Sunday, 6 February 2011

Unhalfbricking - Answering Ali's Question

Ali's question was: "On a scale of 1-10, exactly how much skill would you say you needed to construct your beds?"

Well Ali, here's a picture taken today.  The two beds in the background are finished. The one in the foreground shows the starting point- dug out ready to lay the foundations. As the experts always say, once you have got a level base the rest is easy(!)(?)
(The bed to the right is just a mock up from last year to check what it would look like and whether I had enough bricks).

In between these two stages is this stage: laying the foundations. You need sand/grit/cement to bed in the bricks sideways on so that it is double the width of the wall. If you don't have lots of bricks the usual advice is to fill the trough with concrete. (In our case all the materials for the garden have to go through the house so we don't favour bulk materials like hardcore and concrete)

And of course you need the raw materials:

They need cleaning up before they are ready to be used.

There are quite a few steps and you have to allow time for each step. One correspondent suggested that when it comes to bricklaying you should just do four at a time (thanks Iggy). I thought he was joking, and with 400 bricks to lay I was more adventurous. It turned out to be good avice. The main point is not to rush it. Bricks are quite heavy really and a bricklaying session is like a weightlifting session - not to mention mixing the mortar.  And as for circular beds - that's beyond my expertise


The foundations should be twice the width of the wall

Start the foundations from the LOWEST level.

Use a spirit level at every stage

The advice is that if you use a single width of brick (a halfbrick wall) the maximum height is 18 inches

So on a scale of 1:10 I would say 7, but if it is only 3 bricks high (like me) 4.


  1. Oh wow, a post all for me! I feel very chuffed Mal, thank you :)

    I really really like the bricks, I think they look great. And I am pretty sure I could get the hang of laying them, but that levelling... that looks both very important to get right, and kind of hard.

    Something that I have noticed working in the garden, is that for the life of me, I cannot dig a hole.

    It is really hard work, and as much as I hate to admit this, I once chipped away at a hole for over an hour, and then watched a man do it in around 10 minutes.

    I think I might have to just admire yours from the screen Mal :)

  2. Looks great Mal. If I can get hold off some recycled bricks I'd love to do a path between by beds which is currently either grass or gravel. I think brick paths look really good.

  3. Nice work Mal, and very clearly explained. They look like perfect seating height too so when you're feeling your age you'll really appreciate them :)

  4. Haven't you managed to persuade anyone to labour for you? - When Martyn does anything like this I end up fetching and passing the bricks.

  5. I alway.s try to answer any direct questions, Ali

    Izzy, Do you know that it crossed my mind that I should allow sufficient space between beds for wheelchair access. So I could garden even if my legs gave out. (Sorry for being morbid)

    Sue, It's me and the dog! (But I'm hoping to persuade Darren to loan me his new cement mixer;>)

  6. Damo - If I've any over I'll post them to you ;>)

  7. I built a little wall outside near my back door at the garden boundary. The reason was because the neighbours garden is slightly higher and I kept getting stuff wash into mine with the is only two bricks high so doesn't look bad...but if it had to be any higher I fear it would fall down. I like to try my hand at anything and have put up wall tiles...and laid floor tiles along with doing many other things and I found the bricklaying by far the hardest to accomplish well.

    Basically Mal...I'm very impressed with what you have done!!

  8. It's not morbid at all, Mal. When I started as a jobbing gardener most of my customers were elderly and it made me realise that I had to plan for the day when I too would get stiff or dizzy. Raised beds and no-dig methods seem to be the way to go, and I'm glad I got a couple of the Future Jobs boys to do a big tidy last Autumn, saved me a ton of guilt!