While DIYers often play safe and stick to putting up shelves and puttying, a larger project, like building a brick wall, can save a lot of money, and provide an enormous sense of achievement as you tick off another 'I can do that' project off your DIY list.
While building load-bearing or major interior walls would be best left to a professional, there is no reason why you shouldn't turn your hand to a garden wall, or even a brick wall for a shed. A wall at the end of your garden might be a good place to start.
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What You Need
While low walls require little more than time, cement mix, sand and lime, bricks, a flat board and a brickie’s trowel, water, spray paint or a ball of string, a spirit level, a tape measure and some stakes, if you’ve set your sights on building a higher wall, you ought to also hire a scaffold tower, to give you easy access to the top bits of the wall safely. By removing the need to stretch and overreach, you’re likely to build a far straighter and truer wall. Check your council’s building regulations before building a wall over 2 metres tall.
Scaffold towers are ideal for a range of little DIY jobs that need you to have either work at a range of heights, or at one height and use more than one piece of equipment. When you’re building a wall, you need to have a pile of bricks as well as a range of other tools, that, when on a scaffold tower, are easy to access. It’s like taking the ground with you!
While it’s tempting to set up your scaffold tower as soon as you start your project, you have to get the wall foundations set first. Check that the area you’re building on has relatively hard soil and good drainage. Mark the area you want to build in, using spray paint or string and stakes.
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Scaffold Tower Hire
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After marking out accurately, get started with digging. A 2-metre construction needs a foundation of 450mm x 600mm. After digging deep (both with the spade, and your stamina)!) put a stake at each end of your trench and mark them at the depth you want the foundations to be.
Prepare your cement. Mix your foundation cement using a 1 to 5 ratio of cement to ballast; when it’s ready, pour it into the trench, level it off, then leave it to set for a day before building on it.
When the foundations are dry, and assuming you want to build a 2m wall, you’ll need to set up your scaffold tower. With easy-assemble, colour-coded sections scaffold towers arrive ready to set up. On lockable casters, the scaffold tower is both sturdy and moveable, so you can shunt it along the wall, moving all of your equipment at one time, and giving your a more comfortable, safe working platform . The scaffold tower provides a ladder internally and a trapdoor to go through, so if you are tight on space you don’t need to consider having to climb up the outside of the tower. You can get single- or double-width towers, which can be built in a range of styles to suit your space perfectly.
Scaffold tower and foundations set, check that you have 130 bricks per s quare metre of double wall you’re building – all walls over 75cm high should be double-thickness, so they’re sturdy.
Get The Wall Started!
Finally, it’s time to mix your mortar using the cement, sand and lime and water. For protected walls, use 1 part cement, 1 part lime and 6 parts sand; if the wall needs to stand strong against the elements mix 1 part cement with ½ part lime and 4 parts sand. Mix your mortar on a flat board, so you don’t mess up your garden or patio. First, add half of the sand, then pile in the rest of the ingredients before adding the remaining half of sand and mixing it up with a spade. Make a hole in the middle, pour in some water and combine with the trowel. Keep adding water until it is wet enough to slide off the trowel, but still keeps its shape when you make a hole in it. Mortar only lasts a couple of hours, so don’t make too much!
Finally it’s time to start actually laying the bricks! Place a brick across the foundation at both ends of the cement pit, and create a guide by wrapping a piece of string between the two; scoop up a trowel of mortar, dash it next to the first brick, and lay a brick on top of it with the frog facing up (the frog is the indented side of the brick- not a small amphibian!). You have laid your first brick! Again, slap some mortar onto the foundation, and trowel some onto the end of your next brick before placing it at a right angle to the first brick. Gently tap both bricks down with the handle of your trowel, so that they are level with the string (also use a spirit level) and remove any excess mortar that has pushed out the sides. Repeat until you have laid two lines of bricks next to each other the entire length of your foundations.
Now you have to choose which bond – or design – you’d like – the Flemish or English bond – both will ensure a solid structure; it really is just a matter of taste.
Lay your wall up to a metre from the ground, then call your scaffold tower into action. With the scaffold tower supporting you at exactly the right height, you’ll be able to drift into your DIYer’s meditative state as you pile on the mortar and bricks into a marvellous mur. Before you know it you’ll be standing proud – and ache-free! — next to your first DIY wall, astride your hired scaffold tower and deciding where else could do with a new wall!
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