A builder's guide for the home renovator

How to Mix Mortar by Hand

If you’re not in the building game you probably think you’ll never mix mortar yourself. My question to you is, why not? When you have the recipe and the technique it’s straightforward and you can pocket the savings mastering this skill.

make the mortar mix easy to use by adding plasticizer

What you need

Trade Tips

  • Instead of plasticizer, you can use 10mls of dishwashing liquid. The reason for adding detergent to the mix is to aerate the water and make the mix fluffy, workable and stop the mortar from drying quickly.
  • Once mortar is mixed, put a little on your trowel, flip mortar gently on trowel and then turn trowel upside down. If mortar sticks to your trowel then you’re consistency is good to go!

Mortar mix ratio

  • 4 brickies loam : 1 builders cement

    (Unless otherwise specified in an engineer’s report for your project)

How To Mix Mortar

Step 1

Put on protective gloves and face mask.


Step 2

Combine 4 level shovels of ‘brickies loam’ with 1 level shovel of builders cement in your wheelbarrow. The ratio of 4:1 can be multiplied out depending on the quantity you need.


Step 3

Mix dry ingredients until combined.


Step 4

Add plasticizer. OR Put 10mls of detergent into a bucket and half fill your bucket with water. It’s ideal if you fill the bucket using a hose so the detergent is activated and starts to bubble and foam.


Step 5

To this size mix (4:1) add roughly 1/2 litre of the foaming water into your dry ingredients in the wheelbarrow. Not too much. It’s better to add small amounts of water as you’re mixing than adding too much at a time.


Step 6

Use your shovel to mix the ingredients thoroughly. Turn the ingredients over, and over, and over; work your way around the wheelbarrow so everything gets thoroughly mixed.


Add small amounts of the foaming water, as necessary, and mix until you create a smooth consistency. Texture should not be too wet or runny.


Test your mix: Using your trowel check to see if the mortar is the right consistency. Put a little on the end of your trowel, gently flick and quickly turn trowel upside down. If mortar sticks to the trowel when it’s upside down, it’s ready.

Find the answers to commonly asked questions about mortar and plasticizer on this link.

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