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How to Make a Simple Wall
Garden walls are decorative and practical features. Boundary garden walls have become less common, being replaced by cheaper hedges and fences. You may want to build a small wall as part of a garden feature: a low wall beneath a fence; a raised water feature; a brick barbecue; raised beds; to make a base for a greenhouse; or to retain soil as part of terracing your garden. Low walls are often needed around a patio and you may want to leave planting gaps to soften a wall. Materials for wall building include bricks, stones, concrete blocks and screen blocks. This Workshop shows you the basics of how to build a simple low wall. Walls are made in several widths: single brick is known as a half brick and is one brick thick; a one brick wall is a parallel pair of half brick walls; a one and a half brick wall has bricks laid at 90 to each other throughout. Don't make single brick walls higher than 45 cms, and seek expert advice for any garden wall over 1 m. You will need to finish your wall with a brick and a half pier at each end if it is retaining even a small amount of soil. A wall more then 3 m long should have intermediate piers. Expansion joints, 1 cm vertical joints, let a wall expand and should be made every 6 m along a wall. These are filled with flexible mastic. Make a drawing of your wall to help you calculate materials and plan your building. You will need foundations to your wall.
you will need
A cleared site; concrete for foundations; bricks must be frost proof and able to withstand moisture from both sides; coping bricks, or slabs; mortar mix for laying; garden lines and pegs; piece of timber or batten for leveling; pieces of timber for profile boards; spirit level; spade; shovel; mortar trowel; builders wheelbarrow (hire equipment).
Mark out the site using two lines and pegs to ensure it is square. Dig the foundation trench the length of your wall including any piers at each end. Make it at least 35 cm deep for a wall up to 1 m. Check that the trench is level and the sides are vertical. Knock two pegs into the ground to the level of the concrete. Add a 5 cm layer of hardcore, and tamp this down. Pour in a 15 cm layer of concrete and chop through this with your shovel to dispel air and work it in. Leave to harden for a few days before you start building.
Put timber profile boards at each end of your trench and stretch guidelines between them, spaced the width of your wall. These will ensure that the wall is square. If your wall is to be finished with a pier at each end, start by building these. Mix your mortar. A pier one brick square is built by placing two bricks side by side. For a brick and a half pier, lay four bricks at 90 to each other. Lay a thin 1 cm layer of mortar along the foundation strip and lay the first course of bricks unmortared into this. The second course is butted with mortar and laid, with the joints staggered in a running or stretcher bond.
As you lay the bricks, check frequently with your spirit level that they are level and square. If bricks are too high, tap them down; too low, take up and use more mortar. The amount of mortar in the joints should be a constant 1 cm. Clean excess mortar off by scraping with your trowel. For walls with planting holes, leave weep holes unmortared between bricks, for drainage, in the first course you complete above ground level. A Damp-Proof Course (DPC) can be included at 15 cm (two courses) above ground level. Use two courses of engineering bricks or a row of half lapped slates bedded in mortar.
After laying a course of bricks, finish the joints before the mortar dries. Use a smaller pointing trowel to give a neat, bevelled finish. Horizontal joints should slope slightly downwards to shed water. Vertical joints should all be finished in the same direction.
Carry on laying courses of bricks, cutting them where necessary, until you have reached the finished height you want. The project may take several days work to complete. Give your wall a finishing top or coping. Either use special coping or capping bricks to match your wall bricks, concrete caste coping slabs, engineering bricks, or narrow slabs which match your paving. Coping is not only decorative, but prevents frost damage by shedding rainwater.
Make sure you have proper foundations
Use a string to keep the wall's lines straight
A top layer or coping is an ideal finish

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