Do It Yourself Bricklaying - Part II


Before you can start any project you will need to work out the quantity of materials that will be required for the job. There are several reasons why you will need an accurate assessment of the materials required.

Firstly, you will need to 'cost' the job. If you are undertaking a DIY bricklaying project or employing someone else to lay the bricks, you will need to have an accurate idea of the cost. You will also need to order the materials in advance. If you over order the amount required it is unlikely your merchant will take any surplice off your hands. If they do, it is likely to cost you overall. If you do not order enough materials, you will be subject to the whims of your merchant or supplier which could result in long, costly delays. The advantages of bulk purchasing are also likely to be lost. The most problematic issue will be of colour matching. Bricks from a different 'batch' from the kiln will vary in color. This can be really striking when the wall is completed and you stand back to look. It can all be very frustrating!

So, how much do you need, and what do you need?
You will know how tall and how long a wall is but the quantity of bricks is another thing. What about the mortar - you will need to estimate this too?

Bricks are mainly made from clay. Because of this, they are not a precise artefact. Sizes will vary slightly depending on the amount of moisture in the clay or the amount of time spent in the kiln. For ease of calculation the nominal size of a brick is 215mm x 102.5mm x 65mm.

The mortar joint is nominally 10mm thick both horizontally and vertically. This makes the nominal size of a brick for calculation purposes 225mm x 102.5mm x 75mm (9" x 4" x 3").

The long face of the brick is called the 'stretcher' and the end of the brick is the 'header'.

To calculate the number of bricks per metre, first find out the area of brickwork. Then decide on the 'bond' of the brickwork. The most common bond for standard brick walls is 'stretcher' bond. For a rule of thumb guide you should allow 60 bricks per square metre for the building of a single skin wall. This is known as a half brick wall. For a two skin cavity wall, you will need 120 bricks per square meter. Obvious isn't it?

If you intend constructing a one brick thick solid wall, again you should allow for 120 bricks per square metre.

These figures do not allow for wastage or breakage, so it would be a good idea to add a few extra bricks to the order to make certain you do not run short. Normally around 10% extra should be plenty

The next question to be answered is how much mortar will I need?
Once again the 'rule of thumb' answer is 25kg of dry mortar mix to 25 bricks. For smaller DIY BRICKLAYING jobs, dry ready mixed mortar can be bought in 25kg bags. This will not be economic for the larger project. It will be more economic to bulk buy sand and mortar. Most bricklayers will mix sand and cement in a cubic metre cement mixer. Here we move into the realms of BRICKLAYING folklore. The rule of thumb is a ' bag mix'. This is half a 25kg bag of cement to 30 'shovels' of sand. This approximates to a 1:5 mortar mix.

In fact, to lay say 1000 bricks = 16.5 square metres, as a single skin wall, approximately .3 cubic metres of mortar will be needed. You can either use the 'rule of thumb' or calculate your quantities on the above basis.

For concrete block work as a single skin wall, use 10 blocks per squared metre for your calculations. The blocks nominally measure 450mm x 215mm x 102.5mm. You will need 25Kg of dry mortar mix per 5 blocks.

Remember All calculations and quantities are aproximate and the information supplied should be used for guidance only.

When working on a building site, a good bricklayer's labourer is highly regarded, as the perfect mortar mix is important for good bricklaying. For 2.5 KG of dry mortar mix about 2.5 litres of water will be required. Water should be added first in sufficient quality to allow it to be absorbed by the mix, then it should be added little by little until the mix has a consistency of butter. This should allow it to slip easily from the shovel but firm enough for the sides not to collapse when a hollow is made in the centre of the mix.

Do not allow mortar to hang around unused for too long. Mortar should generally be used within two hours of mixing, so only mix sufficient to be used within that time.

If the mortar does 'go off' - resist the temptation to 'knock' the mix back. The best thing to do is dump the mortar and mix up a fresh batch.

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