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Build a Brick Pillar

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Pillar beauty 1
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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 193 Projects

Decorative pillars are easy to design because you don’t have to be concerned about the seasonal shifting of attached brick or stone walls. We designed a pair of  12 × 16” pillars using only whole bricks, so you don’t need to worry about splitting or cutting. These pillars  are refined in appearance but sturdy enough to last  for decades.

Once the last course of bricks is in place, you can add a brick or stone cap for a finished look.  Or, build two pillars connected by an arch. If you’re planning an arch, consider attaching hardware for an iron gate. It’s far easier to place the hardware in fresh mortar, so make a note of the brick courses where the hardware will go. The settings will look cleaner this way and the hardware will stay secure for a long time

Instructions

  1. Pillar beauty 1

    This 4-ft. pillar was built with 18 courses of brick. A brick cap adds a touch of elegance and protects against rain, ice, and snow. You can also build pillars with stone caps, or, as shown on the following pages, use cast concrete caps, which are available in many sizes.

  2. Pillar beauty 2

    Pour footings that are 4" longer and wider than the pillars on each side. This project calls for 16 × 20" footings.

  3. Pillar Tip 1

    Use a story pole to maintain consistent mortar joint thickness. Line up a scrap 1 × 2 on a flat tabletop alongside a column of bricks, spaced 3⁄8" apart. Mark the identical spacing on the 1 × 2. Hold up pole after every few courses to check the mortar joints for consistent thickness.

  4. Pillar tip 2

    Cut a straight 2 × 2 to fit tight in the space between the two pillars. As you lay each course for the second pillar, use the 2 × 2 to check the span.

  5. Pillar 1

    Once the footing has cured, dry-lay the first course of five bricks, centered on the footing. Mark reference lines around the bricks.

  6. Pillar 2

    Lay a bed of mortar inside the reference lines and lay the first course.

  7. Pillar 3

    Use a pencil or dowel coated with vegetable oil to create a weep hole in the mortar in the first course of bricks. The hole ensures drainage of any moisture that seeps into the pillar.

  8. Pillar 4

    Lay the second course, rotating the pattern 180º. Lay additional courses, rotating the pattern 180º with each course. Use the story pole and a level to check each face of the pillar after every other course. It’s important to check frequently, since any errors will be exaggerated with each successive course.

  9. Pillar 5

    After every fourth course, cut a strip of 1⁄4" wire mesh and place it over a thin bed of mortar. Add another thin bed of mortar on top of the mesh, and then add the next course of brick.

  10. Pillar 6

    After every five courses, use a jointing tool to smooth the joints that have hardened enough to resist minimal finger pressure.

  11. Pillar 7

    For the final course, lay the bricks over a bed of mortar and wire mesh. After placing the first two bricks, add an extra brick in the center of the course. Lay the remainder of the bricks around it. Fill the remaining joints, and work them with the jointing tool as soon as they become firm.

  12. Pillar 8

    Build the second pillar in the same way as the first. Use the story pole and measuring rod to maintain identical dimensions and spacing.

  13. Capstone 1

    Select a capstone 3" longer and wider than the top of the pillar. Mark reference lines on the bottom for centering the cap. Do not install caps if you are adding an arch to your pillars.

  14. Capstone 2

    Spread a 1⁄2"-thick bed of mortar on top of the pillar. Center the cap on the pillar using the reference lines. Strike the mortar joint under the cap so it’s flush with the pillar. Note: If mortar squeezes out of the joint, press 3⁄8”-thick wood scraps into the mortar at each corner to support the cap. Remove the scraps after 24 hours and fill in the gaps with mortar.

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