Prep - Layout - Fitting

Compact the substrate.

Prep work begins with installing a concrete slab to serve as a foundation for the brick walkway. The author excavates down about 8 inches and compacts the subsoil before placing 4 inches of washed gravel. Next, he sets the 2-by forms for the concrete and compacts the gravel layer with a mechanical compactor.

Forming the flare.

Angled gussets reinforce the 2-by forms that create the flare where the walkway expands to the width of the stairs.

Smoothing the slab.

After the concrete is placed, a mag float smooths the surface of the slab. An absolutely smooth and flat slab is not necessary as a substrate for the bricks.

Concrete control joints.

The morning after the concrete pour, the author uses a circular saw with a masonry blade to cut control joints in the concrete. If the concrete should crack as it cures or settles in the future, these joints will make it more likely to crack along that straight line.

Lay out the border bricks.

The first bricks to go in are along the edges of the walkway. Layout starts at a control joint to avoid having bricks span the joint, where they'd be more likely to crack. The gap between the bricks on either side of the control joint will be filled with flexible sealant, instead of mortar, to let the bricks move slightly without cracking the joint between them.

Keeping the edge straight.

Mason’s twine stretches the length of the walkway to guide brick placement. To keep the bricks following a perfectly straight line, the author installs them at precisely measured and laid-out intervals along each edge.

Leapfrog brick laying.

After setting bricks at intervals along the edge, the author uses the next brick in the lineup to guide the installation. Here he adds a brick next to his first group and taps it into place, leveling over to the next brick in the sequence.

Working back and forth.

The border brick installation jumps back in the opposite direction with the author adding a brick next to the one he just leveled to. Working both ways like this ensures that the border bricks stay dead straight for the whole length of the walkway.

Break at the control joint.

The author completes the installation of the border bricks up to the control joint and repeats the installation process on the other side of the joint.

Finding the flare.

After running the border bricks to within one brick width of the flare in the walkway, the author draws a layout line for the border bricks along the flare. He uses squares to lay out the angle of the bend, and then bisects the angle to define the cut angle for the bricks.

Angling the template.

Next, the author places a brick-size cardboard template at the intersection and uses a straightedge to transfer the angle onto the template.

fitting the template.

The author cuts the template—minus half of the mortar joint—along the cut line, and then sets the template in place for a quick check.

Matching angled bricks

The template transfers the angle cuts to the bricks at the pivot point of the flare. The cut is the same for both bricks. The rest of the bricks can then be laid out along the edge of the flare.

Finicky fitting.

To fit odd-shaped areas such as the one around the railing post, the author first rough-cuts a brick-shaped cardboard template to fit against the steps and loosely around the post.

Tracing the exact shape.

Using a small piece of aluminum angle against each of the flat surfaces of the post, the author transfers the exact shape of the post to the template.

Template records the shape.

The template now bears the lines for tracing the shape of the post after using the aluminum angle.

Template to brick.

To transfer the exact shape that needs to be cut, the author places the template on a brick, lining up the piece of aluminum angle with the line drawn on the template and marking the other side of the angle. A 4 1/2-inch grinder with a diamond blade makes fast work of odd-shaped cuts such as this one.

Ready for the field

The cut brick then takes its place as the final piece in the flare border. Other bricks receive straight angle cuts to square off the rest of the flared section for the field tile.

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