Materials (Masonry)

Masonry - Bricks

(the following informative notes on materials are all from 'Materials for Builders & Architects' by Arthur Lyons)

Masonry: Masonry is a general term for the building units used in construction. The common materials of masonry construction are brick, stone, marble, granite, travertine, limestone, cast stone, concrete block, glass block, stucco, and tile. (I know, I quote wikipedia…but it seems plausible information). I will be focusing mainly on bricks. Concrete is a whole other post.

Clay bricks: Clay bricks are mainly made from sand (silica) and alumina, with other minor constituents like iron oxides, chalk, lime etc. Generally speaking brickwork has a long life with low maintenance and is cheap to make. Additionally it is rather easy to handle since the sizes are usually graspable by a human hand to be laid.

Manufacture: There are five processes in the making of clay bricks – the extraction of the raw materials, the forming processes, drying, firing and packaging/distribution. These are all rather self-explanatory processes.

Engineering bricks: These especially engineered bricks are used to support very heavy loads.

Durability: Bricks need to be resistant to frost, since moisture gets within them, and when it freezes, causes expansion. Frost damage is one of many defects of brickwork and masonry in general. The other three are efflorescence and staining, which are mainly aesthetic, and sulphate attack.

Physical properties: Bricks have a high compressive strength. Additionally fire-resistant, conducts heat and moisture to a certain extent and can be an effective acoustic barrier.

Brickwork: Brickwork is the way in which bricks are laid using mortar as cement. Different types of bonding can be used, which might be for visual or structural purposes. Brickwork can be per-assembled or laid on site manually by a brick-layer (hopefully a good one). Brickwork is not solely for walls; it can be used for pavements and anything really.

Clay bricks are not the only type of masonry building blocks. For instance, concrete bricks and block-work can be used for similar purposes. It is up to the architect/engineer/client/town planner to decided which material is most suitable.