Bricklaying Basics

Although I spent many years bricklaying, I'll probably find it strange to write about it, instead of actually doing it. It's said that patience is a value, and I must say that a fair amount of it is needed when you lay bricks for the first time. Remember that accuracy is essential, especially with your first course. Make sure that your concrete foundation has hardened, and that it's level. Do not try to do things fast at the beginning. This will come with practice – you probably will not notice it, but in time things will slot into place, and you will be laying the bricks at a faster pace.

You will need a bricklayer's trowel, bolster chisel, club hammer, spirit level, one meter long preferably, small spirit level, builder's line and pins, builder's square (remember 3: 4: 5) for any right-angled corners, gauge rod, mortar board, and a pointing trowel.

For the mortar, use sand to cement in a measure of 3: 1.You can use plasticiser, which makes the mortar easier to use – follow the instructions. Do not be tempted to skimp on the cement. Do not allow the mix to become sloppy – use just enough water in it so that the bricks can be press down on to it without spilling out and making a mess of the brick face. Cut off a slice of mortar with the edge of the trowel, slide the trowel underneath it – it should just about cover the trowel blade. A bit of practice is definitely needed for this. Hold the trowel above the brickwork; turn it halfway, while pulling it sharply backwards. The mortar should slide the easy on to the bricks. You should be able to cover 2 or 3 bricks at a time. You will notice that the bricks have a recess on one side – this is the top side. Press the brick into the mortar. Use your small spirit level to check the first couple of bricks, both vertically and horizontally. Lift a small amount of mortar and scrape it on to the end of the brick, ready to make a bond with the next one. After a while, you'll get used to it that you'll be able to slap the mortar on to the brick. Take another brick, and push it towards the end of the first one to form what's called the joint between them. Scrape any excess mortar off the sides.

Lay 4 bricks, then use the long spirit level to check them horizontally – if they are uneven, tap them lightly with the trowel handle. For the second course, you will need to start with a half brick, so that you will have a half bond wall. You cut a brick using the bolster chisel – mark it well on every side, then give it a sharp tap. It's advisable to do this with the brick sitting on a shower bed of sand, so that it will not shatter in the wrong place. If you have a right-angled corner at an end, you will not have to cut a brick. The brick in the second course faces a different way from the one benefit. As the end of the brick is half the size of the length, this creates you half bond. As you go higher, you can keep the horizontal joints, or beds, to a constant size by using your gauge rod. One of them is easily made by marking a length of timber with the brick height plus the thickness of the bed. Once you've set up a few courses at one end of the wall, carry out the same procedure at the other end. Insert a builder's pin into a joint at both ends, with the line running between them, ensuring that it's tight. If you follow this as you lay the bricks, the wall should be straight, and level.