How to Mortar Brick


Mortar is to bricks what nails are to 2-by-4s and what glue is to popsicle sticks--it is the device that holds them all together. Mortar is made up of a combination of Portland cement, lime and sand mixed together with water to create a thick paste. It is the most critical component of brick construction. You can have the strongest bricks available, but if the mortar fails then so does the project. It is important to know the steps to mortaring bricks in order to create a stable finished product.

Things You'll Need

  • Portland cement
  • Sand
  • Lime
  • Water
  • Wheel barrel
  • Shovel
  • String
  • Concrete trowel
  • Level
  • Mix the mortar to the desired consistency. Mortar consists of Portland cement, sand, lime and water. The ratio of each is one part Portland cement, two parts sand, and one-quarter part lime. Slowly add water while stirring the mixture until it has a creamy texture that is the consistency of yogurt.

  • Lay one brick down where one of the bottom corners will be. The brick should be sitting on top of a concrete footing. Lay a second brick at the opposite corner. Stretch a piece of string between these two bricks on the outside face. This will give you a straight line on which to position all of the other bricks on the wall.

  • Remove the two bricks from the footing. Scoop a small shovel full of mortar and place it across the top of the footing. Use a concrete trowel to spread it evenly across the footing until it is about 3/4-inch thick and about 3-inches wide.

  • Place the first brick back into the original corner position, and lightly press it into the mortar. A little mortar will squeeze out the sides, which is normal. Take a second brick and "butter" one end with mortar. Place it next to the first brick, and lightly push it down and against the first brick. Remove any excess mortar that squeezes out from the sides and bottoms with the trowel. Use your level to make sure these two bricks are level with each other on the top and sides. Repeat until you have completed one row.

  • Start the second row by cutting one brick in half. Spread a layer of mortar across the bricks that have been put into position with the trowel. Lay the half-brick on top of the first brick you put into place in the first row. Lightly press down. Butter the end of a full brick and place it against this half-brick. Complete this row using full bricks. Make sure that the bricks are all level on the tops and sides. Repeat this process until you have completed the wall. Every other row should start out with a half-brick. This will create a finished zig-zag seam pattern that makes the wall much stronger and more durable.

Tips & Warnings

  • It is important that you only mix as much material as you can use in about two hours. After that, the mortar will become too hard to spread.

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