If you’re wanting to add a feature like a raised bed or an enclosed patio area to your garden, then you might want to consider building a garden wall. Bricklaying can be considered one of the easier construction skills, so is a task which many homeowners do themselves. But it is important the task is carried out correctly, so the wall withstands time, weather conditions, and so on. Trying your hand at building your own garden wall is a great place to start and a good task to learn on the job.
Before you start
Before you begin building a garden wall, you will need to figure out how many walling bricks you need and also read below to check you have the correct equipment.
- A pair of trowels and a pointing bar
- String building line and wooden pegs
- A spirit level
- Rubber mallet
- A length of timber
- Spade or other tools for digging out
- Lub hammer and bolster chisel
You will also need the following materials:
- All-in ballast
- Building and sharp sand
- Coping stones: optional
All of these materials are normally available from your local hardware store which will also be able to advise you on quantities.
5 steps to building a brick wall
All walls need to be built on a firm foundation, this may be an existing concrete base or on top of an existing paved area.
Step 1: Dig the foundation
Start off by digging a trench around 200mm deep and 300mm wide, where you would like the wall to be, remembering the bricks will be laid in the centre. Use the wooden pegs and string to mark out the trench, and use a spirit level to ensure that the tops of the pegs are level.
Step 2: Prepare the foundations
Prepare the foundations by filling in the trench with a 100mm layer of compacted hardcore and then make up the rest of the trench with concrete (six parts ballast to one part cement). The concrete needs to be fairly wet so it is pourable and flows into the dug trench.
Make sure you spread the concrete out in the trench and then tamp down with some timber so that air pockets can be expelled. Then use a spirit level to make sure the concrete has been poured flat and is not laying at an angle. Leave the concrete a while to harden before moving onto step 3.
Step 3: Build one layer of brick at a time
Stretch a line of tight string (a building line) from one end of the foundation to the other. Using a trowel, spread mortar (four parts building sand to one part cement) evenly over the foundations and then over each layer of these bricks. The mortar should slightly exude from between the joints (around 10mm) and any surplus to be removed with a trowel.
Fill the vertical joints as you go by applying mortar to one end of the walling block before positioning it adjacent to the previously laid block. Build one layer of bricks at a time, checking with a spirit level vertically, horizontally, and diagonally frequently. Make sure that you stagger the walling bricks on the next layer of brick to ensure the vertical joints don't coincide.
Do not build more than six layers of brick at a time, as you need to give the mortar enough time to dry, by not doing so, the wall could potentially collapse.
Step 4: Stretcher bond pattern
The bricks should be laid in a stretcher bond pattern. This pattern means the joints, or the ends of the bricks on each layer, are centred above and below by half a brick.
Step 5: Top the wall with matching coping
Using a pointer trowel, smooth and finish the mortar joints. If you do decide to add coping stones, which are a flat kind of stone, different to the bricks that have been laid already, that will give the wall a finishing touch.
If you're using flat coping stones, ensure there is an overhang both along the long face and the short end. Then lay the coping stones, following the same steps as laying the walling bricks, remembering to use your spirit level to check the levels and add a slight fall towards the front edge so that the rainwater will run off.
How to decorate your newly built wall
Once you have built your new wall, you may want to decorate it. Some ideas include mirrors, bug hotels, trellises, climbing plants and more.
Adding mirrors to your wall can make your garden appear fresher, larger and brighter. Ensure the mirrors that you choose to add to your wall are durable for outside weather conditions, and you can purchase specially made garden mirrors which are made to be weatherproof.
Bug hotels are built to home all kinds of bugs, an area for them to hide. You can build them as a DIY project. Bug hotels can provide hours of enjoyment, especially for children, who can point out and identify the different kinds of bugs that they can see.
A vinyl wall trellis is a good idea for planting a clematis and other climbing greenery at the base and making your garden more green. The trellis will mean that no plants will invade into the bricks and mortar of your new wall. If you do not want to take up more room next to your wall, then climbing plants, such as hydrangeas are a pretty addition.
Ready to build a wall?
If you have read the five steps above and believe that you are ready, then there is nothing stopping you! Just make sure the foundations are level and solid, check the wall levels frequently with your spirit level and never build more than 6 layers of brick at a time, as you need to give the mortar enough time to dry so that it does not collapse.