Bricklaying Basic Skills
Before bricklaying commences, it is important to consider where to position the materials and where to stand. The aim is to eliminate as much excessive bending and movement on the part of the bricklayer as this is tiresome and slows down the work. The positioning of materials ready for bricklaying is called ‘loading out’ or ‘stacking out’. They must be placed to ensure efficiency and economy of movement for the bricklayer, with everything in easy reach.
First, a rough calculation of the bricks and/or blocks required for the job should be carried out and the total number of bricks and/or blocks spread out evenly in neat, bonded stacks along the length of the wall to be built. Bonding the bricks or blocks at this stage will reduce the risk of them being knocked over and creating a safety hazard. Also, wherever possible, the faces of the bricks should be turned away from the mortar board so they do not get splashed and stained.
On long walls it is good practice for there to be a number of mortar boards (or ‘spots’) positioned conveniently, so that the bricklayer is always within easy reach of both bricks and mortar. Mortar boards are lifted up on four bricks, one at each corner, which helps to keep the work area tidy but also reduces the amount of bending for the bricklayer and the travel distance for the mortar. This may seem like a small time-saving but it adds up considerably over the course of a working day.
Stacks of bricks and the front of the mortar board should be placed approximately 600mm from the face of the wall being built, to give adequate and safe working space but avoiding the bricklayer having to engage in excessive movement between the wall and materials. When loading out, bricks should be carefully selected in order to avoid chipped and cracked bricks appearing on the face of the wall.
Typically, mortar boards are simply made from an off-cut of 20mm plywood (or similar), cut to a usable practical size of around 750mm x 750mm. Mortar boards should be dampened before being loaded out with mortar, as a dry board will absorb water from the mortar mix. This will dry out the mortar and reduce its workability.
Finally, and before any bricklaying starts, any adjacent paved areas should be protected with polythene sheeting to prevent them being contaminated or stained with mortar splashes. Tarmac, for example, is notoriously difficult to clean when mortar has been dropped on it and trodden in! Even with sheeting down, paved areas should still be hosed down at the end of every working day.