Go to How Not to Build an Addition Index! This page includes masonry notes.


Although it looks rugged, a cement block is a dainty item. Two blocks knocked together are likely to chip. A block dropped on cement will break. In fact, they are easily smashed to bits with a hammer. One of the few things they will not give way to is the human foot.


I firmly believe that there is no such thing as an accident. Most mishaps can be traced to one human characteristic: negligence (usually on the part of the person who is hurt). It is, then, incumbent upon those of us who take only a passing interest in our own safety to provide ourselves with some degree of protection.

The steel-toed shoe goes a long way to achieve this end. It is, at once, the most comfortable and least restrictive safety device you can wear. It allows you to kick walls, rocks and old boards with impunity. And when you do something dumb, like drop a block, you can feel confident that you are protected. As a bonus, they look good. Unlike goggles or hearing protection, a man can wear steel toes without being mistaken for an alien being.


There is a proper tool for everything, even for slopping cement. A trowel is simply a flat piece of metal with a handle. Commonly, they look like wedding cake cutters (only they are not silver or gold plated).

I must mention alternative tools here. There are many household items that can serve as a replacement on short notice. Everyone knows about using a butter knife as a screwdriver, but did you ever think of using an emery board as sand paper, or a nut cracker as a pair of pliers? A mixer makes a tolerable three-speed drill (you can even use two bits at once), and any table or chair will do as a saw horse.

There is no question that it is better to have the tool designed for the job at hand. Every man would love to have a complete set of Craftsman tools. (With them, you can tear down and rebuild a rocket engine - without the instructions - of course.) However, sometimes you mislay a tool or you do not have time or inclination to run to the hardware store. Then you must resort to alternate tools. As long as your wife does not catch you trying to use her curling iron as a soldering gun, alternative tools can work almost as well as the original. Unfortunately, Robin saw me with the cake cutter before I could plunge it into the cement mixer. She knew there were no cakes on the construction site. She chewed me out for not being sentimental about our wedding, etc. I'm not sure what that had to do with the cake cutter, but I apologized and let her go about her business. When she returned to the house, I produced the alternate-alternate tool, a pancake flipper.

Pancake flippers are good not only for slopping and smoothing mortar, they are especially good for flinging it. I got to be a fairly good shot with wet cement from about five feet. Greater ranges cut down on accuracy and markedly increase splattering. Next Page

Cement Transport
Cement Mixer
Masonry Notes
Brick in the Wall

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About the Author:
W.J. Rayment built an addition on his house, and in the course of the project learned from his many mistakes. This on-line compendium is his effort to help you learn from his experience. The advice and stories are often humorous, sometimes silly, but always informative. for yourself or as a gift for family or friends.

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