While most of us probably won’t be building a brick house on our own, there are plenty of projects in our yards, kitchens and living rooms that offer opportunities for a little Do-It-Yourself brickwork. While techniques differ with every project and material, here are some basic principles that can help you get started.
Mortar is a mixture of cement, sand and water. There are many ways to mix these to fit different looks and jobs, but as a beginner, you may want to start with a “mortar mix.” This already has the cement and sand in it, so you only need to add water. There are different types of mortar mix for different types of jobs, so make sure you do your research on which is right for you. Another tip: When you’re buying mortar, make sure the bag’s corners are soft. If they’re hard, pick another bag. Find more tools and techniques that can help your masonry project go smoothly.
No matter what or where your project is, make sure the base it will be built on is hard, flat and has good drainage. If it doesn’t, consider pouring a concrete base. Never lay your brick or stone when it is raining or the temperature is at or below freezing — the water and ice will weaken or crack the mortar. As your mortar begins to dry, be sure to joint your brickwork to make it look nice and finished and to weatherproof it. You’ll know it’s ready to be jointed when you can press your thumbprint into the mortar and your thumb stays clean.
As you build, use a level to check not only the tops of the bricks you’ve laid, but also the sides — you don’t want your wall going sideways! To help you stay on track, do an initial dry run by lining up the bricks without mortar where they’ll be on the ground when you’re finished. Leave a little space for your mortar in between them, and mark the ground at the end of each brick to use as a guide. You can do the same thing on a wooden stake for your vertical measurements. Once you’ve laid your bricks with mortar, if you find that a brick is out of line, just tap it with your trowel to the right position — pulling it will break the bond.
Want to learn more about masonry for your next home or garden project? Join us for our Masonry Basics class where you’ll learn about brick laying, mortar mixing, cinder block laying, ceramic tile setting and the safety tips and tools that go with all of them. Call 405.377.3333 with questions or register here. To find out about more courses like this sign up for our monthly e-newsletter. View all of our upcoming classes in our digital catalog.
Abby McCain is the Communications and Marketing Secretary at Meridian Technology Center.