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How to Build a 4 Inch Garden Wall

In this article we are going to cover how to build a 4 inch garden wall. This 4 inch garden wall is only to be considered a feature wall, and must NOT be used as a structural or retaining wall. If the wall you are going to build is a garden boundary wall, rather then a fence. Then it would advisable to check planning permission rules before starting this project. If you are based in the UK, then you can check rules for garden walls here. Follow our guide on how to build a 4 inch garden wall below.

Safety Wear Required

Safety Glasses

Brick debris, mortar and mortar plasticiser can be harmful to the eyes.

Safety Gloves

Mortar and mortar plasticiser can be harmful to the skin. Some types of bricks have sharp or rough edges, which can damage or cut the skin.

Tools Required

Bricklaying Trowel

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

1.2m and 0.5m Spirit Level

Some good brands of spirit level are Stabila, Stanley and Ox.

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. You can normally buy these as a set with corner blocks and line levels.

Lump Hammer & Brick Bolster

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

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.

Carpenters Pencil

To mark foundations for setting out. And to mark the bricks for cutting.

Stanley Knife

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

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.

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.

Dust Pan Brush

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

Concrete Mixer or Mortar mixing board

There are 3 methods of mixing concrete:

  1. Ordering concrete already mixed from a builders merchant.
  2. Mixing up concrete on site using a concrete mixing machine.
  3. Mixing concrete on site manually using a shovel on a mortar board. Such a board can be made from ply or even plastic.

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.

Wheelbarrow

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

Builders Buckets

You will need a total of 3 buckets.

  • 2 to hold water.
  • 1 for concrete and mortar mixes.

Materials Required

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.

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.

Concrete Foundation for the Wall

Mark out your Foundation

  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.

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.

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

Mix up Some Concrete

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

Mix Concrete The Easy way: Mixing up concrete using a mixing machine is so much easier then mixing up via shovel. You will also get a more consistent mortar 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.

The Not so easy 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 the Trench with Concrete

  1. Once you have mixed up your concrete, put 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 the 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.

  1. You will need your bricklaying tools such as a bricklaying trowel, both spirit levels, tape measure, pencil, mixer or board, 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. Strike a line with your pencil and place the brick in the centre of the mark.
  4. Then strike 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 draw a long piece of straight timber or even your level if all else fails.
  5. Once you have your line complete, it is now time 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

Setting out the 1st Course

Once you are satisfied the mix is correct, use some water to wet inside the wheelbarrow, and pour any excess water back in the bucket. Then then pour about a buckets worth out of the mixer in to the wheel barrow. It is advisable to work from the wheelbarrow to do the setting out course as it keeps wet for a longer period as the setting out course is slower to install. 

  1. Start at one end of the foundation, this will depend on weather you are left or right handed. If you are left handed you want to start from the right side and if you are right handed, start the opposite side.
  2. Get a scoop of mortar, then roll it with the trowel in to a sausage like shape in the barrow. This can be tricky to do, but the more you practice the easier it becomes.
  3. When you have the mortar rolled in to a sausage like shape, lay It slightly away from your line so you can see it. Then you want to get the tip of the trowel and push it in the middle of the mortar, creating a v shape in the middle. Making sure you can still see the line you created in the foundation.
  4. Butter up all four side of a brick, all the way to the edges. The best way to this is to dip the tip of the trowel in to the mortar and get a lump on the end, then tap the bottom of the trowel on the wheelbarrow or a flicking motion to flick the excess off. Then hold trowel at an angle to scrape on the side of a brick. If done correctly it will look like an envelope.
  5. Gently and evenly push the brick on to the sausage of mortar you have just laid.
  6. Repeat the process with the sausage laying and buttering of the bricks.
  7. Lay bricks side by side, gently pushing pushing the edges together.
  8. The joints on the perps and headers should be no larger than 10mm.
  9. Once you have finished setting out a course. You will then place a 1.2m spirit level on top of the course you have just laid to see if it is level. If the course is slightly too high, gently tap the but of the trowel on the spirit level until it is level throughout. 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.
  10. Once the setting out course is nice and straight, you then want to get your pointing iron an make sure all the headers and perps are nicely pointed in. If only one side of the wall will be on show you will only need to do the face side. If both sides are on show you will need to do both sides.

Building up the Course

  1. Once you have laid your first course, we will now build it up. At this point make sure your mortar spot boards are wet and filled up in between your piles of bricks.
  2. You will need to start the next course with a half brick so it will break the bond of the joints.
  3. You will need to work out the final height of the wall, or the final course. Say for example, your setting out course is 20 bricks long, you will want to build the next course at 7 and a half bricks long, the next a 6 bricks long, then 5 and a half bricks long until you are left with one brick at the final height. You have to have one course that starts with a full brick. Then half a brick to start the next course of bricks. This is what is known as breaking the bond.
  4. You need to check course by course that your wall is level and plumb and checking the edge also to ensure that course is also 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 corner.
  5. Once you are happy with this make sure it is pointed in nicely and brushed off.
  6. Move on to the other side and create symmetrically what you have done on the opposite side. Now you have two corners, you will now need your line and pin. The best way to set these out is to start from the foundation course and knock the pin in to the edge of the setting out course. Put a brick the opposite way on your first course, pull the line through the course until you get to the other side and repeat the process.
  7. Your line should then be set and ready to what brick layers say “pull the course through” which basically means filling the void in between the two corners until you reach the final course.
  8. When you get to the final brick on top, you can either lay the brick frog down, so you have the hard bottom of the brick facing upwards or use a coping stone for the top (which I would recommend) to finish the wall. Again you need to make sure all your brickwork is pointed and finished in a neat manner.
  9. So now hopefully you should have a nice and neat 4 inch garden wall, which you are happy with and lasts for a good period of time.


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Posted on 2nd May 2020 at 3:00 pm

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