Bricklaying for Beginners

December 1st 2020

DIY Bricklaying Tips For Beginners

Some of our customers love a bit of DIY.

Getting a builder is definitely recommended for big building projects but for some people, doing it themselves is part of the fun.

Obviously, many of these people already have some idea of what they're doing.

But what if you're totally new to bricklaying? You love the idea of building a barbecue or extension with your own hands but are a little daunted by the prospect.

We want to make sure you have the info you need to do it well, do it safely and have a finished project that you're proud of.

Of course, bricklaying is only part of the building process so we may cover other parts of that process in future posts.

We'll provide the bricks and you can start building.

If you're only just starting out, these are our top tips for bricklaying. We've laid them out as bullet points so it's easy for you to get the info you need.

Practice Bricklaying

If you've never done it before, we recommend having a practice first.

One of the best ways to do this is building a practice pyramid.

This involves 4 courses going up in smaller increments each time. For example, 4 at the bottom to 1 at the top.

Do this, using the tips below, and see how you get on. Or, if you're confident, get stuck in!

Preparing The Site

Part of bricklaying is in preparing the site beforehand. Giving yourself as much of an advantage and chance to get things right first time.

  1. Take some time to create a good work zone around the place you are doing building work.

  2. Bring all the bricks you need for the job into relatively close proximity. Don't stack them too high as they could fall and get damaged unnecessarily.

  3. It's a good idea to put your brick stack on boards or pallets and not directly onto the ground. They'll likely be there for a while in all kinds of weather and those in direct contact with the ground can get damaged from damp and frost.

Foundations First

We're going to assume that if you're ready to start laying bricks, then you'll already have a good concrete foundation.

If not, then you need to make sure you have a solid foundation or 'footing' first.

  1. A good foundation should start well below ground level. The exact depth and width will depend on the height of the building and the nature of the ground it's being built on.

  2. A typical concrete footing for a one storey extension would be around 200mm deep and 450mm wide. Make sure you establish what is needed before building. If your building project is above a certain size, you will likely need planning permission.

Mixing The Mortar

  1. Mortar, the glue that holds bricks together, is a mix of sand, cement and water.

  2. You may want to add an adhesive such as hydrated lime to make it more pliable and easier to work with (although this isn't essential).

  3. Mortar consists of 4 parts of sand with 1 part of cement. Then, when it's thoroughly mixed, you add the water.

  4. You can do this by hand or in a cement mixer. It's probably worth renting one of these if you're taking on a larger building project.

Consistency

  1. You don't want it to be too wet or too dry. The perfect consistency can be hard to achieve at first but comes with practice.

  2. The best approach is to add a little water, mix it, then if it needs more, add to it until you get the right consistency.

  3. It should be wet enough to slide off the trowel with ease and compress when pressure is applied by another brick but not so wet that it oozes out of the joints and takes ages to dry.

Getting The Right Amount

  1. Don't mix too much in one go. It's a difficult balance to strike as you don't want it to dry out but you also don't want to stall bricklaying at an inconvenient point, because you've run out and need another batch.

  2. Mixing enough for 1 hour's bricklaying is generally a good benchmark to go for. If it's a hot day and the mortar has been hand mixed on a board, then go for even less.

Getting The Mortar On The Brick

  1. Holding the brick in one hand and your trowel in the other, scoop some mortar onto the trowel. Knowing how much to carry will come with practice.

  2. Place the mortar on the face of the brick and give it a few swipes on either side and on one end, to spread (or butter) it on.

  3. Once it's on, place the point of the trowel into the spread at a 45-degree angle, then carefully slide it down the brick to give the mortar a small trench. This will help it evenly cover all parts of the brick surface.

  4. You also need to put mortar on both edges of the brick for the vertical joints. Don't overload these but make sure you get a decent amount on.

  5. It goes without saying that the bricks then need to be placed pretty sharpish, to stop the mortar falling off.

Laying The Bricks

  1. When laying a brick, the vertical joint should be staggered. I.e. the 2^nd^ course should start half a brick into the 1^st^ and so on. This creates what's known as a stretcher or running bond, the most popular type of bond in bricklaying.

  2. With an extension, you would normally achieve this by starting your first course in a bond with the original wall at a 90ยบ angle.

  3. Place the fully 'buttered' brick and gently push it up to the vertical joint to gain the desired width. Wipe off the excess mortar with your trowel and either place it on the next brick or add it back to the mortar.

  4. Give the brick a quick tap with your trowel.

  5. Once all bricks in a course are laid, use a spirit level to ensure things are level, again using your trowel to lightly tap any areas that are uneven.

  6. As you go it's also a good idea to make sure your wall is level vertically, using the spirit level.

Getting The Job Done

Bricklaying gets a lot easier when you get into the swing of it, but if you remember one thing, it's to take it easy.

  1. Slow and steady wins the race. Rush it and you'll end up with problems that will be more time consuming than if you'd just taken it slowly in the first place. You can redo a single course you've just laid, but it's a lot harder to sort out a problem, 4 courses deep.

  2. When you've finished laying for the day, scrape off any excess mortar from the sides and give it a brush down.

  3. Feel free to top up existing joints with a little more mortar if they aren't flush.

Need Bricks?

Hope you found that useful!

Whatever stage you're at in your bricklaying journey we're glad you're here.

If you're near the beginning and you need bricks, then you're in the right place.

To find a specific brick to match an existing structure, head to our brick matching service. Otherwise, you may want to check out our brick selection service or brick library.