Do-It-Yourself Brick Work
No matter what type of brick work you are working on, the basic principles remain the same. Building brick work that will stand the test of time needs a patient approach, and frequent checking should be employed to make sure that the bricks are being laid in a straight line, both horizontally and vertically.
Step 1 – Lay Foundations
The key to brick work is starting with a solid, level foundation. Higher structures will require a deeper foundation. Pour concrete into the foundation and level it off to provide the best possible footing for your bricks. When you are finished building, you will fill in the foundations and cover the concrete anyway so don't worry about it marring the appearance of your work.
Step 2 – Preparation
Go over the plans for your project and lay a dry run of bricks to make sure they will fit. A simple first project is a small wall or square brick planter. Place bricks and a couple of mortar boards in easy-to-reach positions close to your work area so that you can work efficiently when you begin.
Step 3 – Mix Mortar
For a small project, you will be able to mix your mortar in a wheelbarrow or mortar box. Mix three parts sand to two parts masonry cement and add water until you have the consistency of pudding. Wet your mortar boards with water then place a few shovels of mixture onto each to help keep it moist. Normally, mortar will last for around an hour and a half before it becomes too hard to use.
Step 4 – Lay Marker Bricks
Begin laying bricks at a corner point. Put some mortar in the position where you need the first brick and flatten it slightly before laying. Use the spirit level to make sure the brick is true and make any small adjustments by tapping it gently with the trowel handle. Lay another brick at the other end of the spirit level to serve as a marker so you lay the other bricks in line. Repeat this process for the length of your project so that you have end bricks with a number of markers in between. Run a length of string from one end to the other and hold it in place with free bricks.
Step 5 – Finish First Course
Lay the bricks to fill in the remainder of the first course. You will need to put mortar on the ends of the intermediate bricks to bond them to their neighbors. There should be no need to check the level of the intermediate bricks. You should be able to simply line them up with the markers. When you begin to lay the next course, offset it by half a brick from the one below. This will allow you to interlink corners for strength. Repeat the marker brick process on each level and as the wall gets higher, use the spirit level to line the bricks up vertically as well as horizontally. Fill any gaps in the mortar to the layer below.
Step 6 – Striking Joints
When the mortar has set enough that you can touch it with your finger without making an impression, use a joint striker to smooth out the mortar joint. Brush off any excess mortar from the bricks.