Laying bricks requires a considerable amount of skill, and is usually done by professionals when it is for a large structure like a house. However, learning how to lay bricks to build a small wall can be an excellent way to save labour costs in getting a relatively simple task done.
- Pre-prepared mortar
- Cement mixture
- Sheet of plywood
- Sheet of plywood
- Brick trowel
- Spirit level
- Plumb line
- Club hammer
- Bolster chisel
- Bricklayer’s line
- Dig a trench 300 mm wide and 300 mm deep. Dig the hole deeper if the soil is soft or unstable. Mix one measure of cement and six parts of ballast to create the footing mixture. A reasonable alternative is to use bags of pre-mixed cement. Pour the concrete into the trench; with the end of a post, push it down firmly to get rid of air pocket and level the surface.
- Level the bricklayer’s line with the top of the first course of bricks. Allow for 10 mm of mortar between the footings and the brick. Lay the plywood sheet down to protect the ground and mix the mortar well (aiming for a smooth consistency), it should be stiff enough to hold its shape when a hole is made in the mixture. Ensure no streaks of cement are present, and the mortar is a consistent colour.
- Along the centre of the footing, spread an even 10 mm layer of mortar. Spread the mortar onto the end of the first brick and place it on the footings with the brick’s hollow facing upwards.
- For a guide line in topping the corner of the first row of bricks, fix pegs and a string line along the footings. Lay this row of bricks, regularly checking the horizontal with a spirit level.
- Build up the wall starting with the corners first. Stagger each vertical joint and use half bricks to fill in the end gaps. With a gauge stick, check to ensure the mortar levels are even. Also the spirit level can be used to check that the outer brick faces are all aligned. Use plumb line to ensure any corners are vertical.
- Lay the top course of bricks with the frog facing downwards, to protect the top of the wall from rain and frost damage. Alternatively lay coping bricks or a row of half bricks upright. Run a piece of dowel along and across the joints, then use a stiff brush to remove excess mortar before it is fully dried; this step will give the mortar a neat appearance.
Tips and warnings
- Mortar hardens after only a couple of hours; less in hot weather. Mix only enough to be used in about an hour. Buy a liquid plasticiser and add it to the mortar to reduce the chances of cracking in very cold weather.
- To cut bricks, chip a cut line around the brick with a club hammer and bolster chisel. Lay the brick on firm ground and give it a sharp tap across the face on the opposite side to the frog.