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How to Build a 4 Inch Garden Wall

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In this article we are going to discuss how to build a 4 inch thick garden wall that is upto 500mm high. This wall should only be used as a feature or boundary only, and NOT to be used as a structural or retaining wall. If the wall you are going to build is a garden boundary wall, then it would advisable to check planning permission rules before starting this project.

If you are based in the UK, then you can check garden wall planning permission rules here. Also, double check the safe height for walls for your region.

Follow our guide on how to build a 4 inch garden wall below. First you will need to gather your safety wear, tools and materials.

build a 4 inch garden wall

Safety Wear Required

Safety Glasses should be worn to prevent brick debris, mortar and mortar plasticiser entering your eyes. Safety gloves are recommended because mortar and mortar plasticiser can be harmful to the skin. Also, some types of brick have sharp or rough edges, which can damage or cut the skin.

Tools Required

Bricklaying Trowel

An 11 inch trowel is ideal. High quality brands such as Marshall town or Ox are recommended.

Buy this 11inch Ox Trowel from the Amazon store

1.2m and 0.5m Spirit Level

Throughout your project you will be checking how level your brick wall is. Some good brands of spirit level are Stabila, Stanley and Ox.

Buy this Stanley Fatmax 1.2m spirit level from the Amazon store

Bricklaying Line and Pins

It is important you buy a line with a decent stretch. This helps to keep the line taught, therefore creating an accurate line for your brick work. You can normally buy these as a set with corner blocks and line levels.

Buy this brick line and pins from the Amazon store

Lump Hammer & Brick Bolster

A hammer and bolster chisel are used to cut your bricks down.

Buy club hammer and chisel sets from the Amazon store

5m or 8m Measuring Tape

Needed throughout to measure foundations, plus the length and height of the wall. Also needed for measuring cuts for the bricks.

Buy this Stanley 8m tape measure from the Amazon store

Carpenters Pencil

To mark foundations for setting out, and to mark the bricks for cutting. Thicker pencils make this job easier

Buy carpenters pencils from the Amazon store

Stanley Knife

To Keep your pencil sharp, and for cutting open bags of sand, cement, etc.

Buy this Stanley knife from the Amazon store

Jointing (pointing) Iron

Ideally in lengths of 12mm to 16mm. This is for the finish of the construction. To create a dress finish, so the wall looks neat. It is the quickest, easiest and most effective tool for pointing.

Buy the jointing iron below from the Amazon store

Soft Brush

Used at the end of the development after the pointing is finished to brush off any excess mortar, It must NOT be used to clean tools with.

Buy the soft brush below from the Amazon store

Dust Pan Brush

For cleaning tools, ensuring they are clean from mortar or concrete.

Buy this dust pan and brush from the Amazon store

Concrete Mix

There are 3 methods of mixing concrete:

  1. Ordering concrete already mixed from a builder’s merchant.
  2. Mix concrete using a cement mixer.
  3. Mix concrete manually using a shovel.

We explain more about each of these later in the mixing up concrete for foundations section.

Tapered Shovel

Used to dig the foundations (footings) for the wall. They are excellent for digging with. And to move mortar and concrete.

Buy the Ox Shovel below from the Amazon store

Wheelbarrow

Any form of metal or hard plastic wheelbarrow is appropriate. You can also hire wheelbarrows from a hire shop.

Buy the wheelbarrow below from the Amazon store

3 X Builders Buckets

You will need a total of 3 buckets. 2 are required to hold water, and 1 is needed for concrete and mortar mixes.

Buy builders buckets from the Amazon store

Materials Required

Bricks

 This guide is based on standard UK bricks, which measure 215mm (length) x 102.5mm (thick) x 65mm (high). When calculating how many bricks you need, consider the 10mm mortar joints.

Ballast

Ballast is a type of aggregate. It is basically a coarse gravel mixed with sand. It has to be mixed with the cement in order to give you concrete. The concrete you make will be poured into your foundation. Which is the solid base for your wall.

Buy Ballast from the Amazon store

Building (soft) Sand

Make sure you only use building sand for building brick walls. This is because it is the most pliable, but substantial form of sand for this kind of project.

Buy builders sand from the Amazon store

build a 4 inch garden wall

Concrete Foundation for the Wall

Mark out your Foundation

Before we tell you how to build a 4 inch garden wall, you must first lay a foundation for it.

  1. Once you have decided upon your location, mark on the ground where your wall ends will be. This will be the length of your foundation.
  2. Next you need to mark on the ground the width of your foundation. This needs to be double your brick width. This means 4 inch wide bricks will have a foundation of 8 inches wide, as shown in the diagram below. The wall would then be placed in the centre width of the foundation, leaving about 2 inches either side. This helps keep the wall stable.
  3. Next mark the centre of your wall.
  4. By this point you should have marked the length, width and centre of your foundation on the ground where your wall will be built. Using a level and a sharp object, scribe the boundary of your foundation so it stands out.
building a 4 inch garden wall

Digging the Foundation

With the foundation marked out and ready to be dug, you need to have your tapered shovel and wheelbarrow to hand.

Tip: Are you working on grass? If so, then it might be a good idea to put the dug up dirt straight into a wheel barrow, or onto a board whilst digging. If you put the dirt straight onto your lawn this will risk killing your grass as it is hard to scrape dirt off grass.

Dig the area evenly where you have marked your foundation. Keep the sides nice and straight all the way down. Make sure you stick to the areas you have marked. If you dig over your measurements, then you will need to recalculate the required amount of concrete to fill the trench again. If you did under your measurements, then the foundation will not be as stable. The best way to dig is to start at one end of the footing, then work your way along, removing a bit at a time.

Foundation Depth = At least 50% of the wall height.

So, if the wall is 1m high, the foundation will need to be at least 0.5m deep into the ground. Use your tape measure to double check measurements as you dig. Ensure you only dig to a level that is necessary. The diagram below give you an idea how the foundation look.

how to build a 4 inch garden wall

Once you have completed the excavation of the foundation, ensure the bottom is flat.

Mix up Concrete for Foundation

Mix Concrete the Easiest Way: If you are willing to pay some extra money you can actually order concrete from a local company, who will deliver quality already mixed concrete to your home via a mixing truck. They also deliver if you require small quantities.

Mix Concrete The Average Way: Mixing up concrete using a mixing machine is so much easier then mixing up via shovel. You will also get a more consistent mix using a mixer, rather than shovel. You can hire mixers from hire shops for relatively cheap.

Click here to follow a guide on How to Mix up Concrete using a cement mixer.

how to build a 4 inch garden wall

Mix Concrete The Hard Way: Alternatively you can manually mix on a mortar board. A mortar (spot) board is a piece of sheet wood like hardboard or ply, or even hard plastic. The size of your board should be at least 800mm square. Most bricklayers use blocks or bricks to put under the board, to make the board higher. This makes it much easier to work with. Please note that manually mixing concrete is very hard work!

Click here to follow a guide on How to Mix up Concrete using a Shovel.

Fill Foundation Trench with Concrete

  1. Once you have mixed up your concrete, pour this concrete into the hole.
  2. Get a piece of timber or something to push into the concrete (not your spirit level), and push the concrete about to keep it level about every quarter of the filling of the foundation. Repeat this until the concrete is about an inch from the top of the foundation.
  3. Once you have the desired height of the concrete, use the timber to rest on top of the wet concrete and tap evenly throughout the foundation. At this point you will need your level to put on top of the timber, to see when the foundation is level.
  4. Let the concrete set for 24 hours.
  5. Clean your equipment and tools with water. If you don’t do this then the concrete will set on anything you have used.

Building a Straight Brick Wall

Wall Preparation

Once your concrete in your trench has set, you now have a solid foundation for your wall. The foundation surface should be smooth, clean and flat. Read the guide below to know how to build a 4 inch garden wall on top of your concrete foundation.

  1. You will need your bricklaying tools such as a bricklaying trowel, both spirit levels, tape measure, pencil, mortar mixer or wooden board (if mixing manually), shovel, wheel barrow, and bricks.
  2. You will need to get about 3 or 4 bricks to help you take measurements for a nice straight line. Find the centre of your wall by dividing the length by two.
  3. Mark a line with your pencil, and place a brick in the centre of the mark.
  4. Then mark a line on the front edge of the brick, and repeat this process for the middle and the other end of the foundation. A chalk line is very handy for joining the lines. But you can also draw a line using a long piece of straight timber or even your level.
  5. Once you have your line complete, it is now time to move the bricks in piles near to the foundation to make brick laying quicker. Same goes for your mortar board or mixing machine.

Mix up Some Mortar for Bricklaying

Click here for a guide on How to Mix up Mortar for Bricklaying.

Setting out the 1st Brick Course

Once you are satisfied with your mortar mix, slightly wet the inside of your wheelbarrow with water. Then pour a buckets worth of mortar into the wheelbarrow. Working from a wheelbarrow keeps the mortar wetter for longer, which is ideal when brick laying for the first time. We will now teach you how to build your wall, starting from the 1st course. The type of brick design we are creating is called a stretcher brick bond, which is a common brick pattern in the UK. 

1. Choose which end of the concrete foundation you will be starting at. The end you choose depends whether you are left or right handed. If left handed, start from the right side. If right handed, start the left side.

2. Scoop up some mortar using your trowel, and roll it into a sausage shape. Then lay this mortar along the straight line you marked your foundation with. This is known as bedding mortar, and should only have a thickness of around 10mm. Only apply enough mortar bedding for two bricks at a time, or more if you have previous experience.

Building a 4 inch garden wall

3. Butter up all four sides of a brick, all the way to the edges. By the way, butting a brick simply means applying mortar to a brick via a trowel. You will notice that one side of the brick has a recess, this recess is known as a frog.

4. Gently and evenly push the brick onto your sausage of mortar you have already laid on the foundation. Ensure that the brick is placed frog up. This means that the recess in the brick is facing upwards.

5. Repeat the process with the sausage laying (bedding mortar) and buttering of the bricks. Lay bricks side by side, gently pushing the edges together. The joints on the perpends (vertical brick mortar joints) and headers (horizontal brick mortar joints) should be no larger than 10mm. Always ensure bricks are placed frog up, doing so creates a stronger bond then frog down.

Build 4 inch garden wall setting out course

6. Once you have finished setting out the 1st course, place the 1.2m spirit level on top of the course. Check how level it is. If the course is higher one end, then gently tap the spirit level at that end until it is level. It is very important this course is right. After that, you want to offer the level up on the face work of the brick and repeat the same process.

7. Once the 1st course is nice and straight, you then want to get your pointing iron an make sure all the perps and headers are nicely pointed in. Only point the wall sides that are on show.

You may be wondering why you need to use your pointing iron. The most important reason is to ensure there are no gaps in your mortar joints. Also, it improves the appearance of your joints by making them look consistent throughout your brick face. To use your pointing iron, you simply run the curved part of the tool along your mortar joint, helping to spread and shape it.

Building up the Brick Course

1. By this step you should have laid down your 1st brick course. We will now build it up. But first make sure you have laid down a wooden board for your mortar mix, or you can just work from the wheelbarrow.

2. You will need to start the next course with a half brick so it will break the bond of the joints.

Build a 4 inch garden wall stretcher bond

3. Continue to build up the courses to your maximum safe height limit. You will need to work out the final height of the wall, or the final course. This wall will end up being 7 courses, which is about 0.5m high.

4. You need to check course by course that your wall is level and plumb. Your spirit level is your best friend at this point and you cannot use it too much. By the end of this you should have a nice plumb, level wall.

Build a 4 inch garden wall

Building a Corner Brick Wall

If you need to build a brick corner, then you can follow the same principles above for straight walls. However, there are a few things you need to consider:

1. When building up the courses for a corner, then it is best to build them up in a pyramid first of all, as in the diagram below. Doing so will help ensure your walls are level vertically and horizontally. After you have achieved your pyramid corner, with a single brick where your maximum height is. Then you can work on filling the rest out with bricks.

Build 4 inch garden wall corner

2. Make use of the 3, 4, 5 technique. Simply mathematics can be used to check your 90 angle is truly square using the Pythagorean theorem equation.

Brick Wall Top Finish

There are many ways you can finish the top of your brick wall, such as:

  1. Lay the brick frog down, so you have the hard bottom of the brick facing upwards.
  2. Lay coping stones (which I would recommend).

Bottom Line

There you have it, our guide on How to Build a 4 inch Garden Wall. You should now have the knowledge to build a 4 inch garden wall like a professional.


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Posted on 2nd May 2020 at 3:00 pm

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