Just like any trade, bricklaying looks deceptively easy until you actually break out the bricklaying tools and materials and try it for yourself. Knowing the basics of masonry will give you a leg up on this project, and it helps if you’ve ever watched a mason lay bricks when they build a retaining wall or mailbox stand. Both processes are the same.
It’s just as important to have proper preparation and planning. You should map out the wall and practice on a very small area first. When you’re happy with the results and you have a proper plan in place, the next thing you have to do is focus on gathering all of the necessary bricklaying tools to make the job go smoothly. We’ll outline the top 15 bricklaying tools you may need below.
There are many bricklaying tools you can get to ensure your project moves along smoothly, and some are much more valuable than others. One of Dad’s Tools by Adam Levine / CC BY 2.0
15 Bricklaying Tools
Bricklaying is an art form, and you’ll need a range of tools to accomplish your project if you want it to be successful and structurally sound. The following tools are something you’ll need if you plan on performing any bricklaying projects around the house.
1. Builder’s Pencil
When you have a builder’s pencil, this bricklaying tool allows you to mark blocks or bricks. Many people think that using an ordinary pencil is enough for brick masons or builders. However, experienced industry professionals would prefer to use this specific type of pencil. It offers a lot of advantages over a traditional pencil.
For starters, this pencil is specially designed for making marks on stone or concrete. The construction is what sets it apart. It has very strong lead that can withstand the roughness of the stone without snapping. The rectangular shape prevents it from accidentally rolling away when you work, unlike a cylindrical pencil. The larger surface area also makes the pencil much easier to grip as you work to get clean lines.
This bricklaying tool can seem humble and simple, but you shouldn’t underestimate it. A chisel is a very versatile tool that you can use to shape hard materials or cut mortar and stone. Just like other types of bricklaying tools, there are different types of chisels that you can get and use.
One of the first chisel types is a brick chisel. You may hear it referred to as a bolster set, and it works well to smooth out the cuts on bricks. It’s a very heavy-duty tool that allows you to easily crack concrete and brick. You get a wide blade that allows you to crack wider surfaces like masonry bricks. There are also molded handguards on this bricklaying tool to make it safer to use because it’s harder to slip.
The cold chisel is another you should have on hand, and it works to cut old mortar. You can pick from various sizes from 6mm to 30mm, and it’s usually six inches long. You use it with a steel hammer.
A masonry chisel is another bricklaying tool you want to have, and it works to cut cement blocks and bricks. You can use it to strip away excess mortar, and it usually gets attached to hammer drills and used for demolition projects. The head on this chisel is strong enough to wedge and break materials. The handles get designed to protect the user, especially since this is more of a heavy-duty tool.
The plugging chisel is another bricklaying tool you need. It’s been popular with roofers for more than a century, and you use it to remove mortar from bricks. It has a start-shaped point, and it works well to drill holes. For the drilling action, the head of the chisel gets hit repeatedly. You want one made out of carbon steel so it won’t splinter when you apply pressure.
3. Digging Spade
Most people associate this bricklaying tool with gardening or landscaping instead of masonry. However, there’s one type of spade that you can use for bricklaying. When you have a digging spade, you can cut into the ground very efficiently. It’s a very versatile toll that you can use to prepare trenches for structures or walls.
A lot of people confuse a digging spade for a shovel. The biggest difference between the two is that you use a shovel to scoop things and a spade to dig. A digging spade comes with a rectangular head or blade at the end. The best digging spades come with a steel blade that gives it additional durability and strength. The spade should also resist scratches, rust, or humidity. It should also come with a well-designed handle with a comfortable grip.
4. Gauge Rod
The gauge rod is a simple bricklaying tool that you use for specific parts of your project. When you have to double-check that the course is correct when you’re slowly working from two ends, you can turn this tool. This rod makes sure that everything is even, and you can even DIY one if you want, but it’s simpler to buy it.
It’s a very inexpensive tool to use, and you’re only using it to move things along correctly. If you have measurements on this bricklaying tool, you can use it to gauge things. You can think of it as a visual that helps prevent time-consuming and costly mistakes.
It’s virtually impossible to not know what a hammer would look like. It’s one of the most popular carpentry tools available, and you use it to break up concrete and larger bricks. It’s heavier than a trowel, and you can choose from different types. The brick hammer comes with a pointed and small blade on it with one flat side. You can use it to trim down smaller edges on stones or bricks.
It’s better known as a masonry hammer, and it has a rubberized grip on it to absorb vibrations while giving you great control. The rim gets heat treated to minimize cracking or chipping. It’s very durable and lightweight. If you get a claw hammer, you’ll get the head with the opposite side curved. It’s very popular in woodworking projects, but it’s also a bricklaying tool. You can use it to pull nails out of any surface, and you can use the other side to drive nails in.
The sledgehammer is popular for demolition projects. It comes with a flat and large head with a longer handle attached. This allows you to distribute force over a broader area, and this is similar to a mallet. It works very well to break through masonry walls. The lump hammer is very heavy-duty, and you use it to hammer masonry nails or cutting stone. It’s like a smaller sledgehammer.
Hammers can be very useful for the demolition process of starting a project, and they come in a large range of sizes and shapes to fit different project sizes. Hammer by 0Four / CC BY-NC 2.0
Better known as a plasterer’s tool, this bricklaying tool has a plate-like shape that you use to hold mortar or material where you need to scoop it quickly. You won’t have to run back and forth to get the mortar with it, and you can use it to hold joint compound when you perform jointing and tape. However, you shouldn’t mistake it for a mixing board. It’s small enough for you to carry it around, and you can hold it very close to whichever wall you’re working on. A mixing board gets mounted on a stand to make it easier to use.
A hawk is a board that is roughly 13 inches square, and it comes with a perpendicular handle that is right in the center of the back. You’ll have to hold it with your non-dominant hand horizontally while you apply the material with your dominant hand.
One of the most essential parts of bricklaying is ensuring that everything is 100% level. All of the bricks have to be in the correct position to give you a structurally-sound finished product. Also, the overall usefulness of your finished product depends on being as accurate as possible. This bricklaying tool will help ensure that everything is level from the beginning of the project.
This is why you want to have access to a spirit level. This is an extremely accurate tool that will give you all of the information you need as you work. If the project is just slighlty off from being level, you’ll get all of the information you need to make the correct adjustments to get it back to level. It’s a very user-friendly tool, but the accuracy level is invaluable.
Many spirit levels come with a lightweight but durable aluminum body. You can use it to measure things in different positions too. Many of them are 32-inches long, and you should use them over and over as you work.
8. Line Pins
Line pins are one bricklaying tool that can be one of the most simple but essential you can have. Using bricklaying pins helps to ensure that all of your bricks are even and straight. Without having it, you shouldn’t expect things to go smoothly. Line pins are also very user-friendly. All you have to do is insert the pins in the spot where you want them to go. Doing this is easy and quick because they come with tapered ends. Once you install them, this bricklaying tool helps to hold your line to stop any costly mistakes. The pins are also cost-effective.
Line blocks are tools that are very similar to line pins. When you use them, you use them to help build up your project’s corners. However, this bricklaying tool isn’t commonly found in hardware stores, so you may have to make your own.
9. Masonry Saw
You’ll need to have a masonry saw when you lay bricks. This is different from other types of saws, and it’s very strong, rugged, and heavy-duty enough to cut through thicker materials like concrete. You can use it to cut through tiles, brick, ceramic, and other materials. You can get this bricklaying tool in different shapes and styles. Some saws come with blades that can reach almost 30-inches, and others come with teeth that are heat-resistant.
10. Safety Goggles
You always want to wear safety goggles when you take on bricklaying projects because you need to protect your eyes. If you have an accident while you work and something manages to get into your eyes, you could have a huge problem on your hands. You may not think working with brick is difficult, but you don’t want mortar to get into your eyes.
Wearing a simple pair of safety goggles can help stop you from wasting time by constantly flushing out your eyes, and they can prevent injuries. They’re very easy to wear, and many of them feel natural, even if you wear them for extended periods. If you want to stop smaller problems from happening when you work, you really want to buy a pair of these goggles.
Many safety goggles on the market are no-frills and simple. They have an adjustable strap that will fit most people. There are also safety goggles available that you wear like a standard pair of sunglasses. The style you prefer is going to come down to personal preference, so pick whichever feels more natural.
There are many types of safety goggles you can choose from, and you can get ones that mimic the look of sunglasses that are very comfortable to wear. Goggles by Logan Ingalls / CC BY 2.0
If you’re dealing with cement or you want to build a wall, you’ll need this bricklaying tool. It’s most likely very familiar to you, and it has a curved tip with a broad blade. It comes in a range of different types. The most versatile design you can get is a digging shovel. It comes with a sharper cutting edge, and it can do anything you expect a more traditional shovel to do. You can use it to scoop and move materials like gravel or cement and pierce the ground. There is a pointed tip on the shovel that works for heavy-duty tasks like digging. No matter which type of shovel you want for your bricklaying tool, you want to wear safety clothes when you work with it.
12. Steel Square
The steel square is one bricklaying tool that you’ll find in a lot of carpenter’s toolboxes. However, it’s also useful for masonry projects. You may hear it called a mason’s square, and it allows you to check outside and inside corners. You can use it to prepare your layout structure and take measurements for your project. It has two arms, and one is wider and longer than the other. The longer arm is a blade and the shorter one is the tongue. Both arms form a right angle when they meet.
Since it has a steel design, you have to keep it very highly oiled to prevent it from rusting. However, most steel squares today are very moisture-resistant, and you can choose from a range of sizes.
13. Tape Measure
Just like the hammer, the tape measure is a critical bricklaying tool, and it’s important for a huge range of projects from masonry to carpentry. When you lay bricks, you’ll need to be very accurate in your measurements. Even the most experienced masons or contractors never guess the work by looking at it because it’s easy for them to be structurally unsound if anything is off. This is why having a quality tape measure is essential.
With this bricklaying tool, you can accurately calculate course heights and quantities of bricks. Professional contractors use this tool to determine window or door placement in frames before they add the bricks. There are many measuring tapes available, and having a steel one is a good choice. It should extend 15 feet at a minimum. A few other features you want is a wide belt clip, auto-locking mechanism, self-retracting feature, and a self-adjusting end hook.
The trowel is a solid bricklaying tool. Even though it’s smaller, you can use it for a huge range of purposes, including shaping, leveling, and spreading concrete. You could argue that it is the most important tool in masonry work. This trowel is created from materials like carbon steel and stainless steel. They come in different sizes, shapes, and types.
A brick trowel is one of the most popular bricklaying tools. It has a pointed blade and nose on it, and it gets designed to spread mortar. It’s easy to mistake a brick trowel for a pointing trowel as they both look very similar. A pointing trowel is much smaller, and it works to fill in small cavities that a brick trowel is too large to get into. It can also get into tight corners at the base.
The flooring trowel is another bricklaying tool to consider. It has a rectangular shape and you use it to flatten down floors and walls before you put marble or tile down. If you want to get rid of air bubbles in the surface space, you’ll need to get an edging trowel with a curved end. The finishing trowel is also important, and you won’t complete a masonry project without it. It’s rectangular with an angled and straight blade, and it smooths mortar on the upper portion of the wall.
There are several types of trowels you can choose from when it comes to bricklaying tools, and you’ll need more than one to finish your projects. Wet trowel… by SilverTrowel / CC BY-ND 2.0
15. Work Gloves
Bricks are very coarse, and if you’re going to grab them each day, you’ll need this bricklaying tool to prevent scratches. It makes sense to have a reliable pair of work gloves for masonry projects. Some people think that wearing gloves can slow the project down, but the right gloves won’t have a negative impact on your dexterity. If you purchase a high-quality pair of gloves, you’ll be able to work quickly.
Work gloves can help to protect your hands from cuts and scrapes while you work, and they’re a very affordable bricklaying tool that makes them an appealing option for people on a tighter budget. There are even gloves that you can get that work with touchscreens on your devices. You can choose different options that will depend on what you want. There are also cut-resistant gloves available on the current market that you can buy.
Bricklaying Tool Maintenance
You know that there are specific bricklaying tools you need to carry out your projects around the house, and keeping them clean and ready to go is vital. You’ll need high-quality tools that are built to last and reliable.
To allow your tools to survive the test of time, you want to look after them very well after every project you take on. So, there are a few simple things you can do to maintain your bricklaying tools, and we’ll outline them below.
Cleaning Your Bricklaying Tools – Simple Methods
One of the most simple ways to clean off the tools as you finish your project is to give them a quick wipe down with water and a clean dry cloth. You want to dry them fully to prevent corrosion and rust from forming. If the tools have a wooden handle or are made out of wood, the best way to clean them after each use is to wipe them down with warm water and apply linseed oil.
Linseed oil will sink into the wood grain, and the wooden parts of the bricklaying tools will soak it up like a sponge. The linseed oil deeply nourishes the wood and gives you a flexible protection that is smooth to the touch and waterproof to make the wooden parts of the tools last longer.
You always want to keep the trowel clean throughout the day to help prevent smears from appearing on the project. In order to do this, you’ll want to clean the trowel on a regular basis by shaking off any excess cement. You should consider giving it a thorough clean using a cocoa brush regularly at the end of each day and rub it down with a hessian rag.
To keep everything free of rust, you should give your trowels a spray with WD40 and lightly rub them with the rag. Another method you can use to clean this bricklaying tool is to dip it into the sandbag a few times and rub it to make the cement stuck to the trowel dry and easy to rub clean.
If you have cement buildup up the trowel, you can rub it along a rough surface like the concrete floor. The abrasiveness of the concrete floor and the pressure you apply to the trowel from your body weight will remove the hardened cement and mortar that has slowly built up over the course of the day.
We’ve outlined 15 bricklaying tools that you want to have on hand for your masonry projects. Make sure to invest in high-quality tools that will last for years, and take care of each of them after each use to prolong their life.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.