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Brick Walls


Building a brick wall offers a fairly challenging project for the home handyman, but providing a few basic guidelines are followed, the wall will be strong and stable, and can be a very attractive addition to the garden.

Important Things To Do

· The wall should have reinforced concrete footings and support piers to give extra stability.

· Walls should be built no taller than a maximum height of 1.8 metres. The higher the fence, the larger the support piers need to be.

· If the wall is higher than 1 m, double bricks and support piers should be used.

· Check with your local council on any requirements they may have regarding wall height, materials, footing depths, permits, etc.

How to build a brick wall

A. Prepare the site

Measure the site and set up timber profiles 1 m beyond the foundation trenches. (This keeps the stringline out of the way.) Attach stringlines to the profiles to indicate the width of the walls and trenches. (see diagram 1)

B. Construct the concrete footings (see diagram 2)

1. Dig out the required area:

- depth of footing = thickness of wall

- width of footing = 2 x thickness of wall; or thickness of wall + 300 mm (whichever is greater)

2. Determine levels with a stringline and level. On sloping ground, steps need to be created in the footing so that the wall maintains an even height.

3. Install timber formwork to support the concrete while it sets.

4. Place steel rods or trench mesh in the trench to give the concrete rigidity and strength. The mesh is supported by plastic “chairs” and should be laid in place before the concrete is poured.

5. Pour the concrete: 4 parts gravel: 2 - 2.5 parts sand; 1 part sand. Spread the concrete within the formwork and level it off to 100 mm below ground level. Smooth it off with a wooden or steel float.

6. Cover the footing with plastic sheeting and leave it to cure for 7 days.

C. Lay the Bricks (see diagram 3)

Stretcher bond is the most commonly used pattern for single brick walls. This involves staggering the vertical joints by half a brick for each layer. For double brick walls, a header course every three to five courses gives added strength. On smaller walls, a header course laid as the top course or capping gives the same effect. All courses and vertical joints should be separated by 10 mm of mortar. The mortar is made from 6 parts sand: 1part cement: 1 part lime. It should be soft and pliable, and will only last a maximum of one and half hours (depending on how hot and dry the weather is), after which time it loses its elasticity and should be thrown out. The mortar can be mixed by hand in a wheelbarrow, or in a concrete mixer, or on a piece of plywood. After mixing, it is placed on a mortar board, which makes it easier to pick up the mortar with a trowel.

1. Calculate how many bricks you need for the wall. You will need 50 bricks per square metre of wall face for a single brick wall.

2. Place stringlines as a guide to positioning your bricks.

3. Start laying at the lowest point and always construct the corners first.

4. Set out the first row with a 10 mm gap between each brick. Mark out the line of the wall and the position of the gaps on the footing, with a carpenter’s pencil

5. Lay out a line of mortar three bricks long and place the bricks on the mortar according to the pencil marks. The mortar sets quickly so only lay three bricks at a time. Use the trowel to tap the bricks into place, making sure that they are aligned and the bed joint thickness is about 10 mm. Remove excess mortar from the bed joint with the trowel.

6. Butter the end joints of the second and third bricks with mortar, and push them together slightly to ensure a good joint. Make sure the bricks are level and straight using a spirit level, and the string lines.

7. Take the corners up six courses and check the alignment with a straight piece of timber. As you work, make sure the bed and cross joints are even and that the bricks are aligned and level.

8. Lay one course, from corner to corner, before moving up to the next course. Always keep the corners built up higher than the rest of the brickwork and continue checking that the courses are level.

9. Finish off the mortar joints while the mortar is still wet using a trowel for flush joints or a jointing tool for raked and ironed (indented) joints.

10. Lay a header row as a capping on the top of the wall. This stops water penetrating into the wall.

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