Break and Butter a Brick

DIY'ers can utilize these techniques on various types of projects.


The proper technique for breaking a 10-hole brick: Support the brick flat on the palm of your hand, then make a solid strike in the middle using a brick hammer.

The proper technique for breaking a 10-hole brick: Support the brick flat on the palm of your hand, then make a solid strike in the middle using a brick hammer.

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The Right Way to Break a Brick

When building brick walls, you'll frequently need to break a brick in half — such as when creating a wall with a running bond, where rows are offset by a half-brick. At each end of the wall, you'll need plenty of half bricks to break the bond.

For the demonstration, Mitch uses 10-hole bricks, which have five rows of two holes along the brick. 10-hole bricks are frequently used to construct walls. Mortar seeps into the holes to create a stronger bond.

You'll want to break the brick along that middle row of holes. Hold the brick flat in the palm of your hand and hit it right in the middle with a brick hammer. That should break the brick along the middle, and will give you two halves to put into the wall.

The 10-hole brick is a modular brick, which means that if you take the two broken halves and put them side by side with a gap for mortar, they will be equal to one brick length. That means that when using a broken brick half, you can set its unbroken end facing outward, and conceal the broken end inside the wall.

How to Butter a Brick

There are several techniques that a bricklayer must master. One of the more basic is how to properly butter a brick while building a wall. "'Butter" is another name for the mortar used in stonework and brickwork.

When laying rows of brick, the first step is to use your trowel to scoop up a big heap of mortar, and then spread the mortar along the top of the wall, to create the mortar base for your horizontal row of brick. An experienced bricklayer can do this in one smooth movement of the arm.

Before laying the first brick in the row, take a little bit of mortar onto the tip of your trowel, and "butter" one end of a brick with the mortar. You may prefer to butter the ends of the bricks that have just been laid, so that no mortar will come off as you set the new brick, but you can do it either way.

Use your trowel to cut the edges of the mortar into a triangle, which will keep the mortar from dripping off as you move the brick. Set the brick down into the mortar that you've already spread, setting the back of the brick first, and then rolling it forward.

Tap the brick down with the handle of your trowel to ensure that the brick bonds with the mortar, and then use the trowel to cut off any excess mortar that oozes out from the wall. Throw the extra mortar back in with the rest, and then butter your next brick.

Continue to do this as you lay bricks down along the row.

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