Capitol Hill stone retaining walls with beaded grapevine mortar joints

The granite stone walls with beaded grapevine joinery, also know by some as toothpaste joints, are probably the most common single style of retaining wall in Capitol Hill.  Interestingly, some sources say they are not original to many of the houses and were in fact added in the 1920s. As a contractor and craftsman, I pay attention to the details of the neighborhood, especially when it comes to things with historic character.

Often, we will see the wall has deteriorated over time. Most were built without deadmen or weeps. And, often we will see that where they have been repaired by other contractors, the beaded joints have been haphazardly replicated. Sometimes we see that the lines have actually been painted onto the mortar joints like Pepé Le Pew’s girlfriend.  The true joint is original in its style and was constructed by tooling the joint while wet.

It isn’t easy to do it right, but it can be done.  Look out for a future blog where I will show how to re-create an accurate historic grapevine joint.

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