Fieldstone emulates the English countryside

April 9, 2002
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With a great admiration for the English countryside, the owners of a private residence in the Northern Kettle Moraine region of Wisconsin sought to replicate that setting within their own landscaping. To achieve the desired effect, an abundance of granite was used to create dry stack wall fences and pathways throughout the property.

The stone employed for the walls was chosen to mirror the architecture of the renovated fieldstone house and barn, which were built in the mid-1800s, according to Dan Stukenberg of Daniel?s Landscaping, who was the project?s landscape architect and installer. Seven separate grades of granite were used for the construction of the walls, which totaled close to 1,500 feet in length. Additionally, turn-of-the-century reclaimed granite pavers were employed for pathways and borders along the walls.

According to the landscape architect, several million pounds of stone were used in total. "All different types of colored stone were used," he said. "When we build walls like that, we have as many as a dozen specified sizes and shapes. It?s not as simple as it looks."

Finding unique pieces

Stukenberg explained that he searches a multitude of quarries on a regular basis looking for accent pieces. "It?s like searching for the right person when casting a production," he said. "I check thousands of stones -- and that?s an understatement -- looking for just the right character." The pieces are then assembled one by one without mortar -- to fit together like pieces in a puzzle.

Primarily, the fieldstone is classified into three main groups, according to Stukenberg. There are glacial run stones that have rounded edges; fractured stone that is dynamited out of the ground; and stone that is broken by nature, but has rounded edges due to glacial activity or aging or weathering. When building stone walls, such as the ones for the Wisconsin residence, the landscape architect combines the various types. "Softer edges are preferred, but we do mix in some dynamited stone as well," he said.

In total, it took approximately three to four months to install the fieldstone walls, according to Stukenberg. "We worked a full crew," he said, explaining that this included four to five workers. "Obviously, when we get into tricky areas, like the ends where we have cornering, we have to shift down to one or two men."

The landscape architect explained that the more vertical the stone wall is, the more time and skill it requires to build. "This particular client challenged our limit without using mortar. The average spec was 4 feet wide at the base and 31/2 feet high." The walls were built inward in all directions so that everything leans inward and down, according to Stukenberg. "It was a challenge because all the stone edges had to be inward so if shifting [occurs], it doesn?t go outward and fall apart," he said.

In one area, a large stone wall was constructed in the form of a fire pit, according to Stukenberg, adding that it separated the grounds from a cornfield. "It?s pretty dramatic," he said. "There are all granite seats that jut out of the wall. We used 12 tons or more of stone for it."

Turn-of-the-century pavers

For the pathways and borders around the stone fences, reclaimed granite pavers were selected. "They are found randomly when very

old streets are removed," said Stukenberg. "Most are 100 years

old plus."

While random-sized pieces and colors were used for the pavers, the nominal size was 4 x 8 inches thick and 8 to 12 inches long, according to the landscape architect, adding that they are two to three times the size of pavers that are used today.

The large pavers were installed one at a time on a bed of compacted stone. "Normally, we like to get a compacted material like traffic bond and lay down 1 inch +⁄- of a sand bed that is soft. We lay in [the pavers] and put finer sands between the cracks. We try to have them butt up against one another."

Before the stone walls and pathways could be built, several alterations had to be made to the land. "The original buildings were built on rolling, hilly land, which created drainage and grade difficulties," said Stukenberg. "During construction, 20 quad axles of excess fill were removed to alleviate poor drainage. Once proper drainage was achieved, then wall and walkway construction could begin. Sloping areas needed retaining walls or stone fences to create a level surface for a larger drive and parking area."

Another challenge was to connect the residence with the other buildings on the land, according to Stukenberg. "It seemed so disjointed, open and vulnerable," he said. "A series of sweeping lines in the walls, walks and drive gracefully connected the separate ?parts? into one elegant ?whole.?"

In 1998, Daniel?s Landscaping received a Gold Award of Excellence from the Wisconsin Landscape Federation, for its work at the residence.


Private Residence

Northern Kettle Moraine, WI

Landscape Architect/Stone Installer: Daniel¿s Landscaping, Campbellsport, WI

Master Carpenter: Larry Prahl, West Bend, WI

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