Once you have reached a decision, the work you propose doing may entail building some kind of wall. It may be merely a low wall to encompass soil in a raised part of the garden (for which you can use secondhand bricks) or it may be a boundary wall, shed or garage requiring new bricks.
Let us start with a simple straight wall.
There are several sizes of secondhand bricks convenient for holding in the hand. By using the old imperial standard size your calculations will be simplified. Lay this brick on its side on a I in bed of mortar, with mortar also at one end and a side, and you will have a horizontal module of 9 x 4 ½ x 3 in. Two adjoining bricks laid side to side, with mortar in between and at one end, will make a 9 in square. So will three adjoining bricks laid on end.
This means that whichever way they are placed you will have a common denominator of 9 in to simplify measurements and help you to build without using too many cut bricks, slips and specials. It will also enable you to lay the English and Flemish bonds without trouble.
The standard metric size of a new brick is slightly less, though still modular. Including the necessary mortar joints it measures 225 x 112.5 x 75 mm — which makes a common denominator of a little over 8 in. Ladies will no doubt find this smaller size easier to handle.
Some manufacturers, however, produce modular bricks measuring 200 x 100 x 100 mm and 300 x 100 x 100 mm.
Slip bricks are made of the same length and depth as a standard brick but vary in width for facing work when a full brick would project too far over the wall surface. If you do not use these you will have to cut your own from whole bricks and this takes time and practice. Specials, as the name implies, are for various ornamental facings and corners, plinths and arches.
Now there are various kinds of brick — common, flettons, facings, rustics and so on. Tell your builders’ merchant what you require them for and he will advise you which to buy.
The mortar used for bonding bricks is composed of cement, soft sand and hydrated lime mixed with water to give a puddingy consistency. The mortar should not be stronger than the bricks it is intended to bond. One part of cement, six of sand and one of lime would be suitable for most jobs. A proprietary plasticizer could take the place of lime. Don’t mix more mortar than you can use in a couple of hours and don’t add water to the old stuff as it will have lost most of its properties after this period. You can get proprietary mortar with plasticizer added; it is more expensive than buying the ingredients separately but saves a lot of hard work.