Natural stone walls and driveways are a staple of any well executed landscaping project, structures bound to make any Newport Beach, CA, home all the more appealing. Used in landscape design for centuries, these durable structures have a timeless rustic charm about them. Amongst the choices related to natural stone walls is that between dry or wet installation methods.
What’s the Difference?
So what exactly is the difference between wet and dry construction? Quite simply, it comes down to the material holding the individual stones together. Wet masonry uses mortar to secure the stones together, usually with a concrete or mortar surface underneath for additional support.
In contrast to this, dry masonry can either use a dry binding agent, or even no binding agent at all. Stacked stone walls are one example where interlocking pieces are held together by just their weight and friction between the pieces. Driveways and walkways generally rely on sand or gravel tightly compacted between the stones to hold them in place.
Both these methods have their own set of pros and cons. Wet masonry tends to be the more robust of the two, providing a more rigid structure that can hold up to stresses far better than dry masonry. As a result, it also tends to be more durable than dry laid stone structures and requires little to no maintenance. Repairs, although infrequent, also tend to be more intensive, often requiring professional intervention. Moreover, the expertise of your contractor also comes into play as getting the right mortar mixture is a precise science that's best left to the professionals if you want durable results.
Dry masonry on the other hand, is generally slightly cheaper to construct and requires less time. Moreover, it tends to be more flexible, allowing imperfections and problems to be remedied easily. It also tends to be far more permeable, allowing water to seep through the more porous structure, helping with storm water control. Rigidity tends to suffer with dry masonry, though, which also explains why it requires more frequent maintenance. In the case of stacked stone walls, the results are highly dependent on the prowess of the contractor as interlocking the individual pieces requires skill and experience.
Driveways, Patios, Walkways
Lastly, we come to the question of which structure would be ideal for your yard. The answer is highly dependent on your specific application. If a driveway, walkway, or patio experiences a lot of traffic and vehicular load for sustained periods of time, a wet laid driveway would be a better solution. However, for patios and walkways that don’t see rough use often, a dry laid structure can serve sufficiently.
Aesthetics also tend to play a part as dry laid masonry, particularly stacked stone walls, tend to look more rustic and casual and can go really well with a landscape design following a natural design language. Wet laid structures tend to be sharper and cleaner with straight lines, more suited for modern landscape designs.
All in all, the choice of wet or dry masonry is highly dependent on your particular requirements. It is important to consult professionals for this important decision as it can have long term consequences on the resilience of your landscape design.