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A block of clay hardened by drying in the sun or burning in a kiln, and used for building, paving, veneers, etc.  Traditionally, in the U.S., a rectangle 2 .5 × 8 inches, red, brown, or yellow in color.  However, brick sizes and colors do vary. 

Thin Brick:

Thin brick is a relatively new addition in the construction industry and it has quickly become a favorite for commercial buildings.   Look below for more information.


Brickwork by Apex Masonry Inc.

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History of Brick

Brick has a history nearly as long as civilized man himself. Bricks from 6,000 years ago are still uncovered in the Mesopotamia area today. The ancient Israelites made clay adobe bricks for their Egyptian slave masters some 35 centuries ago. Adobes are a soft unfired product  that we do not recommend to be used in modern construction; they are prone to erosion and instability.

Admittedly, these bricks are showing a little wear after a couple of thousand years but these photos should give you the reassurance that a brick product professionally installed will not be problem for you or your descendants. Permanence with zero maintenance…what a concept!

The earliest European settlers in North America began making bricks with the rich clay deposits available in many eastern locations.  Virginia made bricks as early as 1612 and New England started its first brick kiln in Salem, Massachusetts in 1629.  Dutch colonists in New Amsterdam imported yellow bricks from Holland but most bricks were made right in the then colonies in areas such as Albany, Philadelphia, and Trenton. A growing populace demanded a durable building product that would be readily available at reasonable cost and so this yet unborn country, The United States of America, was built to a very large extent with brick.  Even today the newest of baseball stadiums are reverting to the old style classic brick look

We could talk about pressed bricks versus wirecut or extruded brick, hollow or solid, common or face brick, firebrick, clinker brick, glazed brick, terra cotta, and so on, but there are many other manufacturer’s web sites that will do a better job of explaining all the details.  Most users of this site, especially homeowners, really want to know what type of brick is available in their area that they can select from for their project.  In the central California area, most bricks are from the following manufacturers and you can link on to their site to find what brick works for you.

Thin Brick:

Thin brick is a relatively new addition in the construction industry and it has quickly become a favorite for commercial buildings. What is a thin brick?
First, let me tell you what thin brick is not.  It is not imitation brick, faux brick panels, or simulated brick siding that you might see as a skirting on a trailer or in a cheap restaurant.  Thin brick is made with real fired clay and is a brick in every way except that it is only approximately ½” in thickness.  What is the purpose of that you may ask?  Full sized bricks weigh around five pounds apiece and require concrete footings to support the weight of the brick.  Full sized bricks also require a tie system onto the building so that with earth movement they will not tip away or fall off the building.  Thin brick gives you all the appearance of a full size brick but does not require footings or a tie system.  The thin brick as applied by the bricklayer is installed in a similar manner to tile.  This type of brick work can be applied directly to a plastered surface,  cement board,  concrete, or concrete blocks and there is no concern about the weight factor over a wood floor or roof. They are often used on a wooden chimney chase.

Keep in mind that most brick companies have a more limited variety of thin brick than their full size brick although some companies will cut the full size brick down to a thin brick.  This obviously increases the cost of the product greatly, so when selecting your brick, if cost is of prime importance, choose from their standard variety of thin bricks.

Brick Positioning and Jointing

Brick work can be laid in a variety of ways.  The terminology for the positioning of the brick is as follows:

     ·  Stretcher: a brick laid horizontally, flat with the long side of the brick exposed on the outer face of a wall.  
     ·  Header: a brick laid flat with the short end of the brick exposed.
     ·  Soldier: a brick laid vertically with the narrow ("stretcher") side exposed.
     ·  Sailor: a brick laid vertically with the broad side exposed.
     ·  Rowlock: a brick laid on the long, narrow side with the small or "header" exposed.
     ·  Shiner: a brick laid on the long narrow side with the broad side exposed.

In the diagram above you will also note the types of jointing that can be done.  The jointing refers to the tooling of the mortar between the bricks.  The vertical joints are called head joints and the horizontal bottom joints are called bed joints.  The most common method of jointing is either the concave, round jointing or raked jointing.  The concave or round joint slicks the mortar and indents the mortar in a concave or rounded fashion.  The raked joint is cutting the joint back squarely and has a more grainy finish.  The concave joint is generally used in commercial work and helps repel moisture.  The raked joint is often used in residential construction and the finished appearance of the brick work minimizes the look of the joint and tends to make the brick itself more prominent.

Brick Patterns:

Bricks can be laid in a variety of ways.  The most common brick pattern is called running bond or half bond.  Other types of brick patterns especially in brick paving are basket weave and herringbone.  Herringbone can be done either with the bricks at 90 degree angles or 45 degree angles.  Running bond is usually less costly as herringbone requires more cutting of bricks as well as taking longer to do.  Note the different patterns in the diagrams below:

What is Efflorescence?

This is a potential problem for all masonry that all home owners need to be aware of.  Efflorescence is usually a whitish, powdery substance caused by chemical reactions between the masonry and elements found in water.  A detailed explanation of the problem and possible solutions are thoroughly discussed in the following article from the Masonry Institute of America
Although most masonry will have some efflorescence over time, it appears more prominently on red brick with its stark color contrast.  The article below will give you details, but to summarize briefly, the first way to combat efflorescence is to make sure water does not continually come in contact with the masonry such as sprinklers that spray the side of the house.  Secondly, if the appearance of efflorescence is bothersome to you, remove it sooner rather than later.  The longer it remains on a surface, the more difficult it is to remove.  Often a soft wire whisk brush is all that is needed to remove it but be sure not to damage the mortar joints or the brick surface. Various products make claims of their ability to remove the efflorescence and calling the local masonry material yards and asking about the latest products could be helpful. If the problem is persistent, sometimes sealing the bricks after the efflorescence has been removed can help stop the problem.

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