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Wednesday 19 May 2010
Here are some basic tips for Bricklaying, and also for inspecting Brickwork and Bricklayers!!
Make sure the Mortar board is at least 600mm x 600mm in size, and does not have any nails in it. Ensure the labourer splashes it with water before putting any mortar on it. This will keep the mortar more workable for longer.
Always cut your mortar down from the top of the pile with the blade of your trowel, and "ROLL IT", before lifting to place on the wall. There is nothing worse than watching a Bricklayer STICK his trowel into a pile of mortar, and lifting a huge lump up onto the wall, most of which falls off and smears the face of the brickwork, or if he is lucky enough to get it onto the wall, he will then have the problem of "overbedding", making more work for himself and putting more pressure on the wet course below, causing bricks below to tip or swim. I completely disagree with those that say it is "too slow" to cut & roll your mortar, It is far slower and more costly trying to correct roughly built brickwork.
When you bed the brick, do so in a relaxed manner, without too much downward pressure on the brick, especially from the base of your hand, as this causes the brick to tip. You must also be aware of the brick laying correctly horizontally as well as vertically, this will prevent any "hatching & grinning". As the brick sinks into the bed caused by its own weight and a little pressure from you, any surplus mortar will spill out, as you run the sharp side of your trowel blade, along the face of the brickwork, keep the back of the trowel as close to the face as possible, before quickly turning it to catch the surplus mortar onto your trowel. If you`ve bedded correctly there will be only enough to use for the perp joint of the next brick you pick up.
When jointing the perp of the next brick, make sure you do so in three quick movements. 1st is the centre of the brick end, then the two edges. Do Not "top & tail" the brick as this leaves a hollow joint, always make sure the joint is full.
After you have finished the length of one course, always run the edge of your trowel along the back of the course collecting any mortar that has spilled out into the cavity face. This is very important, and make sure you catch as much of it as possible, and don't just cut it off, so it falls down the cavity, as this will dirty the ties and build up on any dpc trays etc.
"Remember, Correcting Brickwork is far more expensive, than building correct brickwork"
Brickwork can look good, but may be hiding a full cavity, poorly bedded ties, ties covered in mortar, dpc`s not bedded or split, other obstructions in the cavity etc, or many other defects.
When constructing a corner make sure that when you start on the first couple of courses, you extend your level down below the scaffold boards. This will ensure you carry on the same vertical line of the full lift below. It`s amazing how many times Bricklayers plumb off the top brick only, and when the complete lift is finished it is not on the same vertical line as the entire building. Always read your level correctly, making sure the bubble is not touching any of the lines in the glass vial of your level. Too many Bricklayers "see the bubble go past in the morning and come back in the evening". Take your time and get the bubble right.
When "jointing" or "raking out" the facework timing is critical, keep testing the joints by feeling the moisture content with your fingers every hour or so, until it feels firm but not hard, and damp but not wet.
After jointing, don`t "brush the wall off" immediately, it is best to wait about 30 minutes, then using a nice clean and dry broom head give it a light brush covering the entire face of the wall. Check the mortar joints for any brush marks or holes, then stand back and feel proud as you look at the work YOU have just produced, hopefully it may be there for the next 50-100 years.
Does the lift of Brickwork "Look pleasing to the eye"?
Has the wall been built correctly to the drawings, i.e correct bond, openings in the correct place, any features are correct?
Is the brickwork not only to the correct gauge (4 courses to 300mm) but is it to the correct "engineers value" of the building i.e 54.025m for example? This can be easily checked if the Brickwork Sub-contractor, or the Foreman Bricklayer gave you a "Job specific Gauge Sheet" at the start of the project, this cross references the gauge of each course to the Engineer`s value or the site levels etc.
Is the DPC positioned & bedded correctly? Check the "Spec" because many contracts vary, some like to see a few millimetres of dpc protruding from the brick face, others don`t want to see any at all.
Have the bricks been mixed correctly, to avoid banding?
Has the brickwork been covered correctly each night, down to below the scaffold boards, to avoid "Scaffold Rash"? If there is some rashing, it is wise to get a labourer to at least give it a soaking and light brush before the scaffold is raised, this makes it alot easier when you come to do final clean downs, before handover stage.
Is the cavity clean, and ties free from mortar, make sure any cavity insulation is fixed tightly back to the inner leaf, with no spaces visible?
Remember, when inspecting Brickwork you have to be practical and professional, not over critical, anyone can find faults, but it is a real skill to be able to get over Brickwork problems quickly, without causing too much disruption to the contract program and other following-on trades. If there is something concerning you, think about the threat to the lifespan of the building and whether that will be effected.