How To Build a Brick Wall: A Step by Step Guide

May 3rd 2019

Building a brick wall may look like a simple task, but it takes a lot of practice and proper technique. From making a solid foundation to achieving the right mortar consistency, all steps are equally important and contribute to a sturdy, long-lasting brick wall. For any structural or load-bearing masonry wall, it's necessary to employ a professional. However, for a simple garden brick wall, a DIY approach can be an excellent option to save money and expand your experience.

Building a brick wall doesn't need to be daunting. If you're wondering where to get started, we've put together a step by step guide below to get you on the right course! This guide is just one way of building a wall: along the way you could make additional aesthetic or functional choices and still end up with a great final result.

Materials Needed

You'll need the following materials to build your brick wall:

  • Trowel
  • Hammer
  • Bolster
  • Spirit Level
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Bricks
  • String and clamps (or nails)
  • Dry bristle brush

Step #1: Calculate How Many Bricks You Need

The first step is to determine how many bricks you will need for your project. Bricks come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, with the standard UK brick measuring 215mm long x 102.5mm deep x 65mm high. Don't forget to account for mortar, which is typically 10mm thick.

Before you do anything, you will need to measure the area you need. It can be annoying to run out halfway through, and an expensive mistake to over-order. As a rule of thumb, there are 60 bricks per square metre for a single skin wall (half brick wall) and 120 bricks per square metre for a one brick thick solid wall. Include an extra 10% for wastage. For a more complete guide, see our How Many Bricks Do I Need? article.

Step #2: Order Your Bricks

If you need to match to existing brickwork, use our brick matching service or if it doesn't need to match, just ask us to find you a brick with our free brick selection service. We'll get you the right brick delivered at the right price when you need it, so you can be confident in your wall before it's even built! You can then get the rest of the materials from your local DIY store.

Step #3: Prepare Your Foundation

One of the most important parts of a brick wall is the foundation. This is the support for your wall, and the trench size will depend on the width and height of your masonry wall. For reference, you will need a half a metre deep trench for a brick wall up to one metre in height. Make sure you check the measurements before digging as a solid trench is essential to prevent your wall from collapsing.

Drive wooden stakes to find the optimal height for your bricks in your trench. Spread the stakes two to four feet apart (depending on the length of your wall) and ensure they are completely level. The first row of bricks should sit flush in the foundation. Fill the foundation with concrete, making sure to keep it level and fill to the top of the stakes. Leave it to dry for 2 - 3 days.

Step #4: Mark Your Guideposts

Once you have your foundation, you need to set up gauging rods to ensure your brickwork is consistently level. The easiest way to do this is to get a piece of timber and cut it to the height of your finished wall. Next, mark 65mm lines (if using standard sized bricks) to determine where each row (also known as a course) should be. Make sure these are freestanding and in the ground at either end of your masonry wall.

Set up a string line from one gauging rod to the other. This will be for your second row of bricks, as the first string will be sitting in the trench. Make sure the line is straight and level with no sag.

Step #5: Mix Your Mortar

Next, mix your mortar on an old damp board. Make sure you follow manufacturer instructions, as the strength of your wall can depend on your mortar mix. The mortar should slip easily from your shovel, although the mixture should be firm enough to hold its shape. Only mix what you need and don't let the mortar sit for more than an hour or two.

Soak the bricks in water and let them drip dry. This will ensure that they bond correctly with the mortar. Although, make sure that there is no water running off the bricks as it can make the mortar too wet.

Step #6: Lay Your First Brick

Once the foundation is dry, it's time to get started! Place mortar on the foundation and make a 'v' shape along the mortar with your trowel. Creating a 'v' shaped trench spreads the mortar out and makes it easier to lay the course. Place the brick in the mortar and press it firmly into place, taking care to make it level.

Grab the next brick and add mortar to the short edge before placing it down hard up against the first brick. Tap it into place and remove any excess mortar with your trowel. The remaining mortar can be reused as long as it is free from any dirt or debris. Repeat the process for the first course. Check that the bricks are flush using the spirit level. Also, ensure you consistently keep 10mm of mortar between the bricks. Otherwise, the strength of your wall may be compromised.

Step #7: Cut a Brick in Half For The Next Row

Make sure your string line is set up for this row to know the height you need to achieve. Bricks should always be staggered to provide added strength and support. However, a staggered wall means you may need to cut a brick in half!

Grab your brick and tap firmly in the middle with the pointed end of your hammer. If you do this correctly, your brick should break in half. However, if you're a little inexperienced, it may be best to use a bolster and a hammer - it can also provide a cleaner cut. Place the bolster in the centre of the brick and tap firmly using your hammer. A crack should start to appear. Hit the bolster hard once more, and the brick should break away cleanly. It doesn't need to be an entirely clean cut, as the rough edges can help attach the brick to the mortar.

Step #8: Repeat the Process to Build Your Brick Wall

Now it's time for the second course! Start the row by placing the cut brick down on a bed of mortar. Make sure your string line is in the right place, and the brick meets the string. Place the next brick, check that it is flush and continue. Repeat the process until you have completed the second course.

Continue working your way upward until you reach the desired height. Move the string line with each row and continuously check that your wall is level. Don't forget to include the 10mm for mortar!

Step #9: Finishing Your Wall

Once you have reached the final height, it's time to add the finishing touches. Depending on the purpose of your masonry wall, you may decide to use different joining patterns. One example could be a soldier course, where bricks are turned vertically, with the ends facing out. There are many different variations you can use to improve the visual aesthetics of your wall. Once you have all bricks in place, do a quick spot check and patch any gaps with mortar along the wall using the trowel.

Go over the brick wall using a soft brush to remove any excess mortar before it dries. Make sure you clean up any mortar that has fallen on the ground too. You will also need to cover your wall overnight with a tarp or polythene sheet to protect it from the elements such as rain or frost. This is temporary and should only be needed for the first night.

If you're matching the brick to existing brickwork, you may need to tint and/or weather the brickwork. This will already be covered in our matching process. You can use the code given from your brick purchase to get 20% off this process once your wall is finished.

Congratulations, you've built a brick wall! Get in touch with the team at Brickhunter if you need help choosing the bricks for your next project.