Bricklaying John's Story

Bricklaying, John's success story.

Dear Simon,

Here are some photos to give you an idea of what we are doing in Denmark. We are working on a 50sqm section at present. Summer 2010 was mainly demolition of walls, replacing the ceiling, and starting work on an internal stud wall that will be insulated and fitted with plasterboard, but leaving a cavity between the walls. We needed to repoint some external walls that were in danger of breaking down and enjoyed moving one window and also inserting a custom-made window. The big bricks are Munkesten and have been used in Denmark since around 1400, they tend to be used for cathedrals and other large buildings, the measurements are L25-31cm, B 11-15cm, H 7-10cm. The bricklaying involved last summer was just small sections and repairs.

Summer 2011 began with completing the removal of internal walls and cleaning the bricks. I then had to complete the stud wall before I could attempt to reposition the internal walls. We rescued approx 750 bricks and I used lime mortar to lay them. The procedure was tedious and progress very slow, but I was content provided the outcome would be attractive walls. The evolution mixer was excellent! I dread to think how I would have mixed without it. I had to mix lots of bags of concrete to form foundations as well as all the mortar. The lime mortar was quite difficult to use because it went off so quickly. It didn't seem to make any difference whether I wet the bricks or not. I eventually settled into pointing after I had laid every 5 - 6 bricks.

It didn't take me long to realise the need for a builders line. In fact if I hadn't known anything about it I would have invented it !!! Even so, keeping straight lines was still challenging because the bricks were 200 years old, would vary in all three dimensions and many were bowed in one of two dimensions. Some of the bricks contained stones and other impurities which made them very difficult to break manually. Because I needed all the bricks that we had rescued I resorted to cutting with an angle grinder. I also had to use lots of half-bricks and smaller fragments that had been used by the previous builders. Hence, the first 2 walls were easier to build than the toilet, which contains many small bricks. I concentrated on having the external face true because we are almost certain to render the inside of this small room.

Summer 2012 starts with plaster-boarding, skimming and tiling.

Best wishes, John Bridge.