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Assuming you have a suitable concrete surface or foundation and guidelines, you can get straight on with the bricks and mortar. The following information is based on the construction of a wall with a thickness of one brick width.
Once upon a time in history, somebody discovered that if you staggered the joints between the different brick courses, it was much more stable and strong. She must have been very clever! In other words, each brick should overlap two bricks above or below it. This method of joining (bonding) bricks is commonly referred to as stretcher bond. Stretcher is the side of the brick, and in this case, only the sides are visible. There are stronger, thicker ways of building walls, but we are walking before running. In any case, it is common in house building not to use thick solid walls, but use two stretcher bond walls like this with a gap between them.
The two walls are held together with steel (usually) ties set into the mortar joints that hold them together.
Start the very first course using whole bricks, if possible. This means that the second, fourth courses and so on will start and end with half a brick, in order to provide the bond. Mix your mortar and scoop some of it onto your bricklaying trowel. Place it onto the foundation and spread it out with the end of the trowel so that it covers an area slightly greater than that of the brick. Take a brick in you hand and position it in place.
Tap it down so that it is approximately level by eye and parallel to the guide strings. Grab another brick and spread some mortar on one end. Butt it up against the first brick, tap it down and again check that it is approximately level and straight. Your mortar joints should be about 10mm wide; you can compensate for inaccuracies with more or less mortar (bricks vary in size, as well as your spacing), but you will find that variations become quite noticeable when they exceed about 3mm. Some more mean observers will let you know before then! Remember though, if it’s your work, it’s your prerogative, not theirs.
Lay five or six bricks, enough to equal the length of a typical spirit level, and check and adjust the level. Keep going to the end following the same procedures.
From a straight and level first course, you can start building up the wall with each successive course. Remember, your second course starts with a half brick. To cut a brick in half the traditional method is a brick bolster and club hammer, but many people (i.e. me) find that it results in a shattered mess. You can use an angle grinder to score a line all the way round the brick first, which helps. A guillotine style cutter is available, which makes the process much cleaner and easier. Hire one for a short time and just cut a job lot of half bricks, making an estimate by course and wall, plus some spares. You should build up the wall by working from end to middle, not end to end.
This helps you to space your joints accurately and avoid running out of space for your final brick. If you don’t trust your eye, make a gauge for measuring the mortar joint thickness. Take a length of scrap timber and mark off 65mm and 10mm intervals, representing bricks and joints respectively.
As you lay bricks at each end, build up the ends so that they form even steps half a brick long going down from top to first course. Once you have built up the ends of the wall, you can push line pins into the mortar joint between the second and third course and successively with each course, stretching a line taut between them. Fill in the missing gaps in the second course, followed by the third and so on.
There is a limit to how high you can build a stand alone stretcher bond wall without any additional support of around 450mm. The usual way of adding strength and stability is by using piers. piers.GIF – 4030 BytesNothing to to with the seaside, these are brick columns, bonded to the wall, at each end and intervals of 3m. A stretcher bond wall with piers will still become unstable above 675mm. Taller walls should be thicker solid walls of one brick length, or two walls tied together with cavity wall ties.
To include a pier to the end of a wall, place a brick at right angles to the last brick in the first course of the stretcher bond wall. Fill in the gap between the wall and perpendicular end brick with half a brick. The second course of the pier has two bricks laid at 90o to the first, and so on up the pier to maintain the bond. Of course, all this has to be done during the entire building process, it isn’t simply an add on, but you will get the hang of it.
An interim pier has two bricks at right angles substituted in place of one first course brick. The problem here is to avoid the alignment of vertical joints. Therefore, in the second course of the wall lay two three quarter length bricks, with a half brick between them. At the back, on the pier side, use a full brick.
The last thing to mention is the turning of corners. To turn a corner in a stretcher bond wall, just lay each brick at right angles to the one beneath it.
All that remains is to finish off the mortar joints. I recommend a weather struck joint, which is formed by dragging the edge of your trowel along the mortar, resting it on the top of the brick below, forming a triangular fillet which helps the rainwater to run off. Obviously, finishing the joints when they are still wet is much easier than pointing them after they have dried.