building a dry stone wall head

2014-09-23 14.56.23

A dry stone wall head, also known as a wall end, cheek end or many other regional variants, is not just where the wall finishes, it’s vital to maintaining the strength of the wall and without a well built termination point, walls tend to collapse in a relatively short time. The head is usually the first point of failure in a dry stone wall if it’s not built well, so it’s well worth getting it done properly, as it will save a lot of hassle and money later down the line. Here’s how we do it.

Select solid, where possible flat and level foundation stone and bed well into the earth in a trench of about 2.5cm depth.

Stones are set within the batter frame or profile pins (see in the picture above) to keep the shape of the wall head, which tapers in slightly over its course. All stones for the head are dressed to fit this profile, which makes it less likely that livestock will catch the head and knock it down (in agricultural settings) and it makes for a stronger and more aesthetically pleasing shape.

Each course of stone is put onto the wall using lines to keep the courses straight and level. We start building with the stones at the head and build away from this point, covering the rest of the section on that course/level before adding more levels to the end piece.

The end of the wall head side on, needs to be dead on vertical, so we use a level frequently as new stone is added to check this.

With random stone as in the picture, it’s not always possible to get flat end pieces, so some chisel work may be necessary to achieve useable stone.

Stones laid on the head should be either all the way across (a through stone), 50/50 or 70/30 across the width of the wall. It’s vital to avoid and double joints in the head. This would result in a very unstable wall end. See pictures below for some possibilities. Good luck!

Wall heads
2014-08-26 16.42.11 Completed wall head