Brick & Mortar Techniques


Brick and mortar construction has been around for hundreds of years. This type of construction was reserved only for the professional mason who had mastered the basic procedures of laying level and straight courses of bricks. However, these methods have been refined and simplified to include the do-it-yourselfer. By mastering a few basic methods, you can install your own brick and mortar project.

Leveling and Plumbing

  • The bricks in a brick and mortar project must be leveled as the courses increase. Often, a 4-foot hand level is used to check the brick courses by placing it horizontally along the brick course. Although level bricks are necessary for a sound structure, straight bricks are even more essential. If the bricks are not laid plumb, then the wall will lean or even collapse. Placing a 4-foot level vertically on the face of a brick and mortar wall while it is still wet will allow you to install the wall safely.


  • Staggering the bricks in each course will provide the strongest brick and mortar wall available. The staggering method was developed as a means of tying the entire structure together, preventing movement or failure. To stagger bricks, simply lay out one course by placing the bricks end to end. Stagger the next course on top of the previous bricks by aligning the ends of those bricks with the centers of the previous ones.

Flemish Bond

  • Another popular brick and mortar method is called a Flemish bond, which is the most decorative bond. Even though this bond is highly decorative, it still exhibits the characteristics of a strong staggered bond. The Flemish bond is similar to the staggered bond. However, rather than having whole stretcher bricks installed end to end, the pattern is broken by one half of a brick that lands directly in the center of previous and subsequent stretcher courses.


  • The mortar for a brick and mortar project must be mixed to a thick oatmeal consistency. If the mixture is too wet, then the bricks will not sit straight, and if the mix is too dry, then the bricks cannot be forced into the mud bed. The typical method for mixing mortar is by adding sand and dry mortar mix in a 2-to-1 ratio, or two parts sand to one part dry mortar mix. Two gallons of water must be added for mixing. These methods are absolutely an essential part of brick and mortar. One without the other will render the brick and mortar job a failure.

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  • "Masonry Skills"; R.T Kreh; 2002
  • "Masonry & Concrete"; Benjamin W. Allen; 1997
  • "Building With Masonry"; Dick Kreh; 1998
  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/ Images Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images
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