How to Make Mortar

What You'll Need
5 gallon bucket
Work gloves
Eye protection
High grade sand
Masonry cement
Dye (optional)

When your masonry project needs to be glued together, it is time to make mortar. There are two different types of mortar and several materials you can use as a base, but the process is the same. Type N mortar is used for indoor and above grade outdoor projects. Type S is used for below grade projects.

Step 1: Determine Good Working Weather

It may seem strange, but some days are better for making mortar than others. If it's too hot outside, your mortar may stiffen before you can use it. This will result in wasted time, materials and money. Unless you are working in a well ventilated garage or covered area, it should not be raining. The best time to work is when it is cool and dry. Like heat, too much cold can stiffen your mortar as you work. It should be between 40 and 60 degrees for optimal productivity. On the other hand, be sure the weather is tolerable for you to work in for several hours. The mortar needs to be used as soon as it's finished.

Step 2: Mix Dry Ingredients

Before you begin to measure out ingredients, know how much mortar you will use in two hours. After two hours the mixture will not be as effective. Measure out three parts sand and place it in the wheelbarrow. Fold in one part of the masonry cement. If you are adding dye, fold it into the completed dry mixture. You need to add the same amount of dye to each batch, so measure it carefully.

Step 3: Add Water

Create a divot in the dry mixture. Add two gallons of water and fold it into the mix using the hoe. Create another divot and add another gallon of water. Mix it in thoroughly.

Step 4: Test Viscosity

This step is very important. You need to test the viscosity of the mortar. It will not work well if it's too wet or too dry. Dig into the mortar with the hoe and make ledges. If the ledges stand, then the mixture is good and ready to use. If the ledges fall, you need more dry ingredients. You need more water if they crumble.

Step 5: Finish Up

Once you have determined your mortar is good, it's time to use it or fix it. Adding materials can be tricky, so be sure to test the mortar after each addition. Don’t add too much of any material at once. If you are adding dry materials, add them in the same proportions as you did in the original dry mix. Be sure to mix thoroughly. If you are adding water, use the hose to slowly add more. Again, mix it thoroughly and test the viscosity before you add any more liquid.