Have you ever wondered why some bricks have holes and some don't? There are two types of bricks: paving bricks that do not have holes and structural building bricks that have 2-3 holes in each brick. Structural bricks, used for building walls and foundations, are extruded, wire-cut bricks with holes so that the brick is evenly fired. The holes in structural building bricks provide greater stability to walls, foundations, chimneys and other structures. Building bricks can be used for patio or outdoor structures such as planters, barbecue pits, benches and other non-flooring applications. Because they have holes, they are intended to be used to build up--one on top of another--rather than to be laid out flat for flooring or paving applications.
How to build a structure using bricks with holes
This is a guide for laying bricks for a small structure no higher than three feet. If you want to build something higher than three feet, or any type of load-bearing wall, you must consult local building codes or a professional mason. Carefully measure out the length and dimensions for your structure. Use spray paint to mark out the length and the width for each wall. The width of each should be slightly more than one brick's width, or you may build a wall with two bricks side by side, if you want a wider wall.
Use a shovel to dig out the marked area at least 10 to 12 inches deep. Lay out a straight string in the dug out area from the place that you intend to start laying the brick. The string serves as a guide to help lay the bricks straight.
Fill in the dug-out area with three inches of gravel spread evenly. Use a level to ensure the gravel is spread evenly throughout the area.
Spread a 1-inch layer of coarse sand on top of the gravel layer. Again, use a level to ensure the sand is evenly spread out.
Measure the 2-by-4-inch boards in the same measurements as the foundation of your structure. The boards will be used to build a frame that will support the concrete until it is set. Nail the 2-by-4-inch boards together and set the frame in place.
Mix cement (concrete) and water according to the cement instructions on the bag. Lay 1 inch of the cement mixture on top of the sand layer and inside the frame as necessary to build a foundation for your structure. Ensure the cement is spread evenly on top of the sand base. Allow the cement to set for at least 24 hours before beginning to lay the brick.
After the cement is set, remove the frame and use string as a guide to lay a row of bricks without mortar to ensure the bricks will be straight. After the bricks are straight, set the bricks to the side again so that you can spread a layer of mortar.
Use the wheelbarrow, garden hose and hoe to mix the mortar mix, according to the directions on the bag. Mix the mortar in amounts of no more than what you can use in less than an hour. Use the mortarboard to work with small batches of mortar as you are laying the brick.
Lay a 1-inch-thick layer of mortar across the area where the bricks were laid out in Step 7. Apply mortar on each side of the brick covering the holes thoroughly to add strength to the walls. Firmly place the brick into the mortar layer, tapping the brick down evenly so that mortar squeezes out as the brick is set in place. Continue laying the first layer of brick in the same manner, but put mortar also on the sides of the bricks touching each other.
Saw a brick in half in order to start the second row at a stagger from the first. This staggered pattern makes the wall stronger. Use a level to measure that each new brick laid is plumb and even to the first row. Use the trowel to put mortar on all sides of the bricks to cement them to each other and to the first row. Ensure that all sides of each brick are level and plumb before placing it into the mortar. Also, ensure that all sides have sufficient mortar evenly spread between bricks-- this is what joins each brick on top, bottom and sides and is important for stabilization and sturdiness of the wall.
Continue the subsequent layers according to Steps 9 and 10 staggering each row of bricks. You can build only a structure with 3-foot-high walls without first checking local building codes for permit and other safety requirements.
To build more than one wall for a structure, build all the walls at the same level as you go up. For example, for a structure with four walls, lay the first row of bricks for all four walls before starting on the second row of bricks. Be sure to stagger all walls as described in Step 11. Rather than cutting a brick in half at the end of the first wall, turn the last brick at a right angle to the first wall to start you second.
When you have completed laying the bricks, place decorative brick caps or lay the last row of bricks face up as the top layer to provide a smooth style and finish. Brick cap products come in many different sizes and shapes and are available at your local building supply store.