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How to build a basic wall

Brick walls are so commonplace in our society that we tend not to give them much thought. However, these structures have revolutionised the way that humans create shelter for themselves. Brick walls date back at least 5000 years and originated in India. While a brick wall can appear to be a very simple structure, building according to this ancient tradition requires the builder to follow a very specific process, using certain building materials.

Materials you will need to build a wall

  • Cement
  • 13 mm or 19 mm stones
  • Water
  • Bricks
  • River sand
  • String
  • Steel pegs
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Shovel
  • Pickaxe
  • Trowel
  • Spirit level
  • Builder’s square

Step-by-step guide to building a wall

1. All walls begin with a foundation. Mark out where the wall will be built, using string and steel pegs. Remove any grass, other plants and roots, then use the pickaxe to dig a trench 25 cm deep (for a wall that is 1.5 m high). A foundation should always be about one fifth of the height of the wall. The higher the wall, the deeper the foundation must be.

2. Now mix the cement, river sand, water and small stones. Mix two bags of cement with two-and-a-half wheelbarrows of river sand and two-and-a-half wheelbarrows of stones. Add 50 litres of water to the mixture and mix well. This mixture will give you concrete, a strong building material.

3. Spray a bit of water into the trench to make it damp. Just add a small amount and make sure there are no puddles of water at the bottom of the trench. Now fill with the concrete mix and allow seven days for the foundation to cure. Keep the concrete covered and damp while it is curing.

4. To bond the bricks to one another, you will need a mortar. You can create mortar by mixing one bag of environmentally-safe cement with four wheelbarrows of plaster sand and 25 litres of water.

5. You are now ready to build the wall. Mark out a straight line on the foundation, using the steel pegs and the string. Now, place a layer of mortar that is about one centimetre thick along this line, using a trowel. Lay the bricks on top of the mortar, ensuring that they are level using the spirit level. Use the string to keep the bricks aligned – this will ensure that your wall is straight.

6. Pour some mortar between the bricks and scrape off any excess with the trowel. There should be a 1 cm gap between bricks. Keep placing bricks and filling the gaps between them with mortar all the way to the end of the wall, until the first layer is done. Remember to use the spirit level to make sure that every brick is completely level.

7. Place a layer of mortar on top of the first layer of bricks. For every second layer of bricks, move them half a length over the bottom bricks. You can do this by starting by laying half a brick at one end of the wall – then continuing normally to the end of the wall. Bricklayers use this staggered pattern to give walls their strength.

8. Continue building the wall using this staggered pattern. As you go along, it is important that you keep checking that the bricks are perfectly aligned, using the string and the spirit level.

9. If you want to give your wall extra reinforcement and added strength, you can use some brick force steel wire to lay along the length of the wall at every fifth level of bricks. If you are building a long wall, you will need to create an expansion joint every four metres. You will have to fill this gap (the expansion joint) with a compressive material, such as styrofoam.

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Written by Riana Wiechers

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