You can do it. I know it is a long apprenticeship and years of on-job experience for a bricklayer to become proficient in the art of bricklaying. But a bricklayer is judged on two main criteria. The quality of his finished work and the time it took him to produce it. Much brickwork is done these days by contract or peace work. You will pay your bricklayer to lay your bricks by the brick.
That means that for each brick the bricklayer lays there will be a set charge. That is just for laying and you have to provide the bricks and the sand and cement and other additives that are needed. The bricklayer will provide his own brickies laborer to carry the bricks for him and mix his mortar. So how can you possibly lay your own bricks.
For a start you will not be in a hurry like the bricklayer is to get in so many in the day to make it worthwhile money wise. You are able to take your time and with a few tips you will be able to do a pretty good job. If I can give you the basics to get started you will be off. We are lucky here because the bricklayer is one of those trades where he needs very few tools. Not like the poor old carpenter who needs a truck to cart all his tools to the job. The bricklayer can almost tuck his few tools under one arm and have all he needs for the days work.
First thing of course is the bricklayers trowel. This is the diamond shaped trowel on a wood handle and comes in a fairy standard size so you can’t go wrong. You will need a couple of good nylon string lines. Get the best ones so you can stretch them really tight without them breaking. If you are not careful on a windy day with your string line too slack you will end up with a curve in your brick wall to the prevailing wind.
Depending on the finish you want with your mortar you will need a little tool to shape the mortar joint at the end of the day. You also will need a level and a few line blocks. If these are not available they are easy to make. Your line block can be cut out of a small piece of lumber about 3″ long and 2″ wide and deep. Cut the long side at the half way mark down half way and take this piece out. You now have a piece of lumber in an L shape. Run the saw through the other half, half way so the line can pass through.
On each corner of your brick wall stand a straight piece of 2″x 4″ with one corner at the corner of the brick. These are marked for each row of bricks and your line block will sit behind this piece and hold the line exactly where the brick is to be. Once you have all the lines set up round your job you can easily place the bricks in a dead straight line. Make sure they are level and an even distance apart. For this of course you are going to need your mortar.
Mortar varies in every area and it will pay to check out a local building site and watch some brickies at work. Check how they use the trowel so you can copy there technique later on. Watch too how the brickies laborer mixes the mortar. You don’t need a concrete mixer for this as it is easy to mix in a wheelbarrow.
A hoe is useful here for the mixing and it is important that all batches are mixed the same so you get an even coloring in your wall. Depending on the local sand you will find an average mix is 9 parts sand to 3 parts lime and 1 part cement and mixed to a consistency of toothpaste and not too wet. Sometimes you will need to add plasticizer to make your mix more pliable but that depends on your local sand. Your hardware store could tell you what the brickies use.
Now all you need is a few mortar boards, a piece of ply or tin or anything you can use to sit your mortar on while you lay your bricks. You are ready to go. Start down the back somewhere so that by the time you get to the front of the job you will be an expert. Make sure your string line is tight and in the right place. Spread some mortar and lay your first brick. Tap it down with the trowel so it is dead level and exactly on the line.
Don’t let it touch the line as this will push it and distort your wall but place the brick so that the line is right on the front top corner of the brick. You will soon get the hang of it. Do you remember how that bricky got the mortar on to the brick for the second one. Some find it easier to lay in front of them and some behind them.
You can start at either end of the job to suit. You have to get some mortar on the end of the brick to butt it against the one you just laid. You have to be able to do this without getting mortar all over the face of the brick because we want that clean for our finish. It will come together for you after a while. Just take your time and learn it slowly. That brick has to be exactly apart from the last so it is the same as all the rest, usually 3/8″.
That is the secret of good bricklaying, nice even spacings between your bricks. It looks much neater. If you find that you have too much mortar on the face of the bricks you can always give them a scrub will spirits of salts after they are dry. That will dissolve the mortar and leave you with a nice clean brick face.
So there you go. You are a bricklayer. Once you have mastered the art you will find it is not hard and you will be so proud of the finished job.