. Soldier Courses
A soldier course is a course of bricks laid vertically upright/ on end. It is typically located directly over the top of a door or window opening. The length of the soldier course over an opening is usually the same as the width of the opening between the reveals.
Fig. 254 Soldier course in a typical application, above a window opening.
There are a number of important issues to consider when building soldier courses (see Fig 255):
• The bricks selected for use as a soldier course must not vary in length otherwise this will reflect in an uneven bottom arris when the top arris is run-in level to a string-line. Even though the bottom arris is often the one that forms the eye-line, it is still usual to lay soldiers to a string-line at the top, hence the importance of ensuring that the bricks are all of the same length.
• The widths of door and window openings do not always ‘work bricks’ so it is vital to dry bond the soldier course first to see what adjustment is required to the thickness of cross-joints, if any. It is a good idea to use a pencil or chalk to mark the top of the supporting steel lintel with the positions of the cross-joints once the soldier course has been set-out dry.
• Laying a soldier course to a string-line will also prevent the face of the bricks being twisted, which would ruin the face plane. On short soldier courses (for example, over a door) it is usual to lay soldiers from one side straight to the other. Longer soldier courses are usually started from both ends and run-in to the middle.
• In the context of face-plane deviation, the soldier bricks must be vertical up their face and must not ‘kick in’ or ‘kick out’ at the bottom. Verticality up the face of the soldier bricks is
ensured by using a second string-line near the bottom of the soldier course.
• Every soldier brick must be truly vertical and not lean to one side. Each one must be checked with a boat level as it is laid.
• Finally, when laying a soldier course over a door or window opening, weepholes must be included.
Fig. 256 Soldier course below a window opening at sill level.
Laying the last soldier brick can also prove problematic in terms of keeping the brickwork clean. When laying the last soldier, thin cross-joints are placed on both bricks that have already been laid and on both sides of the last brick being laid. The last soldier is gently eased downwards into place, ensuring that the mortar does not squeeze out too much and smudge the faces of the bricks.
Soldier courses are not limited to appearing above door and window openings – they are also often seen beneath window openings at sill level.
Soldier courses can be incorporated into a free-standing wall, or can be extended to the whole width of a building elevation or all the way round a building at first-floor level, to form a decorative band or string-course.
Fig. 257 Soldier string-course in contrasting coloured bricks.