Fun with Brick and Mortar

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know all about our little Sunglo greenhouse, and, like my husband Chris, you’ve suffered through all my whining about how the foundation, made of  pressure-treated lumber, bothered me because it looked unfinished.

Greenhouse foundation before

Now some greenhouses don’t even need a foundation like this.  But ours had to be elevated a bit so it would be tall enough to fit over two garage windows.  And the result is extra ceiling height in the greenhouse, which is nice.

The Problem

The ugly wood wouldn’t have mattered so much if the greenhouse were standing on its own out in the garden somewhere.  But it is attached to the south end of our circa 1927 garage.

The Solution

We decided to try wrapping the foundation with Brickweb “Castle Gate” Clay Thin Brick.

It sounded wonderful:  Thin genuine clay bricks adhered to 28″ X 10″ backing sheets for easy installation.  No spacers needed, no messing with individual brick pieces (or at least very few).  Essentially, it would be like installing sheets of tile.

thin brick sheets

sheet of thin brick

I’ve done several interior tile projects, and, many years ago, I did a simple brick and mortar garden edging project using bricks from a friend’s old chimney stack.  So I was hopeful that I could pull this off.

Preparing the Foundation

The Brickweb sheets could not be applied to the raw wood, so first Chris prepared the foundation.

Now I must mention that this post is not a tutorial.  It’s only intended to share our novice experiences installing Brickweb.  If you decide to try it yourself, check out a few of the comprehensive videos and online instructions created by professionals.

Anyway, back to Chris preparing the foundation.  He used a circular saw and a utility knife to cut HardieBacker cement board.

cutting HardieBoard

He used an impact driver – and screws designed specifically for use with the HardieBacker cement board.

An impact driver and HardiBoard screws

The screws were easy to countersink, which is important since we needed a smooth, straight subsurface for the bricks.

Attaching HardieBoard to pressure-treated lumber

Now that the foundation was prepared, I had to get a move on.

HardieBoard on Pressure treated lumber

Cutting the Brickweb

While most videos I found briefly mentioned that Brickweb could be cut with a tile cutter, I could not find a video that actually showed the process of cutting it.  But I assumed it would be just like cutting tile.

I rented a standard-sized tile cutter (aka “wet saw”) at the small tool rental department of my local big box hardware store.  But after two water pumps immediately failed on me, we (because by then Chris had been pulled into my misery) returned the tile cutter and went where I should have gone in the first place: To an actual tool rental center.

But this setback was a blessing in disguise.  I would need to cut the Brickweb sheets lengthwise (and at a slight angle), and the sheets were 28 inches long.  So by then I had come to realize that I would be better off with a tile saw that had a large cutting platform.

I wound up with a tile saw that the rental center called a “rail saw.”  A bit intimidating at first, it turned out to be exactly what I needed.

rail saw

 

rail saw

Brickweb makes wonderful corner sheets.  They mimic the full thickness of real brick and make corners look very realistic.  But in my experience they are a bit tricky to cut lengthwise.  Since they are molded at a 45-degree angle, it doesn’t work to cut them on a tile saw.

I cut my corner piece as far as I could on the tile saw, which wasn’t far, and then Chris cut it the rest of the way with his Dremel.  This took some time but worked well.

cutting thin brick corner piece with a Dremmel

Adhering the Bricks

The Brickweb sheets were cut and ready to be adhered to the foundation.  I watched several videos and read some online instructions on how to adhere them.  Most said to use a thin-set adhesive.

But I learned to check the label on the thin-set adhesives because some say “not for use with resin-backed tile.”  And I’m pretty sure that includes Brickweb.

The adhesive is a powder and needs to be mixed with water using a mixing paddle attached to a drill.  It’s kind of like making cake batter with a giant mixer.

mixing thin set adhesive

Just like with tile, I used a trowel to apply the adhesive to the foundation.  Then, starting with that corner piece and working out, I attached the Brickweb sheets.  I worked a small area at a time so the adhesive wouldn’t dry before I could attach the sheets.

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I wanted to make sure the actual bricks, and not just the web they sat on, were going to stick to the foundation.  So in addition to slathering adhesive on the foundation, I buttered the back of every sheet with the adhesive.  Better safe than sorry.

adhering brickweb to the wall

After I adhered each sheet, I wiped away any excess adhesive between the bricks so I could mortar the bricks later. I had to use little shims to keep some of the sheets straight and level, especially the ones that I’d cut with the tile cutter.

The Mortar

Before applying the mortar, I let the adhesive dry completely.  Then I applied a sealer to the bricks.  This would make them easier to clean later.

Then it was just a matter of mixing some type “S” mortar mix and using a grout bag to pipe the mortar between the brick joints.

mortar bag

I had never used a grout bag before.  There is a preferred “twist and squeeze” method that isn’t easy if you have small hands.

Once the mortar was in place and allowed to set a bit, I knocked off the excess and smoothed it using a mortar tool.

mortar tool

mortar drying

After it set even more, I wiped the mortar with a brush to clean off any tiny loose bits, and I cleaned the excess mortar haze off of the brick fronts.

The Finishing Touch

We wanted an attractive wooden rain cap to top off this little brick wall.  We couldn’t find anything with the exact dimensions that we needed, so we found something close at a locally-owned lumber yard, and they milled it down for us at no additional charge.

Before Chris installed the rain cap, he painted it to match the trim on our house and garage.

raincap

And now we have a greenhouse with a quaint little brick foundation. It looks solid and finished – like it’s here to stay.

Before . . .

greenhouse foundation before

After!

Greenhouse foundation after

front of greenhouse closeup of brick

Sunglo greenhouse with thin brick foundation

Greenhouse with garage
Lean-to greenhouse attached to our garage.

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.

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