In this video, Ask This Old House masonry expert Mark McCullough explains how bricks are made and what makes them unique.
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Mason Mark McCullough takes us to a brickyard to explain how he chooses a brick and how manufacturers make this durable building material. Mark explains that when he’s looking for a brick to work with, his choices at any particular brickyard could number as many as 20 different types and styles.
There Are Many Types of Bricks
When looking for a brick for a masonry project, bricklayers have a lot of choices. Between colors, textures, and shapes, brickyards can consist of twenty different types of bricks.
The Main Ingredient is Clay
Regardless of the type of brick chosen, the main ingredient is clay. Clay is unique to the area from which it comes, causing bricks from different regions to consist of different colors. Bricks made in the southeast tend to use red clay, causing the bricks to be a very prominent shade of red. Bricks further west, such as the Milwaukee area, use a yellow clay, creating the lighter yellow and beige-colored brick buildings prevalent in the area. Bricks from the northeast tend to be reddish-brown in color.
Bricks Come in Different Textures
Manufacturers use molds to create bricks, and the consistency and texture depends on the mold. Many brick molds aren’t square, intentionally generating bricks with rounded ends, tumbled profiles, and less consistent dimensions. Other molds, such as those made from metal forms, produce perfectly consistent bricks with sharp corners.
Masonry and Bricks Have Evolved Over Time
Brickwork used to be all about creating a strong structural envelope. But today’s brick buildings are more about atmosphere, energy efficiency, and technology, turning bricks into more of an accent piece. And, with so many types of brick available and other materials to mix them with, the possibilities are endless.
Imperfect Bricks Inspire Artistry
Molded bricks are often purposely inconsistent to create a certain timeless look. Unlike other building materials, many masons prefer these inconsistencies as they allow for creativity and artistry. This requires the mason’s talents to take over to create flat, square, plumb, and consistent surface.
Where to find it?
Mark explains that he loves a variety of bricks for different functions and purposes, and they’re sourced naturally from all different parts of the country and the world. When looking for bricks, a brickyard or a stone masonry yard is the best place to look.
Expert assistance with this segment was provided by the Spaulding Brick Company [https://spauldingbrick.com/].
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How Bricks Are Made | Ask This Old House