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What is Brick Masonry?

By Dakota Davis
Updated May 17, 2024
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Brick masonry is the process of constructing a building from individual bricks laid in a specific pattern and bound together, usually by mortar. Occasionally, the term is also used to refer to the brick units themselves. Masonry is considered a durable construction method, and brick is one of the most common types of masonry used in industrialized nations. The strength of a structure created with this method depends on the type and uniformity of the individual bricks selected, as well as the style of masonry used.

Bricks are made in a range of varieties, each intended for a specific purpose, but all are created from some combination of sand, water, clay, and heat. Building brick, or common brick, is used in construction and is often "cored" with two rows of holes to save material and reduce weight. Face brick is chosen for visible surfaces or exposed walls and comes in different colors, sizes, and shapes. Firebrick is made with special clay to offer additional heat resistance in fireplaces or boiler rooms. Glazed brick is coated on one surface with a ceramic finish that is sanitary and easy to clean, making it popular in hospitals and laboratories.

Brick masonry can support substantial weight, but does not respond well to shaking, twisting, or stretching. For this reason, some kind of structural reinforcement, like steel beams, is usually included, along with rigid insulation boards or fiberglass batts. The most popular type of masonry is the veneer wall, in which bricks are used to line the surface of a structure made from another material to make it look like it's made of brick. Solid brickwork is also popular and features two or more layers of bricks that are bound together in a specific pattern to form a masonry bond that may be secured with mortar. Other types include the crinkle-crankle wall, shaped like a serpentine to resist toppling, and the brick masonry arch, prized for its compressive strength.

Many attributes make brick a practical and popular construction choice. In addition to the inherent beauty of brickwork, it is also thought to create the impression of solidity and permanence, so brick homes often sell for higher prices. Brick is almost maintenance-free, never needs to be painted or stained, and resists damage from wind, fire, and water. It also offers both noise and thermal insulation, so structures created from it generally stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

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Discussion Comments

By pennywell — On Jun 23, 2011

@yseult - I'm not so sure brick veneer is that great a solution. Brick and stone masonry is a pretty skilled trade and I think a DIY project would tend to mess it up a bit or make it look too mundane. The brick patterns that can be seen in older houses - think Victorian or Colonial era - are especially good evidence of this.

By yseult — On Jun 21, 2011

@manykitties2 - that's some really useful info to have! I've had a look at brick veneer masonry too - it's basically a thin brick imitation product, much lighter than the real thing, but it looks quite good. That said, you wouldn't enjoy the benefits of real brickwork, such as insulation. On the other hand, brick veneer is fairly inexpensive and can be applied with little experience. It's a great way to add that warm, country feel indoors.

By manykitties2 — On Jun 21, 2011

If you find yourself with a home that has covered up some brick masonry and you would like the natural look back it is possible to strip that paint off as a do it yourself project. Unfortunately, expect to put in a lot of time and elbow grease as removing paint from bricks is no easy task.

You'll need to cover your floor in plastic near where you are going to work and suit up. You'll need gloves, goggles and a mask, as well as great ventilation for this task. Paint stripper smells terrible and while it does the job, it can be very harsh on you.

Using a wire brush and the stripper product go to town on the walls, with enough effort they should be back to their natural look soon enough.

By letshearit — On Jun 21, 2011

I think houses that have good brick masonry are lovely. They add a very rustic feel, especially if the brick is left natural inside the home. It always pains me to visit someone's home and see that they have painted over the brick of their fireplace or a standalone wall.

There are many people that will pay top dollar to have a home that has exposed brick walls because they have a great feel and look.

If you buy a home that has exposed brick count yourself lucky, and if not, you can always do some renovation to expose the great brick masonry.

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