Whether you are laying brick to build a mailbox enclosure or building a brick house, the processes of laying bricks is the same. Paying attention to basic principles of masonry will help you succeed with your project. If you are well prepared, have the wall mapped out, and work evenly, laying brick should be no problem at all.
STAGE ONE: PREPARING THE STRUCTURE
- Plan out your wall
Using a string, a level, and a tape measure, plot out the exact dimensions of your wall, enclosure, structure, etc. Having a solid blueprint in place will help your purchase the correct amount of bricks and help you design guidelines that ensure your bricks are laid level.
When buying bricks, remember to account for the mortar. Add roughly 1/2″ to the size of your bricks to make sure you get the right measurement or if you don’t have a technician, contact the UCL technical personnel. Always buy 20-25 more bricks than you’ll need; some will inevitably break while you’re working.
- Pour a concrete foundation if you do not have an existing slab, brick ledge, or footing to work on.
This must be level and below the grade of the finished ground so that the brick is all you see when your wall is finished. Once it is set, lay a row of bricks out on a “dry run” to ensure that the foundation is the right size.
The foundation should be the exact length and height of your brick structure.
Generally in Uganda, your foundation should be at a minimum of 2ft deep before you add the concrete.
The concrete needs 2-3 days to set, so you can use this time to set up your guides and round up supplies.
- Make your guideposts
This is most important if you are building a wall, but you’ll need to create guideposts no matter what you’re making to ensure that you evenly lay the bricks. To make them, take 2 long wooden boards and drive them into the ground right at the ends of your structure. Starting with the surface of your foundation, mark the height of each brick, as well as the space for the mortar, using a tape measure. Make sure that the two boards are marked equally so that you have a straight line to guide you as you lay the bricks.
The architectural standard for brick is 10 mm mortar joint thickness on all sides. There are exceptions, of course, for Mega bricks, Kam-bricks.
- Gather all the materials you need to start your project.
Once you have mixed the mortar and started laying brick, you have to use all the mortar and strike your joints before quitting. Mortar will harden overnight, so only mix as much as you can manage. Once you’re concrete foundation has set and you’re ready to begin, you should place the following supplies close by so you can work efficiently:
- String and clamps/nails (to create guidelines).
- Mortar and a mixing bucket.
- Brick Jointer.
- Club hammer (to break bricks in half)
- Tape Measure
- Lay out the first row of brick dry to get an idea of adjustments that need to be made.
If you do not lay out the first row of bricks dry, small adjustments will be difficult or impossible to do later, and may cause some noticeable imperfections. You can also make marks on the foundation with a permanent marker and it will make laying down the first course of bricks and centering the bricks much easier.
- If you purchase bricks (selected) that are 23cm in length, make marks on the foundation every 22 centimeters.
- If you are re-using old bricks that are 8 1/4 inches in length, make marks on the foundation every 22.5 centimeters.
- Mix your masonry cement, or mortar.
This can be done in a wheelbarrow for small projects, or a mortar box if you don’t have access to a mortar mixer or cement mixer. Basically, to mix the mortar, you will use a ratio of three parts masonry sand (builders sand, if it is very clean), to one part masonry cement. Add water to the dry materials and mix to a consistency like pudding. Too dry, and it will be difficult to “set” the brick in the mortar bed, too wet and the brick will sag.
- If you are starting, you might find it easier to mix a small amount of mortar for just a few bricks; this way, you can add mortar or water, as you go to get the right consistency.
- Place bricks and “mortar boards” along your foundation so that you can reach easily them your work area.
Place some mixed mortar on plywood so that that it can be reached easily. This will allow you to grab mortar with your trowel as you work, and not have to move around too much. If you’ve planned correctly, you can also place stacks of bricks at regular intervals so that you can keep working smoothly. However, if you’re only working on a small project, you may be fine with one pile of bricks and a bucket of mortar.
- Place a few shovels of mortar on each board, splashing the board first with water so the mortar “keeps”, or stays wet enough to use