10 dos and don’ts of freestanding brick walls

Diagram of a freestanding wall - 10 dos and don'ts of freestanding brick walls

Freestanding brick walls are attractive and durable when designed and built well, with appropriate materials. But rain and frost attack can damage the walls - so build them with this in mind to ensure they last.

One of the most important things to get right is the mortar. Once it weakens, the rest of the brickwork will be compromised. Incorrect batching and mixing could ruin brickwork, so take extreme care when mixing on site.

For designation (i) / traditional mortar strength M12, you need 1 part cement, ¼ part lime, 3 parts sand. For Designation (ii) / mortar strength M6, it’s 1:½:4 ½. The 1:1:6 ratio generally used in the walls of buildings, isn't ideal in exposed detailing such as chimneys, boundary walls, and below DPC because of the risk of frost attack.


  • Select the right bricks and make the wall at least 215mm wide.
  • Use a high-bond DPC below the capping/coping and sandwich the DPC in mortar.
  • Use an engineering brick DPC at the base.
  • Use bucket handle or weather-struck mortar jointing.
  • Build-in movement joints.
  • Slope paving away from the wall.
  • Provide gravel drainage strips where possible.


  • Use recessed mortar jointing.
  • Use coatings or waterproofing agents.
  • Build higher than one metre without involving a structural engineer.

For more information and useful guides, visit the Brick Development Association website. 

Or, read Retaining wall basics


Please Note: Every care was taken to ensure the information was correct at the time of publication. Any written guidance provided does not replace the user’s professional judgement. It is the responsibility of the dutyholder or person carrying out the work to ensure compliance with relevant building regulations or applicable technical standards.


(No subject)

Submitted 3 years 9 months ago

If having a double creasing tile under an engineering brick capping make sure that the creasing tiles are bedded to a slight fall otherwise the water just runs back underneath to the wall face , encouraging efflorescence .
bitter experience with bricklayers on home project !

Webmaster note

Submitted 3 years 9 months ago

All comments posted at an earlier date to this one have been transferred from our old website.

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