No serious conversation about construction and quality building materials would be complete without including brick in the discussion. Brick has been a common building material for thousands of years. Many ancient brick structures are still standing. Today, brick remains a proven, solid and attractive building option.
Since ancient times, brick products have improved considerably from sunbaked mud and straw. But modern technology cannot improve upon the basic ingredients of clay, sand and water. The addition of heat to the mix completes the package. Brick's hardiness and durability is proven by the fact that brick is one of the few building materials that's routinely salvaged and re-used.
In addition to longevity, brick offers good insulation and weatherproofing. It requires no paint, so it does not fade. Despite its simplicity, you're not limited to the standard size red blocks. There are various colors and shapes for the design application desired.
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Types of Bricks
Brick is avalable in several types, depending on the project.
- Building Brick - Cored (with holes in them) structural bricks are for construction. The holes are there to save material and reduce weight.
- Face Brick - The solid ones that show. They are available in various colors, sizes and shapes.
- Firebrick - Heat resistant; made especially for fireplace or heat-sensitive construction.
- Pavers - For sidewalks, patios, and edging.
- Antique or Tumbled Brick - For instantly achieving the impression of antiquity.
- Brick veneer -Non-load-bearing interlocking brick siding (about ½ inch thick) and requiring no mortar. Available for interior or exterior use.
There are three grades of brick to choose from:
- SW - Severe Weathering - able to experience freeze and thaw cycles.
- MW - Moderate Weathering - tolerance to frost and freezing. Used for outdoor walls.
- NW – No Weathering - for indoor use only.
Check your local building codes or Home Owner's Association regulations before selecting your brick.
Brick Tips for Do-It-Yourselfers
Brickwork is easier than you think, and is considered fun or relaxing by many. Don't rush into this however - you'll need a lot of training and practice before tackling any structural or load-bearing projects. Here are a few things to remember:
- You can cut brick with a brick chisel and hammer or saw.
- Diamond blades for circular saws make clean miter cuts.
- Wear eye protection anytime you cut brick.
- If you must store brick, avoid ground contact, which could stain the brick or increase water absorption beyond the normal limits.
- Plan on five bricks per square foot in a paving project. Plan on seven per square foot for a wall. The difference is due to the size of the bricks, the pattern used and the grout or mortar thickness.
- There are 500 bricks in a cube (about a pallet's worth).
- Always use the correct mortar mix for the job and use the appropriate mortar joint style to make your project weather-tight.
Due to its natural origins, matching brick color is not easy, so buy enough to complete your project (and include some extra for breakage or later repairs)
Another item you'll see in the masonry aisle is concrete block. Used in foundations and walls, structural concrete block usually has two open cells to reduce weight, allow steel reinforcement and improve insulation. Solid concrete cap blocks, are used on top of a course of block to seal the wall or support wood or brick.
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