This is the biggest build I’ve attempted by myself. I’m guessing it will take 6 working weeks (edit – turned out to be 12 working weeks). I have a couple free weeks so have started laying bricks in the two courses below ground level. Laying out and setting heights has taken some time, but things should speed up once I have a straight level run to build on.
I built the corner at a measured distance from the existing wall, then laid the bricks out dry using a brick gauge to make sure I don’t end up with an odd size space in the middle somewhere. That’s worked well – I can remove a couple of bricks to mortar them in, then check the spacing is still OK before removing any more bricks.
The hessian is to keep the sun off during the day and the frost off during the night. Perfect lime building weather would be much more overcast but I’m getting a good tan at the expense of a lot of covering and watering of bricks.
The old wall was very badly spalled and only half the bricks could be saved and even those will need to be turned around. No problem I thought. I bought the same again in reclaimed bricks. But they aren’t a perfect match. They look OK as headers, but headers only make up a third of the brick count. I can lose a lot of the new bricks in the foundations, and I think it looks OK if I keep using the new bricks one brick above ground. I made a spreadsheet to work it out and have been trying all sorts of ideas.
The wall has 4 piers on the long face sticking out by a quarter brick both sides to match the original. The piers go in last to avoid disturbing the string line.
I had guessed I could lay 100 bricks a day and managed 80 bricks a day on the long straight run. I will hopefully speed up on the next courses as bricks below provide additional reference. Each course has 190 bricks so it’s not going to be a quick build.
It’s useful to have a couple of courses below ground level. It took me a couple of bricks to get everything straight and level and most of the pier positions shifted very slightly while I found out what mistakes I could make with brick spacing. At some point they will need to go up straight.
The garden wall was delayed into the winter while a tree stump was removed and it’s getting warm enough to avoid bad frosts now. I spent a day figuring out levels and worked out that a 450mm * 450mm hole would be about fine everywhere. Planning 300mm concrete then a couple of bricks up to ground level. I don’t know exactly how tall my wall will be, but guessing I’ll run out of bricks between 1.2m and 1.4m.
A man with a digger got the hole dug by lunchtime. Ripping up the old foundations made the hole a bit wider than intended.
The ground levels step down by a couple of bricks at the corner of the wall. I’ve put formers in to make the drop one brick at a time. They aren’t where I intended as it was easier to put them where there were banks either side to drive stakes into. There’s also a bit of shuttering at the side of the hole where the tree was.
The vertical stakes indicate the level of the top of the concrete which is a couple of bricks below ground level. They don’t look level in the photo as they go squint when you hit a stone, but they should be accurate for height. They all go into the ground more than 200mm which is useful as you can’t see them when the concrete is poured and they get knocked with the rake.
I used a mix on site concrete truck. They started off with some fairly firm concrete to dam the level changes and then filled the trench up with the normal runny concrete while I raked and tamped behind.
It’s mostly worked. The foundations start 1/8 inch high, then fall 1/4 inch low for a good length. Also one of the dams is leaking very slowly and one end has dropped by 1/2 inch. I’m hoping when the concrete gets around to it’s initial cure it will put a stop to that. We’ve been having light frosts so I’ve covered everything with hessian and can worry about it later.
The first bricks went in a couple of days after the concrete pour. The existing wall leans a little and I didn’t have a good reference for the new wall as it starts off lower down than it used to and there is a slight change in direction. The existing wall was awful to set out from.
The cunning plan is to build a pier after these bricks. I can set the wall out nice and straight from there and also blend the old wall into the pier.