Bricklaying takes skill and experience and building large brick structures may be best left to the professionals. However, learning the basic skills of bricklaying can be an invaluable aid to the homeowner. Whether you’re repairing a brick wall, edging a patio or building a barbecue pit, you can learn how to lay bricks with the right materials and a few hand tools. Always plan your structure carefully, working out how many bricks, and what size of brick, you will need.
Stretch a length of twine taut between two stacks of bricks to mark out the line of the wall or structure.
Dig your foundation trench along the line of the wall, down to a depth of 30 cm for firm soil but to 46 cm for weaker ground. Make the trench double the width of the wall. Pour in ready-mixed concrete to a depth of about 15 cm along the bottom of the trench. This will form the bed on which to lay the first course of bricks.
Mix your mortar, carefully following manufacturer’s instructions. Take a trowel-sized lump of mortar from the container and pat it into shape with the trowel. This is known as a “pear” of mortar.
Roll the pear along the spot board with chopping movements. Pick up the mortar pear by slipping the trowel under it and lifting. Practice this until you get it right.
Line up the bricks that will form the first course of brickwork (the base of the main wall).
Place a pear of mortar in the position where you intend to lay the first brick. This should be at the far end of the first course. Flatten the mortar and make a small depression so that the mortar will spread out.
Put the brick on the mortar pear. Use a spirit-level to check it’s straight. Gently tap the brick with the trowel handle.
Lay your second brick in the same way but at the other end of the first course. These two bricks act as “markers” for the full extent of the first course.
Infill between the two markers, laying the bricks in the same way. You will also need to “butter” the brick edges with mortar before you lay them. Scrape this on hard to ensure the mortar does not come away as you lay the brick. Tap each brick into line with your trowel handle, ensuring they are level with the marker bricks.
Lay the second course in the same way, placing mortar pears on the top of each brick in the first course. Ensure each whole brick on the second course covers the cross joint on the first, because this helps to give the structure its strength.
Continue laying the required number of courses, alternating cross joints.
Ask your home improvement store or building materials supplier to cut your bricks to size before delivery.
Wear protective equipment such as steel-capped boots, a hard hat and heavy-duty gloves while bricklaying.