Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Getting ready to lay bricks

Welcome to out blog, Menfranco general blog
and this post, Getting ready to lay bricks

Bricklayer trowel showing position of how to cut mortar to keep the face of the bricks clean.

A bricklayer laying bricks on a double wall, using a header course and a stretcher bond course

Getting ready to lay bricks
As we have already said in our previous articles, the first thing that is necessary to do on a building site is to set up a profile, in order to make sure that the house is set where the house plan says it should be, therefore a profile should already be there and if it is not, then one should be erected prior to commencing to lay bricks. Now just to make things a bit easier let us assume that the profile are in place, and also that there are no other previous works done on the house, therefore there is no set fix height of the finished brickwork take or leave one brick thickness.
So now let me explain the procedure when we start working on this brick base of the house; first of all, we bricklayers go to the profiles and tie the end of the brickies line where it says it should be, and this is the outside alignment of the house, then walk to the opposite side while unrolling the line and tie it again where it should be on the marked profile; here I need to point out to the DIY for the first time that the line must be stretched very tight, so that it stays in a straight line even if there is a wind blowing. Now that we have set the first line, we are going to set another line right across the first line and where these two lines meet is the very first corner of the brick wall of the house.
Now with a plump bob or a spirit level mark on to the foundation where the outside corner of the first brick is going to be laid, and you are ready to lay the first brick. Of course it is necessary to repeat this procedure for every corner of the house. It is also necessary or perhaps helpful when the foundation of the house is not level to mark all the steps, so that you know that the wall is being built exactly in the right place; you see to start laying bricks in the foundation is a very hard and demanding job for the bricklayers, let us just imagine that you have to lay bricks below where you are standing, and where you are standing is uneven ground and if you are unlucky it might even be wet. So if you can make everything easier by marking all the critical points it would help. This of course is only step one and step two is about levels, so let us see how that can be done.
Making sure that we start the brickwork level   
Now that we have marked all the corners and everywhere else, so that we can start building this brick base on the right alignment we need to start also thinking about the levels; you see 99% of the bricks must be laid level and plumb, unless there is a specific reason for the walls to be leaning and this reason must be well understood, before we start laying bricks for this special sort of job and we have to say that this does not happen when we build houses.
Anyhow, in order to start the brickwork level, we need to know if the two opposite corner are exactly level, and if not what is the difference between them, so that we will be able to start the brick walls at the right level. With short walls it is enough to use the spirit level to do everything, but with longer walls we need to use other sophisticated levels. Therefore it is necessary to mark the levels on every corner, so that the difference is known to the bricklayers before he starts laying bricks, because most of the difference must be rectified well below ground level and if possible on the first course of bricks that we lay on the foundation.
Today there are a few types of level that we can use, some of these levels are very expansive like surveyors level and other types, they also need an expert to use them and a helper at the other end to mark when instructed to do so, therefore it is very helpful if one of these levels is being used on the site to mark all the levels around the house base for all the trades that are working on the house, but there are times when the bricklayers are left to their own devises, and they have to work out their own levels.
Now the bricklayers have already so many tools to carry around including the mixer and wheelbarrows, therefore they try to avoid carrying expansive levels with themselves even when they know how to use them. So, some bricklayers use even today the water level, because it is most simple and cheep level, as it is only a clear hose filled up with water and it is very easy to use, all you have to do is to fill up this hose with clean water and at the same time make sure that there are no air bubbles in it and you have a very accurate level ready to use. Let me explain how it works, if there are no air bubbles in the hose filled up with water, the water in the two ends of the hose are always level, whether they are beside each other (and this is the way to check it out if it is working properly) or when they are far apart. So if you mark the top of a brick on a corner that you have already built you can mark this same level on the other corner, and therefore you know that this two marked points are level; then, you should stretch a brickies line between these two points making sure that the line sits exactly on the mark that you have made; now all the level below this line can be worked out easily from the bricklayer, using a type measure or a gauge rod.
The bricklayer can work out what to do if there is any difference on the foundation, and also make sure that it is the same course of bricks by running a full course of bricks between these two marked points, at this stage the bricklayer not only has to take care of the levels, but he also needs to make sure about the bond, therefore he needs to start from the lowest corner and lay a full course of bricks until he reaches the other corner, this will make sure that the brickwork is started level and with the right bond. This procedure should now be repeated also on the other walls until all the walls are set up, if everything is done properly we should end up with the last wall being the easiest to start, since we have already set both corner to build the other walls, but be careful here that there is not a pig in it, which sometimes can even happen when we are not careful enough and the line is set on the wrong course of the bricks.
Explaining what is meant that there is a pig in the brickwork and how to make sure that everything is set right from the very beginning. To make 100% sure that everything is level and that there is no pig in the brickwork, it is necessary that you run a full course of bricks all around the building at the same level, if that can be done and there is no brick sticking out it is okay. I hope that I have explained it clear enough. Now let us see how this can be avoided when we are working on a sloping site and the foundations have several steps in it, because this is the most likely place that this mistake can be made.

Menfranco general blog 
Getting ready to lay bricks 
Next time with, Laying bricks on a sloping site
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