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funetical 10-13-2009 08:08 AM

Exterior Brick
I want to build a raised flower bed using red brick. I don't want to use mortar. Is there anything I should know? I want it to be about three feet high. Will it hold. I read an article recently saying that fitting stones with out mortar is stronger. Is that true?

Cork-Guy 10-13-2009 09:11 AM

The brick will hold, however enough weight can collapse part of it. I would suggest using fitting rocks to make it look proper and hold properly.

mudmixer 10-13-2009 11:03 AM

Just stacking up brick will not work for a 3' wall because they will just slide on each other because the wall does not have enough weight.

Some of the smaller colored and split concrete block have a raised lip on the back that stops the sliding and provides alignment to get a small set-back to get maximum stability.

stuart45 10-13-2009 03:31 PM

Stone walls can be built dry without mortar and will last for many years. However dry stone walling is a highly skilled job to do correctly.

itsreallyconc 10-14-2009 06:02 AM

technique's called ' drywall ' when it comes to pa bluestone/flagstone/ashlar whether pattern'd or random,,, laying the stone's easy enough HOWEVER poor drainage's the reason most walls fail,,, may not be an issue where you live but be sure to backfill w/clean 3/8" stone next to the reverse of the wall back'd up by soil.

funetical 10-14-2009 07:52 AM

So what I'm hearing is maybe go another route? I just want a raised flower bed. I like the look of brick, but If I'm going to have to redo it I'd rather not. Any other suggestions?

Nestor_Kelebay 10-17-2009 09:57 PM

I built a raised flower bed out of brick at my sister's house. Hers is only about a foot high, but there's no reason you couldn't build it much higher using exactly the same method.
I bought bricks with three large holes in each brick like the ones above. But, my bricks were white (so the white PVC pipe wouldn't stand out). What's important when choosing a brick is that the distance between the first and third hole in any brick is exactly the same as the distance between the third hole of the first brick and the first hole of the second brick when the bricks are laid end-to-end.

Using the first and third holes of each brick in each row allows you to make 90 degree corners in your retaining wall as well, but check that the distance from the center of the first or third hole to the end of the brick is the same as it is to the side of the brick. Otherwise the corners will have gaps in them, or you'll have to cut the ends off some of the corner bricks.

There will never be a pipe going through the middle holes of the bricks because the ends of the bricks in the row above and the row below will meet over that middle hole. Consequently, there won't be any pipes going through the middle hole of any brick; only the first and third holes.
Now, rent a long 1 1/4 inch diameter wood auger bit and drill holes in the ground at the same spacing as the distance between the centers of the first and third holes in your bricks. Push precut pieces of PVC pipe into those holes. In my case, I bought a short 1 1/4 inch auger bit, but you can also buy an auger bit extension that will allow you to drill holes much deeper. Just tighten the bygeezus out of the set screw holding the bit in the extension so you don't lose the bit down a hole. Maybe use hose clamps on both and hold the clamps together with a piece of wire so that if you do lose the bit, you can always pull it out with the extension. In my sister's case, the holes were only a few inches deep and the brick wall only about a foot high, but deeper holes would have allowed a higher wall.
Then I threaded the bricks over the PVC pipes to make a brick pattern, but without mortar. The PVC pipes held the bricks together. Some of the PVC pipes will push into the holes easier and deeper than others, so when you get to the top of the shortest pipe, cut the other pipes off flush with the top of the top row of bricks.

Also, where I live, the ground freezes in winter and the resulting frost heave would cause a normal brick retaining wall to crack unless it's built on a foundation that extends down below the frost line (which is about 5 feet deep here in Winnipeg). So, even if an ice lens forms under my sister's brick retaining wall, the bricks are free to move so the whole wall can flex a bit to accomodate frost heave in winter.

It occurs to me that if you're only wanting to build a short retaining wall, an easier way to build it would be to:
1. lay out the bottom course of bricks on the ground with the ends tight together
2. Use a miter saw to cut a point onto short pieces of 1" PVC pipe
3. Hammer those pieces of pipe into the first and third holes of each brick
4. Thread subsequent rows of brick onto those pipes and stop when you get to the top of the shortest pipe.

You can make a curved wall by cutting off the corners of the bricks with a hand grinder or chop saw.

And, if you can't find 3-hole bricks made so that they can be woven together as suggested, you can always rent a chop saw and cut a few 8ths of an inch off each end of each brick to make bricks that will work. Just clamp a wood stop to the fence of the chop saw so that each end of each brick gets exactly the same amount cut off.

funetical 10-21-2009 09:21 AM

Thanks that's what I decided to go with. What sort of ground prep do you htink I would need. I'm in Texas. Centralish.

Nestor_Kelebay 10-22-2009 05:46 PM

I don't think you'd really need any ground preparation. You're not gonna want to hit any stones or rocks in the ground with a brand new 1 1/4 inch auger bit, so you might want to look on eBay for a used 1 1/4 inch auger bit. All you need is a cheap one cuz you're just using it as a miniature post hole auger.

mudmixer 10-22-2009 07:14 PM

If you are dealing with typical 4" brick (3-5/8" actually), they have little resistance to a 3' high wall or soil retained. When the soil gets wet, it gets heavier and pushes much more laterally. A few 1/4" or 3/8" (no matter how long) pieces in the wet ground provide minimal addition resistance in the wet soil in the long term. You are trying to build a gravity wall to restrain the 3' of soil. - One more foot and you would need a permit since that is how the soil pressures increase with height.

Eventually, the wall will tilt and have to be rebuilt. - how long do you plan to live there?

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