Saturday, July 17, 2010

Trying to grasp why there isn't more of a hands-on excitement about dry stone walling here in Canada.

Im trying to figure out why people choose 'wall-ternatives' to walls like this one we built in Port Hope nearly 7 years ago. I guess maybe Im asking the question - why don't more people build with stone in the dry stone method, or at least, if they dont know how to or don't want to learn how, why don't more people hire a professional waller to build a permanent wall or a garden feature for them on their own property?

And especially why would anyone choose this alternative, built of modular concrete blocks only to have it fall down?

I am very curious about this. It certainly isnt a matter of cost. Is it that people don't know dry stone walling can be done, and that it lasts a long time, and that these dry laid walls have been around for thousands of years? Is it that Canadians don't understand that there are many intersting applications where dry laid stone would be a far better choice? Have they not seen enough dry stone examples in their travels to other countries, or thought about the many structural/aesthetic applications that are possible here in Canada. Maybe they have never been shown any good examples of dry stone work near them.

I suspect that the marketers of manufactured steel and concrete products have so permiated the landscape industry that people don't even consider a more natural, more traditional stone building method or feel they need to see any other alternative terracing or walling options. Or perhaps people are just waiting a few more years to see if that recently built beautiful dry laid wall they drive by everyday, is going to fall down, before they make the call and get someone to build them one on their property. Have they not seen enough leaning, cracked, fallen down, concrete walls yet to think about an alternative?

Or maybe within the modern human psyche there is a built in resistance to the whole concept of random stones sticking together on their own without some sort of manmade adhesive. People may actually be predisposed to disliking anything natural. If it can't be bought form Home Depot, Wall-mart or a local 'Cultured Stone' supply store, how could it possibly be a good product? The colours might not be consistent. They might fade. It might be the end of the batch. The sizes might be totally random and natural. Some stones might be too big looking and others with crazy markings might jump out at you. And as for having a dry stone arch or sculpture on your property, well thats just crazy. Wouldn't the money be better spent on a concrete fountain or huge armourstone water feature?


  1. Maybe the problem is that most of the wallers are in one man or very small businesses. The big guys in the building trade have huge resourses to invest in adverts. Often here in the UK the big companies get a good man to build a dry stone wall but then cant find suitable folk for repeat work. This means that the standard may slip and that may be what the public see.

  2. Good points Norman. And while people often tell me how much they appreciate dry stone walls, I think they see hand-craftsmanship and good craftsmanship as something pretty much outside the realm of their own needs. They would still rather put up with cooky cutter assembly line landscape products than insist on something more creative, or authentic.