How To Build A Brick Arch
One of the greatest inventions in terms of architecture must be the invention of the brick arch. They first appeared in Mesopotamia about 4000 years ago. It was only much later that we see brick arches appearing in European buildings.
After the crusades Englishmen returning from Jerusalem carried with them not only treasures but also knowledge.
From about 1200 A.D. many huge and amazing churches and cathedrals were built. It was a rush of building that lasted 100 years and building and masonry innovations were carried across Europe and the Masons Guild was established. The arch also began to be seen in Indian architecture.
But you aren’t really interested in building some huge great cathedral – you just want to bring a bit of architectural beauty into your new build or renovation project. Something to catch the eye. Something to add a bit of uniqueness to your home. You want to build an arch, maybe above an entrance door or internally as part of a room divide.
So how do you go about it and what tools and materials do you need?
Tools & Materials
Wood – plywood and lumber
Tips and Warnings
An arch larger than 6 feet will need a couple of very sturdy side pillars to support it and absorb stress.
For a diy home arch, stick to building a half-circle arch. These transfer weight easily to the side pillars.
Let’s Get Building!
You will need to draw your arch first. Draw it full size and your plywood. The central key brick must have the same number of bricks on either side of it.
Measure the size of the opening you wish to arch at the highest point (the springing line) and transfer this measurement to the plywood sheet.
Mark the center of the springing line at the bottom of the wood – this is the striking point.
Now tie a piece of string to your pencil. Put the pencil point on one end of the springing line. Keep the string tight. Place the other end on the center point and draw a semi-circle from one end to the other of the springing base line.
Draw a vertical line perpendicular to the base line from the centre. Use a straight edge and an L-square. Make a mark where the perpendicular line crosses the semi-circle. This is where you will place the keystone. Starting at this stone count how many bricks you will need on either side of it.
Cut the simi-circle out and use it as a template to cut out a second shape. These will be used as the wood support for your arch. Nail a piece of your lumber on the edge to the base of the semi-circle. Use 2×4 lumber if the bricks are to be placed upright next to each other along the arch. If the bricks are placed horizontally, use 2×8 lumber. Nail pieces of lumber along the perpendicular line and two pieces on either side of the perpendicular line so that a triangle is formed. Nail the other simi-circle template to the lumber.
Cut a strip out of your hardboard. Nail it to the curved plywood edge.
Build the Arch
On either side of the opening build two pillars. The height of the pillars should end where the arch is going to begin. Make sure the pillars are wide enough to support the arch.
Use your lumber to cut out a horizontal length of wood the width of the opening. This will go under the base of the form. Now cut two lengths of wood – these go against the side pillars with the horizontal lumber sitting on top of them. Place the semi-circle plywood template on top of this support.
Put mortar on top of one of the pillars in the form of a wedge – narrow edge facing inside the arch. Lay the first brick on the mortar. Do the same on the other pillar.
Butter a second brick with mortar in the same wedge shape and lay it on top of the first brick. Do the same of the other side. Keep building the arch on both sides at the same time until you reach the place of the keystone.
Place mortar on both sides of the keystone. Wedge it into the place at the top of the arch. You can make the keystone larger than the other bricks – maybe use a decorative stone. An upside-down triangle is a good shape for a keystone.
Let the cement dry for two days. After it is dry, remove the frame.
Contact Jenkor for the perfect bricks for your arch.