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Bricks - Timetabling

This is obviously important to you, but is more important to the bricklayer. Your job, to you, is perhaps the central focus of your efforts and time.

Programming trade activities may not be part of your plan. The bricklayer, and all other sub-contractors for that matter, look on this as another job. To this end, the timetabling of their work program, so that productivity can be maintained, (wages earned and bills paid) is very important.

You may not have considered that brickwork for a single storey cottage can be completed in three to five days - so quickly, in fact, that you may not get the chance to oversee it.

You may be planning on building the house over a year and speed is not something you had considered. You may only have access to small amounts of funds at any one time, so paying out $2500-$4000 in one payment may not have crossed your mind.

If you want to be on site while the bricklayer is working, it may involve getting a bricklayer who will work weekends.

You may want to mix the mortar and generally assist the bricklayer. In this case, a part-time bricklayer who won't mind you helping him and will work for you on a day-labour basis as required. So timetabling the work from start to finish is important if you want happy sub-contractors.

If you intend to use sub-contractors for every phase of construction, a budget and timetable will need to be prepared to allow you to manage and control the project.

To assist you to do this, look for a cottage nearby that is about to start and detail and diarise all activities on-site from initial excavation to owner moving in or a 'For Sale' sign going up.

If possible, detail work done each day. This will assist you to prepare your own job plan and then attach your prices/budget to each trades operations week by week.

Confirmation of brick quantities

Prices for brickwork should be obtained well before brickwork becomes a critical part of your timetable. Don't leave everything till the last minute.

Preparation and planning will be repaid by well chosen sub-contractors, a realistic budget and timetable.

After selecting the plan of your owner built home, try to work out the number of bricks required for the job. Fifty bricks a m2 for 110mm brick veneer construction is a good guide.

Multiply length by height of each elevation of brickwork to obtain area (m2). Deduct area of doors and windows to calculate actual area of brickwork. Don't try to work to the nearest brick - somewhere within about 200 bricks should be sufficient.

My advice is to order an extra pallet of bricks to construct a BBQ, letter box, planter, etc. as bricks can sometimes be difficult to match exactly later, so don't under order. This can happen if you don't order all the bricks for your home at once.

The sub-contractor will also check the number of bricks as a matter of form. He will need to know this to estimate, firstly, the time needed to complete the work - remember he knows how many bricks he will need to lay each day. Secondly, to estimate how much he will charge you for the work and thirdly, he will want to make sure there are not parts of the brickwork that will cost extra.

From your calculations and the sub-contractors checks, you should arrive at a fairly accurate total to order.

Mortar quantity - Sand

Normally allowed for as a tonne of sand per 1000 bricks, this is a reasonable amount remembering that you can make arrangements to store sand properly on-site to avoid waste, children or rain scattering the sand around the site, causing loss.

Sand left over from bricklaying can always be used after the job is finished, to build a BBQ or act as bedding sand for small paved areas or making up garden beds.


The amount of cement normally required is four bags per 1000 bricks. This allows for a mix of about 5:1.


Lime is not always used in bricklaying mortar. It has fallen out of favour with bricklayers due to its dusty nature. Other additives also entered the scene 25 to 30 years ago which produced workable 'fatty' mortars, without the need for lime. Known as air entraining agents, or sometimes called plasticisers, they produced workable fatty mortar 'instantly', lime taking many hours to impart a fattiness to the mortar.

Lime fell into disuse, but it is generally agreed, that lime imparts qualities to mortar that cannot be duplicated by cement on its own, or chemical additives.