pointers anyone may have with laying such a material. It wouldn't be very high - I'm guessing a foot and half at the highest.

Also, any experience in cutting the stone? I'm assuming at some point I'll have to do some cuts on it to get it all to lay right.

My thoughts are to do three tiers, the bottom one driveway level up a foot and half or so, the next one about a foot and half above that one and then the top one which is the same height of the walkway to the house. Not looking to do a patio with it (yet).

  • Do you have winter? How deep is the frost line? Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 21:47
  • we're Mid-Atlantic, the regulated minimal footing depth is 30 inches - but I doubt it actually freezes to that.
    – Chasester
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 11:31

3 Answers 3


You don't need a concrete foundation for a small wall. You can make a dry stone wall. There are ones like this that last hundreds of years with the odd bit of maintenance. Even in areas where it the temperature ranges from -40 to +30 deg C a wall can be stable with some preparation:

  • a two or three inch base of compacted stone dust
  • some longer stones to act as "deadmen" to stabilize the wall (optional for short walls)
  • four inch drain pipe with sleeve at the inside base of the wall to allow drainage
  • a taper on the wall so it leans into the soil
  • geotextile fabric to keep soil from washing out

See an example for more details here.

  • I agree... dry lay the stone and don't worry about cuts. As I learned from the master mason that taught me "stone walls are merely a puzzle... take the time to locate the piece that is 'made' for the spot you are looking for." Stone dust and crusher stone will help you with the first row of base and then piece it together trying out the different stones as needed. Remember to not build straight up too... set the stones in just a bit so the wall angles back toward the bed about 5-10 degrees. This will help to offset the pressure applied from the bed.
    – Phlume
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 10:17
  • i was searching for a thread just like that before I posted this - didn't occur to me to look for drystone.
    – Chasester
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 11:18
  • you know what, I need to try and sketch this - I hadn't thought drainage pipe was necessary.
    – Chasester
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 11:32
  • @Chasester whether you need drainage pipe depends on the amount of rain you get, how cold your winters are, how tall the wall is, type of soil. For the cost it is cheap insurance
    – kevinskio
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 12:34

When you say 'retaining' wall, that means there will be soil or something behind the wall, being supported/held up by this wall you want to build. If that's correct, then I'm afraid its not as simple as you've laid out in your question. A retaining wall has to take a fair amount of weight and needs to be very solid and stable, so will need foundations, below soil level, usually of concrete. Some guidance in the link below


As for 'tumbled bluestone' the only type I know about is that sold in various sizes as pre cut paving, but the most important thing to do is to research how to build a firm, strong retaining wall, whatever materials you choose to use for the visible parts. With regard to cutting stone to the right size and shape, if you're not skilled with a cold chisel and hammer, then probably an electric cutter will need to be hired - but dust and noise is an issue with those. More information on that in the link below (but its to a UK site, not sure where you are)


  • Thank you, I say retaining wall for lack of a better term. Height wise we're not talking 3-6 feet, more like 6-12 inches or so of dirt behind it. Sort of like this - custompatioandwalkway.com/wp-content/themes/striking/cache/… It's just one of those split level ranch homes.
    – Chasester
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 18:32
  • Yup, that's what I thought you meant - still needs footings below soil level I'm afraid, not too broad and deep for that height wall - more is necessary for taller walls, but you still need them.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 18:37
  • oh - yeah, I saw the rebar and such and went - not that. I had been planning on this. menards.com/main/… But using the gravel base not concrete.
    – Chasester
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 18:54
  • But the blocks shown in the illustration are big, chunky, heavy blocks - that's not what you want to use for your construction. Pity you can't check out the construction of the wall in your first link - I've seen specialists pour concrete in a preformed shape, and the nice stones are simply laid on the outside so it doesn't show, with soil placed behind resting on the concrete, which takes the weight.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 19:09
  • yeah quite accurate. I did find this - which is similar in material except tumbled bluestone is about uniformly 2" in height I think. youtube.com/watch?v=Sb0KsggZ6vk
    – Chasester
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 19:28

Another option is simply to build a wall out of foundation block and concrete, and then veneer the face and cap off the top of the wall. You can point up the veneer cleanly so you can hide all the mortar joints and it appears to be a dry laid wall, but this takes practice. It is a stable option though and will hold the weight and pressure of the bed.

  • 1
    but this would need a poured concrete foundation, possibly with rebar if the winter is cold. Frost heave would crack the veneer off otherwise.
    – kevinskio
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 14:37
  • 1
    Agreed. A run of crush compacted with dust would be essential with this method. A good drainage solution would allow runoff and water to be diverted aleiviating major heave issues. I worked in northern new England and though frost is an issue, with a proper base foundation cracks are easilly avoided.
    – Phlume
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 16:16

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