Building a stone lamp post out of rock from your own homestead is not only Green building but also cheap. Aside from the wire, lamp,metal conduit and a little mortar, the post materials themselves are lying on stone walls everywhere. My area has an abundance of nice flat, one to two inch thick slates. Many large pieces were quarried for sidewalks in the cities and towns nearby in the 1800’s and are still in use today. You can cut the rocks of course but if you want all weathered faces, you will have to pick them from the tops of the stone walls for materials.
A nice sized post can be made from stones about twelve inches square or so. If the post is to be much bigger, you need only have one or two good edges on the stones. Save one larger flat stone for the top of the lamppost. Excavate a footing hole about two feet deep in warm climes and four feet in snow areas. A twelve inch square post should have a concrete footing about sixteen inches square and a foot thick. Four pieces of 1/2 inch reinforcing bar cross wise will give added strength.
You will need one semi special piece of equipment. If you do not have a hammer drill with a one inch bit you will need to rent one for a day or two. Each stone has to have a hole drilled in the center before it is laid in place. Have a local electrician put a ninety degree bend with a two foot leg and an eight foot straight section of 3/4 inch rigid conduit for you. Place this conduit in your concrete footing before you pour. If the conduit is placed two feet down in the ground (more than code depth) the vertical portion will stick out above ground six feet. More than enough for a lamp post. Starting with your largest, flattest rock, place some mortar on the footing and set the first stone down over the conduit.
Now with alternating layers of mortar and stones, proceed up the lamp post column. You will quickly find that you cannot do it all in one day. Stones do not lay like brick or cement blocks with nice sharp edges. With irregular faces the stones apply pressure in different ways to the stones laid below. Depending upon the wetness of the mortar and the weight of the stones, try to get two feet or so laid each day. Let it dry thoroughly. You may at this point wish to pull your 12 gauge Romex wire cable through the conduit to assure it is free and clear. Coil the top end at the fixture location and leave the rest of the roll in the box at the bottom.
As you reach the top of the post with your stones, plan ahead a little. When done you want about 1/2 inch inch or so of conduit showing above the stone itself. Look at the fixture you purchased before doing the top stone. Does it need a junction box? Does it affix directly to the conduit? You need to know now. Once that condition is determined you will know how much conduit to leave exposed above the top stone.
Make sure the top stone is fully secure in a good bed of mortar and does not rock. If the stone has a slightly downward beveled look so much the better for water runoff. Melting snow and water will run away from the fixture and not lay against it causing it to rust and rot away.
Run your electrical feed and install the light fixture. Back fill around the post and plant some flowers. A photo cell can turn your post on and off in case you forget about your new lamp post.
Although most municipalities do not require a building permit for these types of minor landscape improvements, it is always best to ask your local building department first. Some communities have their own sets of restrictions as to what can be added to your yard so be sure to check with the homeowners’ association as well if you have one.
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