A few days ago I showed you our brick wall out the back, but I wanted to also share the process, in case you’re considering something similar. Because it was a little more of a process than we thought it would be, even though this was a rare project we decided to bring in a pro for.
Starting months ago, while the deck was under construction, Andre cut and removed the concrete where the wall would stand. A whole lot of drilling out the rock followed a while later, before it was ready to get a solid footing in place.
In the meantime, I’d posted the job on Builderscrack, but it appeared there were no willing bricklayers out there. I followed up with a few calls to local bricklayers but noone was interested in a one off, small job like this. So… we resigned ourselves to doing it the DIY way and finally finishing it somewhere in the next decade!
Our attention then was on sourcing some bricks. It took a loooong search on Trade Me, but we finally snapped up one lot of 400 bricks. Loading them up, with the help of the sellers, was the easy bit!
Unloading them, we realised we were going to need to clean them. They’d been inlaid into the ground as a patio. So thankfully, they’d previously been mostly chipped of their mortar, but a good waterblasting was needed to clear them of dirt and moss.
Hours later, we were still going. 6 sides of 400 bricks is a lot of laying them out, turning them, cleaning them, turning them, cleaning them…. and stacking. Over and over!
On the same day we picked up the bricks we got a recommendation from friends who’d just had a guy lay some blocks for their own outdoor space. With that came a whole lot of luck in the name of Bob the bricklayer! Semi-retired, he likes the small jobs, and is happy to fit them around his family and other job requirements. With an appointment made for him to come and take a look, we stacked up a couple of options to confirm what we liked best.
As we assumed a one and a half width layout was far too chunky.
But this single brick width didn’t give us much room for reinforcing and concrete in the middle.
The advantages of hiring a professional were evident right from this point because Bob suggested we use a narrower (modern) brick on the inside of the wall, below the stairs where it wouldn’t be seen, so we could have the look we wanted with the strength we also wanted! It’s a little hard to explain, but you can see a few pictures down how it worked.
With that confirmed, Andre knew where to put the reinforcing steel and got to completing the footing a few weekends ago. Starting with some steel epoxied in, then some boxing, and finally the concrete.
So the finished footing ready and waiting for the bricklayer, looked like this (there’s a step in it to account for the slight slope in the ground):
Bob set up shop in our backyard for what he assumed to be 3 or 4 days. I was very impressed at how organised he seemed to be with his set up, and despite having no backyard (or clothesline) for the duration it wasn’t at all tedious. He even swept up after each days work!
Day one got us to just a few small “courses” up. Below you can see how Bob used the narrower bricks (stacked at top right) on the inside of the wall below the stair level. And above the stair level he cut each old brick to the narrower width to match. You can also see how he tied additional lengths of reinforcing steel in as he built the wall up, and filled it with concrete too of course. In addition, he drilled into the block base of the house and set some steel into there too, so this is one super solid brick wall!
Unfortunately for Bob, he picked some of our hottest days of the summer to work out here in this sweltering backyard with no shade and no breeze. Combining that with the amount of cutting he had to do to ensure all those old and mismatched bricks would fit into the wall, I’m thinking it wasn’t his favourite job to date! It also took a lot more time than he estimated so it wasn’t until two weeks later (with a couple of days off in that time) that he packed up his brick saw and took our money!
Incidentally, our estimate of 400 bricks wasn’t nearly enough (due to quite a few of them being too beaten up for Bob’s liking), and Andre spent a few more hours hunting out another 100 or so from every demolition shop around Auckland. And Mum and Dad saved the day with the last 10 bricks we needed, which they’d just found around the back of their shed during a massive tidy up before they move house!
I’m very thankful that we did hand this job over to someone who knew what they were doing, not only because it happened much faster than we could ever have done it (even though it took twice as long as estimated!) but also for the peace of mind that it’s done right.
To be honest, we wouldn’t have been nearly as fussy with the bricks as Bob was, so we might have saved a bit of money doing it ourselves, but the finished product would have been a little dodgy! And that’s really not how you want a brick wall in your backyard to be!
All up, this one cost us around $1600 – ouch! But the pain was very short term and all over once the cash changed hands and I turned around to take another look at the wall!
The old bricks we bought ourselves came to $364, reinforcing steel a mere $52 and the labour, mortar, builders mix and handful of narrower bricks Bob supplied was $1192.
So to DIY this would have cost us around $800 in materials anyway. Which means for only $800 we got the job done within two weeks. Definitely worth it!
I’m just hoping this amazing autumn-but-more-like-summer weather will hold so we can get the pergola done soon. Because we’re definitely DIY’ing that one!