Building Clean Brick Walls

The optimum way of ensuring an unblemished appearance for any structure is to keep brickwork clean as walls are being built. Recognizing that the nature of job site environments makes this objective a challenge to bricklayers and other construction personnel, the following tips are provided.

1. Brick should be protected from mud when placed at a job site. The contractor should provide boards, plastic sheeting or other protective material when bricks are unloaded on ground.

In certain cases, brick should be completely covered for protection from weather until used.

2. Protect wall as work progresses. This includes protecting the base of wall after the first course of brick is laid and protecting the wall from the top at the end of the work day.

Use sand, straw, sawdust or plastic sheeting along the ground to prevent mud splashes. Mud removal is much more expensive than ground cover materials. Base protection also minimizes mortar dropping damages.

The wall must be covered at the end of each workday to prevent washout of fresh joints, and to keep excessive water out of the wall to avoid efflorescence. Covering is also essential for cold weather protection.

3. Scaffold should be set far enough away from the wall to allow mortar droppings to fall to the ground. If scaffolds are not set away, mortar may lodge on diagonal bracing and adhere to wall. However, when scaffold brackets are used for the bricklayers platform, bracing presents no problem.

At the end of each workday the boards on the scaffold closest to the wall should be removed or tilted up to dump excess mortar droppings and prevent possible rainfall from splashing mortar and dirt from the boards onto newly laid masonry.

4. If the bricklayer follows good practices he caninstall clean brick walls. Some good procedures are as follows: After spreading mortar (but before laying brick) use trowel edge to cut mortar even with wall face. This prevents mortar from running down face of wall.

After laying brick, cut off excess mortar with a forward lifting and rolling motion of trowel that will collect mortar and prevent smearing of this mortar back onto brick face. Mortar should not be cut so that surplus drops to base of wall.

Tool joints when mortar is "thumbprint" hard. After tooling, cut off mortar tailings with trowel and brush excess mortar burrs and dust from face of brick. Bagging or sacking very often rubs mortar particles into the brick face if done too soon, making it almost impossible to remove these embedded mortar particles with conventional cleaning methods. Brushing is safer and thus preferable to bagging or sacking. Use a bricklayer's brush made with medium soft hair.

5. Keep the wall clean. Once the bricklayer and mason contractor leave the job, it is important to protect the completed masonry. Make sure that other workers (i.e. the structural concrete crew, the terrazzo crew, welders, roofers, painters, landscape contractors) do not damage the job. They may not realize that almost nothing can be removed from masonry easily. Keep the mud protection around base of walls until final landscaping work is being completed.

If the preceding techniques are followed a final cleaning should be easy. Very often a water hose with high pressure nozzle will be adequate to remove the construction dust and the occasional mortar smear found on wall.

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