Building a Mortared-Brick Walk

Learn the steps for building a mortared-brick walk and the differences between building a walk and building a patio.

Brick or precast concrete paver walks (whether laid on a sand bed or mortared to a slab) employ many of the same techniques used to build a similar patio. They offer the same potential for a varied, handsome surface, only on a smaller scale.

You will notice one difference, however, between a mortared path and a mortared patio. When building a paver path, you don't have to start in the center and work outward. All pavered walks start their paving in a corner.

Be sure to lay the base materials in layers and compact one layer before the next one. This is especially important if your walk will be subject to hard use, such as the movement of garden equipment. Base materials that shift under a sand-set path create ripples. In addition, improperly tamped slab bases can crack.

Checklist

Time
20 to 40 hours to lay out and set a 4x25-foot walk, depending on your skill level

Tools
Layout and excavation tools, concrete tools for a mortared structure, wheelbarrow, tape measure, mason's line, cordless drill, circular saw, concrete mixer, mason's hoe, screed, broom, wet saw

Skills
Designing layout, form building, mixing, working with mortar

Prep
Prepare and excavate the site

Materials
Gravel, sand, 2-1/4-inch screws, 2x lumber, brick or precast pavers, rubber mallet, 1x6, mason's line, stakes

Step 1

Lay out and prepare the site to dimensions that equal a line of pavers in the pattern of your choice. If you plan to set the border material on the slab, build forms 1/2 inch higher than the slab. Pour and finish the slab. When the slab is ready, spread about 1/2 inch of mortar on a 2x2-foot section. You can set a 2x2-foot section before the mortar sets up. With some practice, you can set larger areas.

Step 2

Cut a 2x4 slightly longer than the width of the forms and use it as a screed, pulling it across the forms with a seesaw motion. Fill any low spots with mortar and screed again. After screeding, comb the mortar with a notched trowel if desired.

Step 3

Whatever pattern you choose, start by laying pavers in a corner. Set them up against the forms, and space them with a plywood spacer. Use 1/2-inch spacers for 7-1/2-inch pavers; use 3/8-inch spacers for 7-5/8-inch units. Tap the bricks with a rubber mallet to bed them in the mortar.

Step 4

To help keep the layout straight and perpendicular to the forms, tie mason's line to two bricks and set them outside the site to mark the edge of the first course. Then lay the first course of pavers.

Step 5

Move the guideline and lay the second course. The technique is the same: Separate the pavers with spacers, move the spacers with each new course, and bed the paving with a rubber mallet.

Step 6

After completing the first section, remove the spacers from the last course and check the section for level with a straightedge, resetting any high or low units. Continue laying the pavers in sections until you have finished the walk. Let the mortar cure, then mortar the joints.

Mortar the Joints: Step 1

Mortar that gets on the pavers is a chore to clean. To minimize the amount of misplaced mortar, use a mortar bag to fill the joints. Make sure the bag's spout is thinner than the joints. Fill the bag with mortar and slowly squeeze it into the gaps.

Mortar the Joints: Step 2

Let the mortar set up until it just shows a thumbprint when you touch it with light pressure. Shape the joints by pulling a concave striking tool along them.

Mortar the Joints: Step 3

As you strike the joints, you'll leave some excess mortar on the face of the brick. Use a wet soft-bristle brush or piece of burlap to clean off this excess. Cover the walk with plastic while the mortar sets.


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