How To Build A Cinderblock Wall Without Mortar (Do This!)

Nick Durante
by Nick Durante

Cinderblock walls are a mainstay of modern homes, and they can look gorgeous in any yard. They can be intimidating to build, however, as many builder-owners may not be comfortable working with mortar. However, you can build a cinderblock wall without mortar, and it’s much easier than it sounds.

First, dig a trench in your desired spot so that you can lay base footing for your cinderblock wall. Once you have the footing in place, apply a layer of surface bonding cement, then stack the first row of cinderblocks. After each row, apply more bonding cement until you reach the top, wet the wall, and seal both sides with another layer of cement.

Once you’ve done that, you simply apply water to both sides of the cinderblock wall so that it cures. This process is best done with 2-3 people, and it does not take long at all. Follow along as we dive step-by-step into how you can build a cinderblock wall without mortar.

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How To Dry Stack Cinderblock

Building a cinderblock wall without using mortar is referred to as a dry stack, and it’s simple. The main concern that builder-owners have with dry stacking is that the wall won’t be strong, but that’s not an issue. The process is quick and can be done by builder-owners with little experience in building walls if you follow the steps.

Before you get started, you’ll need to acquire surface bonding cement to use in place of mortar. Surface bonding cement acts similarly to mortar, but it is slightly less strong than the latter. With that said, surface bonding cement is still strong enough to support a sturdy cinderblock wall.

1. Base Slab

Before you can start on the wall, you will need to lay down a base slab or footing for strength and support. Purchase a foundation kit or footing that matches the dimensions of the cinderblock wall that you envision for your home. Dig out the ground enough to where your foundation kit, base slab, or footing can go 12” deep into the ground.

In general, your footing or base slab should be 24” wide to support the cinderblocks that will go above it. All that you need is a digging bar and shovel to prepare the ground for the footing. Be sure to clear out any debris or loose soil before you place the footing.

2. Place the Cinderblocks

When your footing is in place, set the cinderblocks atop it to get a visual of how it should lay. Don’t apply surface bonding cement quite yet, you are simply making sure where you want it to go. Use chalk or another surface marker on either side of the blocks to make sure it is even.

Once you’ve made your markings, you can remove the cinderblocks before you move onto the next step. You can adjust the footing during this step if you decide you are unhappy with the placement. That’s as simple as pulling it out and digging the trench out further if you need more space.

3. Prepare Surface Bonding Cement

Now, it’s time to prepare your surface bonding cement according to the directions on the bag. A brand like QUIKWALL, for example, requires that you mix 1 gallon of water for every 50 pounds of cement. Take a bucket of water and slowly mix the powder cement into it for 3 minutes total.

If you are not pleased with the texture of the surface bonding cement, you can add slightly more water. You can test the consistency by dipping a trowel into the mixture to see if the cement drips off of it. If your cement mixture drips off the trowel, there may be too much water.

4. Apply Surface Bonding Cement

Now, take your surface bonding cement mixture and apply it to the footing. You will only need to cover the footing with 1/8” of surface bonding cement to create a strong base. Once your footing is covered with the proper amount of cement, you can begin to dry stack the cinderblocks.

5. Dry Stack Cinderblocks

Now, you can dry stack the cinderblocks following the markings that you made. Your first layer of cinderblocks will determine how all of the other layers sit. After every 2 cinderblocks that you lay, double-check to make sure that they are even.

It is a good idea to have an extra set of hands for this process to make it go by quicker. Be sure that your partner and you are on the same page about alignment. Once you complete the bottom row, apply surface bonding cement with a trowel and begin the second row.

NOTE: If you apply a light layer of water over the cinderblocks before the surface bonding cement, it will help form a stronger bond.

6. Dampen and Bond

Repeat the previous step until you have stacked each row of cinderblocks in the layout that you prefer. Once you have stacked each row, it’s time to dampen the wall and bond it. Lightly spray the wall with water without soaking it so that it’s only somewhat damp.

Now that the wall is damp, you will brush 1/8” of surface bonding cement over both sides of the wall. Be sure to cover each side in its entirety so that the wall is strong. You can add extra surface bonding cement to areas where there are cracks or gaps.

Now, all that you need to do is allow time for your dry-stacked cinderblock wall to cure. Lightly mist the freshly bonded wall with a light layer of water. It will be cured after 24-48 hours, and you can even paint yourself a cinderblock wall to look like stone, among other things.

Surface Bonding Cement vs. Mortar

As you can see from the directions above, surface bonding cement is a powerful material. It’s natural to be skeptical of its strength when compared to mortar, for example, but there are few differences. Yes, it is true that mortar is stronger than surface bonding cement, but only by a small margin.

Even still, surface bonding cement is quite strong, cures fast, and is resistant to moisture. One key difference is that mortar is best used by professionals in masonry, whereas surface bonding cement is perfect for amateurs. While mortar may be the standard for professionals, DIY builder-owners can jump into surface bonding cement with a small learning curve.

Part of surface bonding cements durability is due to the presence of fiberglass in the mixture. Whether you make retaining walls with concrete bags or surface bonding cement, you can cut mortar out of the process.

Related Questions

Is surface bonding cement waterproof?

Yes, surface bonding cement is highly waterproof and that is part of its appeal. Cinderblock walls made with surface bonding cement can withstand high amounts of moisture without damage. This is largely due to the fiberglass content in surface bonding cement that is highly resilient.

Do cinderblock walls need to be filled?

Cinderblock walls do not need to be filled, but you can do so for added durability. Some builder-owners fill the cinderblocks with concrete for the added weight and support that it provides. However, you can trust that your cinderblock wall will be strong even if you don’t fill them with concrete.

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Summing It Up

You can build a cinderblock wall without mortar by substituting it with surface bonding cement. You must lay a base slab or footing that can support the weight of the cinderblocks. Apply surface bonding cement to the footing and begin placing your first layer of blocks.

From there, apply surface bonding cement over the cinderblocks between each layer. Work your way upwards as you dry stack the cinderblocks and check to make sure it is even. Once you’ve reached the top row, lightly wet the entire wall with a spray can if possible.

Be sure to wet each side of the wall, then apply more surface bonding cement on either side with a trowel. Once you’ve reapplied surface bonding cement, you need to lightly spray both sides of the walls again, so they’ll cure. It is an easy process, and it proves that you don’t need mortar to build a cinderblock wall.

Nick Durante
Nick Durante

Nick Durante is a professional writer with a primary focus on home improvement. When he is not writing about home improvement or taking on projects around the house, he likes to read and create art. He is always looking towards the newest trends in home improvement.

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