Building Cinder Block Structures

You’ll be amazed at how building a cinder block structure can transform a plain-looking patio into a lovely private courtyard. The best part is, it’s a simple and straight forward process that you can handle yourself.

Plan and Prepare

Step one is to get a plan drawn up; even a simple one on a computer drafting program, or a rough sketch. It’ll help as a guide during construction and in buying the materials. Be sure the area is clear of dust and debris, and then lay out the cinder block base. Do this before mixing the mortar!

You don’t want wet mortar sitting around getting hard while you’re doing the prep work. So, measure in two inches from the front edge of the pad, and strike a chalk line, if you intend to add stones or some other decorative finish. If you just plan to paint it, then put the blocks flush with the patio edge.

Of course, you’re going to come to a corner at some point. Again measure in two inches, and use a framing square to get the wall’s alignment. Then create another chalk line. Continue this process all the way around the patio area.

Mixing Mortar

Now you’re ready to mix the mortar. Follow the directions, and get the consistency as directed. Place the mortar on the patio, and set the first two cinder blocks in place, be sure they are level and plumb. If you patio isn’t level (and quite a lot are not!), start at the high point and work toward the areas that need the most mortar. That way you can be sure you don’t end up with blocks at the high end having nearly no mortar under them. You don’t want to have to undo all your work just to boost the first row up a bit!

Keeping a Level

The best way to make sure the blocks remain level is to run a line from the first two to the first corner. Make sure it’s level, and then tie it off. Then, just make each subsequent block align with that line, and is level and plumb. You’ll find that the patio is lower the further away from the house you get (or at least is should be). That is done during construction to insure rainwater runs off and away from the house. That also means that you’ll need a drain in the wall to prevent standing water.

So, cut some one inch PVC pipe short enough to fit under the wall. At the low spots on the patio, place one drain pipe, and then cover with mortar. Take care not to cover the openings, and then set the block on top of it. It’s best to put several of these throughout the patio, that way you can be sure it drains properly.

Going Higher

If you want the wall to be two or more rows high, you need to alternate each row so that the blocks don’t line up on top of each other. This will give the wall greater structural strength. So, once the first row in done, cut a cinder block in half, and use it to start the next row.

A cutter can be rented from most home improvement stores, and you may need to cut the last block to get it to fit. Once you’ve got the wall to the height you want, either use the mortar to apply a decorative finish, or paint the blocks. You’ll find that building a cinder block structure is quite easy.