How to work with dry mortar mix

Updated February 21, 2017

Mortar is used to join bricks or concrete blocks together. Mix together cement and sand to create a dry mortar mix. Hydrated lime can also be added in order to strengthen the mortar and to minimise the possibility of cracking. In addition to the traditional use of mortar for masonry work, mortar can also be used to affix tiles, to make repairs to masonry or plaster, and to create stucco finishes. Use hydrated lime in applications where thin layers of mortar are used.

Combine the dry ingredients. Use 3 parts of sand to 1-1/2 parts cement. If using hydrated lime, replace approximately 10 per cent of the cement with the lime powder.

Gradually mix in water. Smaller quantities can be mixed in a bucket using a drill with a cement mixer bit, or in a tub or wheelbarrow with a shovel. Larger quantities can be mixed in a concrete mixer. Mix in water until your achieve a thick, goopy consistency. Animal hair can also be mixed in at this point if you want to give your mortar extra strength or if you want to imbue stucco mortar with a unique texture. Gradually add in animal hair until you see it evenly distributed throughout the mortar.

Apply your mortar in cool temperatures. Temperatures that are too hot or too cold can create imperfect conditions for proper curing. Join bricks by smoothing on thick layers of mortar and pressing the bricks together. Create stucco by creating texture with a trowel. Adhere tiles by putting a layer of mortar on the back of a tile with a notched trowel and pressing it onto the surface. In all cases, mix only enough mortar to be used in a fairly short time--if it dries in the bucket, it will become useless.

Cover finished mortar projects for two days with waterproof insulating blankets to contain heat and ensure optimum curing.


Wear a dust mask when combining the dry mix to avoid inhalation of the dust.

Things You'll Need

  • Sand
  • Cement
  • Hydrated lime
  • Mortar mixing equipment
  • Trowel
  • Waterproof insulating blankets
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About the Author

Mason Howard is an artist and writer in Minneapolis. Howard's work has been published in the "Creative Quarterly Journal of Art & Design" and "New American Paintings." He has also written for art exhibition catalogs and publications. Howard's recent writing includes covering popular culture, home improvement, cooking, health and fitness. He received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota.