What is "dry-stack" or "dry-stone" masonry?
Dry-stone (also called dry-stack) construction is an ancient technique that creates a solid, stable, single-material structure that can stand for centuries when done properly. Some say "dry" refers to the absence of mortar. Actually, as my mentor explained to me, it actually refers to the wall's dry interior, meaning the wall is constructed so that it mostly keeps rain out. Traditional cover band tops are wider than the wall itself and are designed to shed rain off in the same way that the eaves of your roof keep the rain from running right down the side of your house. This, in turn, helps to keep the wall stable, particularly where frost and snow are involved. Mortar can be used in certain dry-stone structures and is sometimes appropriate as a stabilizer.
Will it stay up without mortar?
YES. There are dry-stone walls the world over that are hundreds and even thousands of years old. Built correctly, these structures will outlast us all. They may occasionally need minor repairs due to unexpected settlement or erosion, whacks by tractors or vehicles, or the eventual intrusion of tree roots, but they will stand strong otherwise. If you ever see me working, you'll see me walking and crawling all over what I've just built, and it's not wiggling under my feet. Dry-stone construction done correctly is highly stable. Beyond that, it's a whole lot easier to make any unexpected repairs if you aren't chipping out and breaking up mortar first.
Do you do historic restorations?
YES, PLEASE! I am rarely asked to do this type of work in America, but it is one of my very favorite things to do. It's always fascinating, and I consider it a great honor to care for old walls and gardens, to preserve the work of those who've come before me. I will travel widely to do so--internationally, if necessary.
Do you work with manufactured stone?
Not really. "Lick and stick" veneer, as many masons call it, is actually the antithesis of what I do. I build with solid, natural stone and, if necessary, mortar. No concrete block, no rebar, no manufactured stone. I will gladly consider small repairs to existing structures built with manufactured stone, depending on my schedule. Feel free to ask. Pieces fall off. I'll put them back on for you, trimming them down and refitting if necessary.
How much will it cost?
That depends on many factors. Unfortunately, I cannot provide a quote without seeing the proposed project site and doing some measurements. Is it a retaining wall or a double-sided wall? or something freestanding like a column or a fire pit? or highly technical like a chimney? What is the terrain like, and will I have to do a lot of digging and rearranging of soil for my foundations? (Usually not.) The type of stone you select can also have a significant effect upon cost, as some are highly prized and fetch equally high prices per ton. Personally, I think there is beautiful stone to be had at every price-point. All of these factors play a role in the final cost of a project. Please feel free to contact me to set up an appointment or to discuss any questions you might have about the scope of your project.
How much stone will you need?
I'll be honest: estimating stone quantities is the most difficult part of my job. It's not like ordering lumber or bricks where you know exactly what you're getting. Every stone yard packs its pallets differently, meaning some will have much more unusable stone in them than others, and we often won't know this until I get the pallets on site and open them up. Moreover, every stone type has a different coverage per ton because stone density varies quite a bit. Lastly, most stone yards will give you a square footage estimate for coverage, but they are used to dealing with people who don't build like I do. Most folks buying from stone yards--even professionals--are not building dry-stack and are instead using stone as veneer on top of block, laying it in a way that doesn't jive with how I was trained. This means I try to order about 20% more stone than I think I need just to be sure I have enough selection. And you know what? Sometimes, we still have to order more once I get into the project. It's an imperfect material, and it's difficult to estimate. (In Wales, we never have to estimate since it's usually already there and we're just reconstructing! Much easier.)
Will you consider projects outside of your home area?
Absolutely! Please contact me with more detail and we will discuss it. I consider my home working area SWVA, Central NC, and Upstate SC, but generally, I enjoy traveling for work and am glad to drive your way or hop on a plane with my hammers.
Do you consult as well as build?
Yes. Please contact me to discuss consulting fees.
Will you come to the stone yard with me? I have no idea what I am looking for or what types of stone are viable for you!
Yes, I'll be glad to come shopping with you. No problem.
Do you have a preferred stone yards?
In Greenville, I have had great experiences with Stone City on Poinsett Highway and Super Landscape Supply on Augusta Road near I-85. I have also had very good experiences with Quality Stone in Marion, NC, and with Scott Stone in Greensboro, NC. In the DC area, I have worked with The Stone Store in Harmans, MD.
How do I get the stone to my house?
We build the stone yard's delivery cost into the project estimate. Most places, there is a flat fee regardless of the number of pallets purchased.
Who designed your business cards? They are amazing!
Thank you. Yes, I think so, too. A very talented woman named Katy Clune does most of my design work. Visit her website here: http://katyclune.com/
Do you still have any of those insanely hip Whitney Brown Stone t-shirts I've seen around town?
They were a custom run from Dapper Ink in my hometown of Greenville, SC, but I'm considering a fourth run. Get in touch. I'd love it if you gave me an excuse to do new colors!