Gravel base for brick wall?

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Old 06-08-16, 06:19 AM
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Gravel base for brick wall?

I've never worked with brick in my life, but I've done some reading, watched some videos and talked to someone who has some experience.

I'm about to attempt to build a brick wall - 2 bricks high - around my mulch bed. These are the same bricks that the exterior of my home are made of. I started off digging a trench a few inches deep and about a foot wide (these are queen bricks, and are 7.5 inches long I believe). From here I was told that I could just put gravel down and put the bricks on top of the gravel, with the mortar being the only thing in between the bricks and the rock. However, every video I've seen of people putting in bricks involves cement being poured as the base. But, most of the videos are of taller walls than I'm planning to do. So, my question is, for what I'm doing - a 2 brick high wall - will gravel be okay or is cement needed?
 
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Old 06-08-16, 06:49 AM
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A century ago some foundations were just rock/brick over a gravel bed. While a concrete footer is best your plan should be ok ..... but I'm just a painter, the masons should be by later.

almost forgot welcome to the forums!
 
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Old 06-08-16, 09:54 AM
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Where are you located in Alabama? If you are anywhere that gets occasional ground freezing I wouldn't put much effort into the wall as it's likely to crack and shift.

Every place I've seen a footer not of concrete the base material, usually rocks, are rather deep in the soil. Deep enough to get past the surface topsoil and well down into virgin ground that never freezes. Usually there is quite a mass on top from either a house or very substantial rock wall that helps hold things in place by sheer mass/weight.
 
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Old 06-08-16, 10:54 AM
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@marksr, ha, I appreciate your input, thanks.

@Pilot Dane, I'm in northern Alabama, about 30 miles south of the Tennessee border. It doesn't often get below freezing, but it happens a few times every winter. Are you saying the cracking would happen specifically with a rock foundation or also with a concrete foundation? There are houses in the neighborhood who have bricks like I'm looking to put in, but were constructed by the builder of the house. There are a couple out of many dozen that have issues, where there is a crack, but mostly they look like they've held up fine ... so far. Some have been up for 7 years or so. This is why I'm asking people that know more than I do, I don't want to get myself into something and realize it's a bad idea.
 
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Old 06-08-16, 11:09 AM
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Do you know how deep the frost line is in your area? Modern day construction has the a footer poured and then the block is laid, typically it will be 12" block up until shortly below grade where they will switch to 8" block. The brick will be laid on top of the 4" ledge left by the 12" block.

PD makes a good point about the old foundations utilizing the weight to keep it all together whereas your 'wall' won't have any mass. Have you considered just loose laying the brick? They'll move some but it would be an easy task to straighten them back up as needed.
 
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Old 06-09-16, 04:26 AM
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marksr, at our previous home I did loose bricks, well, like decorative stone blocks. That is the alternative, but I was hoping to be able to do the bricks and mortar on this one.

My lack of knowledge about creating a base is essentially what brought me here. I'm leaning now toward not doing the bricks and mortar, but if it can be done I'd like to try.

So, to be clear, are you guys telling me a rock foundation on my relatively light wall isn't a great idea? If I poured concrete would that change how you'd view this? Or either way, no matter the base, having brick and mortar without more weight is a bad idea when cold weather comes around?

I have no idea how deep the frost line is.
 
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Old 06-09-16, 04:31 AM
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IMO it's best to have a concrete footer if you intend to mortar the bricks in place. It doesn't take a substantial footer to support your small wall BUT if the footer isn't below the frost line or is too thin - frost heave or other ground movement can mess things up. Might be more work than it's worth. I would think loose laid brick over a gravel bed would fare better than just setting the brick on the ground.
 
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Old 06-09-16, 05:04 AM
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If you intend to mortar anything together then you need a proper footer as mortar doesn't accommodate any movement without cracking. At the minimum the bottom of your footer should probably 12" below grade and I wouldn't go any narrower than 12". Of course all this ends up being a lot of work for a two course high garden border. It's up to you to decide if it's worth it.

A dry stack wall of whatever brick or block you choose will be flexible and able to handle ground movement. With a dry stack wall a compacted gravel base will help. The deeper the base the better as it will allow water to drain away from the base of the wall to help prevent frost heave.
 
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Old 06-09-16, 07:38 AM
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It is sounding like more trouble than it's worth. I'm glad I didn't go ahead and put the bricks and mortar straight on gravel like I was leaning toward before I came here. I'm going to plan on using bricks or some sort of stone and put it on gravel.

Thank you guys for your help, I really appreciate it.
 
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Old 07-07-16, 05:27 PM
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Footer

There is another way to do it that is different than either listed. That is digging a trench to below frost line, tamping the soil tight at bottom of trench if needed, then add around four inches of the coarsest sand you can find then lay brick on sand bed tamp brick down with rubber hammer to level you want. If you don,t use coarse sand this will not hold up. Fine sand will enable the brick to shift.
 
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