How to Remove a Stone Wall
Work on the mortar, not the stones, with the sledge and chisel. Stone walls where the mortar has deteriorated make the project much easier but may pose some dangers if the mortar is loose to the point that stones fall from the wall easily.
In some historic districts, the removal of stone walls without a permit is prohibited. Consult local zoning and building regulations before starting the stone wall removal project. Always wear adequate personal protection equipment including steel-toed shoes, safety goggles and heavy gloves.
Both decorative and sometimes utilitarian, stone walls or fences do deteriorate. Removal of the stone wall or fence may be necessary due to the failure of the wall or the changing needs of the homeowner. The project requires hard work, muscle and some heavy tools, but it can be accomplished by the do-it-yourselfer.
Check the stone wall and confirm it does not support other structures. Stone foundation walls obviously support the house or barn above them. Landscape retaining walls hold dirt behind them, keeping hillsides from shifting and eroding toward the lower ground. Stone walls and fences can be removed in these situations, if necessary, but steps will need to be taken to replace the support provided by the stone wall.
Break the mortar between stones at the top of the wall. Use a sledgehammer and chisel to break up the cement mortar between the stones and remove the stones as they become loose. Remove the loose stones as soon as possible to prevent them from falling from the wall and causing potential injury. Wear safety goggles and heavy leather work gloves while chiseling the mortar.
Remove loose stones from the work area with a wheelbarrow or other implement. Park a truck or pickup near the work area, if possible, and place the stones in the truck for easier removal.
Break the mortar between more stones as you continue to work down the stone wall or fence. Remove the stones until you reach the base or the foundation of the stone wall.
Break up the foundation below the stone wall, if necessary. Some stone walls are constructed on a solid concrete footing. Use the sledgehammer and chisel to break up small footings. The removal of large footings may require the use of a jackhammer.
Keith Allen, a 1979 graduate of Valley City State College, has worked at a variety of jobs including computer operator, medical clinic manager, radio talk show host and potato sorter. For over five years he has worked as a newspaper reporter and historic researcher. His works have appeared in regional newspapers in North Dakota and in "North Dakota Horizons" and "Cowboys and Indians" magazines.