If you’re thinking of doing a spot of garden landscaping and building a small dwarf garden wall, then your first thought will probably be to hire a local general builder in Swansea to get the job done.
However, before you decide to go down that road, read on and you might very well to consider doing it yourself and saving some money
Dwarf garden walls can be constructed with a single wythe. A single wythe means with just one horizontal row of bricks. However such walls are not particularly sturdy and they can easily be pushed over by hand and with little force.
Double-wythe brick walls are much studier, though if they are more than 2 feet high, it’s very unlikely they would be suitably strong enough to act as retaining walls.
When constructing brick walls it’s paramount they are built on a solid concrete footing. Bonds which are a brick pattern that ensures strength and stability of a wall, permit you to construct double-wythe walls that interlock in a number of defferent ways.
Bricks turned sideways to link the wythes together are commonly called headers, while the remainder of the bricks are known in the industry as stretchers. Most bonds require cutting. To assist you keep rhythm and concentration as you handle mortar and lay bricks, cut a sufficient number of bricks beforehand.
Use about one-third of a bag of mortar and combine with an adequate amount of water so it’s of a thick enough texture to hold its shape when you cut ridges in it with a trowel. Another good test is to pop some of mixed mortar on the trowel and turn it over, the mix should hold on the trowel for a couple of seconds.
Constructing a Brick Wall
Prior to you starting laying, make a story pole so you can take a quick measure to determine the appropriate height of the bricks. Next, lay a length of bricks on edge on a flat surface area with approx 10mm spaces in between them. Next lay a length of 1 x 2 or 1 x 4 piece of wood next to the bricks and draw markers with a pen or pencil indicating the centers of each mortar joint.
Lay a Dry Run
Snap chalk lines on the surface of the footing showing the outline of the wall. Place the bricks on the surface of the footing in a dry run, with 19mm dowels in between each brick to represent the joints. Ensure you have a clear understanding how the bricks will be laid out at the corner. You may have to cut a couple of bricks. You may choose to reduce the amount of cutting you have to do by moving one wall over a little. With a pencil, mark the footing for the centers of each joint.
Lay the First Bricks
Take away all the dry-laid bricks. Commencing at a corner or at the end of your dwarf garden wall, lay down enough mortar to bricks you intend to lay.
Set and position the very first brick. Butter one end of each of the other bricks and set them in position along the course. Gently push the bricks together ensuring the joint centres are in line with the pencil marks.
Next you need to use a spirit level to ensure that the bricks form a flat and even surface area in either direction.
Scrape away all excess mortar with your trowal. If you are at a corner, repeat the steps for the second wythe and lay bricks for the beginning of the returning wall.
Construct a Lead
Continue constructing the ‘lead’ (the corner or end of the wall) to approx 7 or 8 bricks high. Ensure you keep checking with a spirit level that the courses are level and the corner is plumb.
Never try to slide bricks to alter their position, unless they were laid within the previous two minutes.
String a Line In Between Leads
Construct a lead at the other end of the wall in the same method and inspect it with the story pole and spirit level. Lay all the bricks in between each lead for the bottom course of both wythes, following the pencil marks as guides.
Hook mason’s blocks and extend a mason’s line from one lead to the other at the center of a joint. The line needs to be tight and approx 3/4mm from the bricks.
Fill in Between the Leads
For each course, move the line blocks up one joint and utilize the line as a guide for the height and for the outer edge of the wall. Make sure to avoid any bricks touching the line. The last brick in the middle of a course, called the closure brick, is buttered with mortar at both ends. Give the closure brick a generous buttering and slowly drop it directly in, ensuring you avoid moving it once in position. You might need to utilize a striking tool to push additional mortar into one joint.
Strike the Joints
In 20 minute intervals and dependent on the weather you need to press your thumb into the joints of the brickwork to see if they are ready for striking.
A rule of thumb ( apologies for the pun) to follow when testing the joints is if your thumbprint retains its shape then you’re ready to bring out your brick jointer. Use the brick jointer to smooth both horizontal and vertical joints.
Having smooth verticals is important as it ensures water will drain effectively. If any mortar exudes out from the jointing tool avoid wiping it as it will smear over the bricks.
Brush and Clean
Once the mortar has actually begun to harden and appears crumbly, brush off all the excess. If the mortar is still smearing the bricks, you should wait a couple of minutes longer for the mortar to dry a little more.
It might be possible to wipe any smears away with a damp thick sponge, but make sure not to get the joints too moist or wet or you will possibly compromise them. Wait at least 24 hrs for the mortar to properly set and then clean the bricks with a mild acid solution.
With little or no experience, building a dwarf garden wall might seem daunting at first, but with the aid of this step-by-step guide, taking your time and simply having a go you might really surprise yourself and produce something that a seasoned bricklayer would be proud of.