Essentials of
Masonry

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Part 3--Construct a Brick Wall

MORTAR JOINTS

The strength of any brick structure depends on-

  • The strength of the brick.
  • The strength and elasticity of the mortar.
  • The workmanship of the bricklayer.
  • The uniformity of the bricks.
  • The method of laying the bricks.

The strength of mortar is normally greater than that of the brick. The strongest element of a brick wall is mortar. Therefore, the way in which you lay bricks in mortar is very important.

3-4. Using a Trowel. To spread mortar for a bed joint, hold the trowel directly over the centerline of the previous course, tilt the trowel slightly, and drop an equal amount of mortar on four or five bricks along the wall unit (Figure 3-3). Do not make the row too long or the mortar will dry out.

Figure 3-3.  Spreading mortar for the bed joint
Figure 3-3. Spreading mortar for the bed joint

3-5. Spreading and Furrowing. Use a trowel to spread the mortar about 1 inch thick for the bed joint, and then make a shallow furrow (Figure 3-4).

Figure 3-4.  Furrowing the bed joint
Figure 3-4. Furrowing the bed joint

If the furrow is too deep there will be a gap between the mortar and the brick. This produces a poor bond and will reduce the resistance of the wall to water penetration (Figure 3-5).

Figure 3-5.  Poorly bonded brick
Figure 3-5. Poorly bonded brick

3-6. Laying Head Joints. When laying stretcher courses, you will bond the heads of the bricks together to form a head joint.

a. Buttering a Brick. Figure 3-6 shows the proper way to butter a brick for a head joint. Place as much mortar as will stick on the end of the brick.

Figure 3-6.  Buttering a brick for the head joint
Figure 3-6. Buttering a brick for the head joint

b. Placing a Brick. Push the brick into place so that excess mortar squeezes out at the head joint and at the sides of the wall (Figure 3-7).

Figure 3-7.  Placing a brick in the head joint
Figure 3-7. Placing a brick in the head joint

3-7. Laying Cross Joints. Cross joints are the joints formed by the long face of the brick when laying header courses. They are laid in the same way you lay the header joints. Spread the mortar for the bed joints several bricks in advance, butter the face of the brick, and push it into position (Figure 3-8). Cross joint must be completely filled with mortar.

Figure 3-8.  Making cross joints in the header courses
Figure 3-8. Making cross joints in the header courses

3-8. Laying Closure Joints. You must butter both sides of the wall opening and the closure brick itself to ensure a well-filled joint (Figure 3-9). Lay the closure joints in both the header and stretcher the same way.

Figure 3-9.  Buttered openings for header and strecher courses
Figure 3-9. Buttered openings for header and strecher courses

a. Header Closure. Figure 3-10 shows the proper way to butter and place a closure brick in a header closure. After buttering the opening, put as much mortar as will stick on both faces of the header and push it into place.

Figure 3-10.  Buttering and placing the closure brick in the header course
Figure 3-10. Buttering and placing the closure brick in the header course

b. Stretcher Closure. The technique for buttering and placing the closure brick in a stretcher course is shown in Figure 3-11.

Figure 3-11.  Buttering and placing the closure brick in the stretcher course
Figure 3-11. Buttering and placing the closure brick in the stretcher course

3-9. Removing Excess Mortar. The excess mortar should be cut off after each brick is in place and used for the next joint. Surplus mortar should be placed back on the mortar bond for retempering, if necessary.

David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015