Building the Stem Wall

We are towards the end of week one with the foundation dug out and laid down with no cement in sight. Now is the time to build the stem wall that will take the timber and cob away from the rising damp and rain splash  preserving the less durable material for longer in to the future and making the build more sustainable.

The old wall used to be a barn bordering the road in our village and now belongs to an English neighbour who can’t afford to renovate the building. I offered to demolish the walls in exchange for the stone, fair exchange is no robbery and this is in keeping with the principles of permaculture. Reduce, reuse and recycle the wall is local so we have reduced mileage for collection or delivery and reused the material which otherwise would have ended up under the soil it was holding back and been lost. Worse the wall at the front was threatening to fall in to the road and given the ease with which it was demolished i.e. no tools required I think one wet winter followed by a cold spell would have seen possibly devastating consequences for the owner or passing motorists.

the old wall

The stone was loaded in to our trailer and taken back to the build site for reconstruction in to the new stem wall.

loading stone

Then the stone is driven less than a kilometre back to the build site for unloading.

Building 041

Once we had two loads of stone back at the build site it was time to lay out the wall before starting building. Starting from a central point we used a tape measure as a compass and marked the perimeter with stone and then marked the interior at 40cm less this gave us a 455cm internal diameter circle and building commenced.

laying out the wall

Building and rebuilding went on all week with a social break on Friday morning to relieve some of the stress the wall caused. There is an old dry stone wall wisdom that states you need twice as much stone to build a wall as it takes to actually build the wall, this is because you will need the right stone in the right place and you will reject as many as you use. This is exactly what happened with our wall and on Friday afternoon we returned to the old wall for one last load of stone to make the necessary changes to the wall.

Building 044

Finally a finished wall.

finished wall