DIY How To

How To Mix Cement When Bricklaying

As you grow in confidence with your projects around the home, it is natural that your ideas will become bolder and larger scale too. Inevitably the path towards home improvement will bring you to the point where you need to mix a good, solid mortar and to start laying some bricks for yourself.

Don't be sceptical when a bricklayer tells you that his work is an art – it really is a precision craft in every way, and one that requires expertise and training. Don't be disheartened if your initial attempts are beset with troubles, and choose a sensible starting point. Perhaps opt for constructing a barbecue first, before you move on to replacing your garden wall or adding an extra storey to your house!

Craft of Bricklaying

There are a number of important aspects to the craft of bricklaying that you will need to familiarise yourself with, not least the placing of the bricks themselves. You will also have to master the art of cutting bricks – professionals like to use a traditional hammer and chisel, but power tools work just as well. And of course, you need to mix a strong and resilient mortar. After all, you don't want your perfectly-cut and neatly laid brick wall to come toppling down at the first hint of a summer's breeze. Here are a couple of pointers (no pun intended) to keep in mind whilst mixing cement for bricklaying.

Cement Mixer

Consistency is key
When it comes to bricklaying and building walls there is quite literally a recipe for success. So long as you carefully follow the formula you should not go far wrong. Errors usually creep in to the mix when the mortar begins to take on a consistency that does not appear right to the untrained eye, and corrections are made to the ratios on the spur of the moment. Always try to maintain the proportions of your mortar (we will come to those in a moment), and above all, avoid the common mistake of trying to "fix the mix" by adding unmeasured quantities by sight.

Add the right amount of water
The most common mistake is to add too much water to the mix. When you first start mixing your own cement, you will perhaps think that it looks grainy and too dry, and that you need to smooth it out to a thinner consistency with more liquid. This is a big mistake. Your cement mixer will sort out the consistency for you, and adding too much water at the beginning will have you fighting a losing battle against a sloppy, weak mixture from the start.

Add the right amount of Sand
The second error is very much the reverse side of the same coin: not adding enough sand to the mix. The sand content provides the resilient strength to mortar and allows breathing space in the mix. Too little sand to cement will make the mortar crack as it dries. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true: too little cement, and the mix is liable to succumb to weather damage from the elements all too quickly.

Safety First
Perhaps the greatest possible mistake is not respecting the materials you are handling. Cement, sand and - in particular - lime are irritants which can permanently damage your eyesight. Cement will also irritate and burn your bare skin if you handle it for too long. Always ensure you use gloves and goggles when making a cement mixture. The old adage that it is better to be safe than sorry is just as true here.
Remember the 3:2:1 rule

The perfect cement is simply a case of knowing your materials and the purpose that you have in mind. A standard ratio of quantities is 3:2:1. That is three parts sand, two parts lime and one part cement. The quantity of cement can vary depending on the job in hand and also the source of the material: some builders' cement will need significantly less for a sturdy mix.

Make sure the Cement is not drying up too quickly
If, as your cement sets, you find a salty appearance on the surface then the mixture is simply drying too rapidly. Slow this unwanted flash setting by laying wet cloths over the cement and covering with a damp tarpaulin.

Finally, knowing your products and knowing the job in hand will set you on the way to becoming a master bricklayer in next to no time!

Bio: Rashed is guest posting on behalf of national tool and equipment hire supplier HSS Hire. HSS Hire have a number of products for available for hire and to purchase including Concrete and cement mixing tools


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