How to Make Portland Cement Mortar

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Things You'll Need

  • Mortar mix

  • Masonry sand

  • Round-point shovel

  • Hose

  • Masonry hoe

  • Large mixing pan or wheelbarrow

Mortar is the material that holds masonry construction together.

Mortar is the cement-like material used to bond bricks, stones and other masonry. Most mortar is a combination of Portland cement, hydrated lime, sand and water. The four main types of mortar are identified by the letters M, N, O and S. Each has a different proportion of the four ingredients, creating mortar of different strengths. There are also specialty mortars for specific materials, such as glass block, and for use on special projects, such as historic restorations. Using mortar mix, which is a premixed blend of Portland cement and lime, saves time and ensures that the proportions of the principle ingredients are correct.


Step 1

Select the type of mortar mix you need for your project. Read the bag for instructions on mixing the proper proportions of sand, mortar mix and water.

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Step 2

Pour the amount of dry mortar mix you will need into a mixing pan or wheelbarrow. If you are mixing less than a full bag, the directions will give proportions you can measure using a consistent shovel full of each dry ingredient to get the proper ratio. If you are using the entire bag, the instructions will tell you the amount of sand and water needed per bag.


Step 3

Add the appropriate amount of sand to the dry mortar mix and blend thoroughly with a masonry hoe. Use a chopping motion to pull small portions of the mix first in one direction and then the other.

Step 4

Pull the mortar and sand mixture to one end of the pan, and add a pool of water in the other end. Using the same chopping motion, gradually combine the dry mix and the water, adding more water as needed, until the mix is fully moistened. The texture of the mix should slowly become smooth and pasty, similar to peanut butter. If it is too thin, add more mortar mix and sand. If it is too thick, add water.


Place the mixing pan on a flat area of ground where any over-spill will not damage lawn, patio, deck or landscaping. A garden hoe will work if a masonry hoe is not available.


Mortar must be used soon after mixing. Re-wetting mortar that has dried out weakens its strength. Protect skin and eyes from direct contact with mortar mix.


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