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Mortar Kombat

Guess what, guys! I am FINALLY done with my brick wall project. Yippee! Hooray! Whew.

Once the mortar was mixed and the bricks had been laid out, I experienced a major "Oh-crap-what-have-I-gotten-myself-into" moment. I honestly felt that I'd bitten off more than I could chew. But everything was all set and ready to go, and those naked, patched-up walls were seriously starting to make my eyes bleed. So there was no turning back. It was time to get down and dirty.

It's been a grueling, dusty, and extremely rewarding month. Here's the recap of my first foray into masonry:

Recognize this awesome laser? A perfectly level foundation is the key to a straight wall, so I used this handy tool to guarantee that my bolsters were 100% straight prior to laying the first brick.

Next, I combined powdered thinset mortar with water and mixed it into a thick, batter-like consistency. The boxes of veneers came in mixed assortments of grays and browns, so I organized all the bricks by color in order to plan out an even distribution of all the variations.

This technique is called back-buttering, and it really is like spreading peanut butter onto a piece of toast! I found that an even 2/3" layer was enough to grip the wall without oozing everywhere.

After back-buttering, I pushed and wiggled each tile against the wall until the mortar started pulling at the brick. Once the suction was created, I slowly slid the brick up and over, using spacers to maintain even distancing between each brick. I went with 3/8" spacers, which is the standard joint spacing for real brick walls.

------------ Repeat for 280 square feet. ------------

It took me about two days to get a hang of the fundamental techniques and stop making huge messes everywhere. After that, I started throwing bricks on the wall like nobody's business. This project didn't call for any extraordinary skills, but it did require an insane amount of tedious repetition and grunt work. I can't even complain, because all that squatting, lifting, bending, and reaching totally whipped me into shape ;-)

I also tackled a smaller wall by our entryway in order to establish a smooth, transitional flow into the living room. The previous owners were obviously really into the color red. I think it made them happy. Kinda like how Wonka makes me happy.

Mid-point laser check! Yup, still straight :)

Almost there!! Chris and I signed the back of the final brick before it was set into place, and...

Bam! All done.

This project was a true labor of love. Sure, I've been sporting a set of calloused man hands for about a month, and I also dropped/broke a brick on my foot, rendering myself incapable of wearing any cute shoes for the next few weeks. But the wall is finally complete, and I am deliriously happy with the outcome.

Once the crown and base mouldings are installed, our living room renovation will be finished! We are sooo close, and I absolutely cannot wait to share the final transformation with you. Stay tuned!

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Reader Comments (10)

WOW !! you are CRAY! LOL.. where the picture of your bruise toe? hehe.. this is amazing though. I can't believe you really did this whole thing. It's so gangsta yo!

i LOVE IT. can't wait to see it in real life..

*kick wonki <3

May 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWoman's other woman

@WoW - Thank you for listening to my whining and cheering me on along the way! Man, I wish it was just a bruised toe... it's a big old nasty scab that nobody needs to see :( Can't wait for our pizza sleepover! <3

May 15, 2013 | Registered CommenterJennifer

amazinggggggggggg. can't wait to see it! i loveeee wonka! OH HAI THERE!!!!

May 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

Gorgeous! I actually thought they were full bricks. Great job, Jen!

May 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChristina C.

Jenn, that wall is incredibly beautiful , and you are just so unbelievable!!

May 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

Great job, and I really appreciate the post title.

May 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

It's a Great Wall!

May 16, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermm

Hi, nice to see a DIY brick wall! Am doing one on my own too, may I know how do you cut those bricks to fit in the smaller holes?

March 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDevon

LOVE the brick walls! So, did you spread mortar on the sheetrock, or is that a type of glue? Just clarifying because I've seen it done both ways and I'm trying to decide which way to go with my brick wall project! Lovely blog!

October 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

Hi Shannon! I applied thinset mortar directly on the sheetrock as well as on the back of each brick veneer. I've heard that some glues dry out and eventually lose adhesive powers, so I went the traditional route.The mortar also doubles up as a filler for the spacing between the bricks, lending a more authentic look and feel to the wall. Hope that helps! :)

October 6, 2014 | Registered CommenterJennifer

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