How to Make Cement Mortar

Billy McCarley

Cement mortar is used to construct brick, block and paver installations. It is one of the strongest and most rigid construction materials available for this use, and it can be mixed by the average do-it-yourselfer who has little experience working with this type of material.

There are several tools and ingredients that you will need before beginning this project. However, you can expect to complete the process in 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size and scope of the job.

  1. Add 1/2-bag of dry mortar powder to a damp wheel barrow. The mortar can be purchased in 80-pound bags at any hardware store that sells masonry products. There are three types of mortar: type N, type S, and Portland mortar. Type N is for general masonry such as block and brick work, type S is for masonry that requires extra strength, such as retaining walls and Portland mortar is for tile and paver beds. Generally, if you are using a gas powered mixer, then you will add the whole bag, but for hand mixing, add only half the bag. Wear a dust mask when adding the mortar powder.

  2. Add 8 shovels of sand to the dry mix of mortar. This sand must be brick sand rather than regular play sand. Play sand has large stones in the mixture, which will impede the use of the mortar when using it for laying bricks or blocks. Mix the dry powder--sand and mortar--together using a hoe, preferably a hoe with a hole in the center of the blade. These hoes are designed for mixing mortar.

  3. Add 2-1/2 gallons of water to the mix, and continue to mix the ingredients together. The mortar mixture will begin to lump up. However, continue to mix, adding more water for mixtures that are too dry and more powder and sand for mixtures that are too wet. The idea is to obtain a pancake batter consistent mixture. If the mortar is too thin, soupy or thick, then it will be difficult to use to lay bricks and blocks. However, if using it for pavers, the thinner the better. Allow the mixture to set for 15 minutes and remix with the hoe, adding more water if the mortar has dried too quickly, which can happen if the mix is left in the direct sunlight.