Bricklaying is one of the oldest trades worldwide. Carried out by tradesman whose lot has not changed much over the years – working in hot sun, wind and cold yet one of the most satisfying jobs you can do. Many DIY enthusiasts would love to master the art of bricklaying – which with a few basic techniques is possible in a relatively short space of time. Obviously you will not become a bricklayer overnight but with practice your speed will increase and you will be able to overcome a variety of situations.

Bricklaying Sandy Practical Workshops

To lay bricks the minimum of tools are required: – a trowel, spirit level, hammer & bolster, line & pins, jointer, soft brush and tape measure. With these tools you can build a house or a castle.

Laying bricks is not that difficult and with practice becomes easier and quicker. To achieve this depends an awful lot on the mortar the bricks are laid with. You need soft sand as opposed to sharp gritty sand, add to this cement and possibly lime and a little plasticiser (additive to assist workability) and mix (if possible with a mechanical mixer unless you’re feeling strong).

Mixing is better if a gauging box or bucket is used. This ensures the mix to be constant and more importantly the same colour four buckets of sand, one bucket of cement mixed with clean water, with a little plasticiser added, will achieve a mix adequate for all exterior work or a mix of six buckets of sand to one of cement and one of lime. Mix for a few minutes until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed – not too wet or it will run off the trowel, not too dry or it will fall off the trowel.

Having arrived at this stage you are ready to lay bricks, a wheelbarrow of mortar will lay approximately 80 bricks. A 600mm x 600mm piece of plywood will make an excellent mortar board, placed on four bricks will save the back!

Bricks can now be stacked out in piles along the wall to be built and covered to keep them dry. Wet bricks aren’t the easiest to lay and keep clean. Bricklayers can work in the wet but bricks and mortar become unusable when too wet.

The art of bricklaying is to have a clean face to the bricks, plumb and level in a straight line from end to end. To achieve this you must first have a corner at each end of the wall built to an even gauge – plumb straight and square.

Bricks measure 65mm x 215 mm. With a 10mm mortar joint this brings them to 75mm x 225. To lay the bricks have a tape measure or a gauge rod ready. A gauge rod saves time – by cutting grooves in a length of wood 2100mm in increments of 75mm you have a gauge rod for a standard door frame.

Assuming you are working from a new foundation and you have a setting out line to work to you can start laying bricks.

Lay a bed of mortar approximately 15mm thick on the found and place the brick squarely on the bed in line with the setting out line. Using the gauge rod from top of the foundation tap brick gently until it is on the first mark, place the level on the brick and tap until it is level.

You will now need to get a line of bricks to the other end, laying them dry with a 10mm gap between until you reach the other end of your setting out line. If you find you are 25 mm short of the end point try making the gaps between the joints a little larger, but always even. If it comes longer than the end point you may have to cut the bricks with a hammer and bolster. The cut brick is then laid in the middle of wall or under a window if possible.

When this is achieved lay the other corner brick as before then fix the pin over the brick and pull the line tight over the other laid brick and fix. You can now lay the course of bricks in a straight line. When you have completed this you are in a position to build an accurate corner at each end.

Bricks need to be laid to a bond, the most common is called Stretcher bond or half bond, where each brick covers the brick below halfway along its length.

Lay the next brick on the corner squarely on top half bond to the brick below, using the gauge rod to keep the height correct and use the level again to keep it straight and level. Lay two more along from the corner brick ensuring they are level. This will eventually give you a corner 450mm high which is equivalent to two internal blocks. It is also wall tie height should you be building a cavity wall.

When building the corner stand over the wall and using your eye you will see if the bricks are straight – checking with the level. Carry on laying bricks until the corner runs out. You are then ready to raise the line so that it sits on top of the next brick up to enable you to run another course of bricks through from corner to corner.

Push each brick gently into the bed of mortar then using the butt end of the trowel tap the bricks into place making sure the brick is just on the line and looking down make sure it is square to the brick beneath. Use the sharp edge of the trowel to clean off any excess mortar.

The less you have to tap the bricks the less likely you are to splash the brickwork face. Try now to spread the mortar to the thickness you need to bed the brick solid. The more accurate the bed joint the less mortar to be cleaned off.

Once the mortar joints have lost their moisture it is time to ‘joint’ or ‘point’ your brickwork. The object of this is to weather the brick – repelling water.

A pointing trowel is one of the tools needed for this – a smaller version of the brick trowel placed against the mortar joint with a little pressure. Pull it along smoothing the bed as it goes. The other tool that can be used is a jointer – used to be a bucket handle. This method of jointing is used almost everywhere. Placing the jointer against the mortar joint pull along smoothing and polishing the bed joint. All joints can then be finished by gently brushing with a soft hand brush.

Your brickwork should now not only be looking straight and level but also neat and tidy.

Working with a bricklayer for just one day will ensure you start off with the basic techniques – some are very easy to learn and can make a huge difference to your progress. In a very short space of time you can gain the confidence to build most projects – practice makes perfect!