Last updated

A single brick.
A wall constructed in glazed-headed Flemish bond with bricks of various shades and lengths. Brick wall close-up view.jpg
A wall constructed in glazed-headed Flemish bond with bricks of various shades and lengths.
An old brick wall in English bond laid with alternating courses of headers and stretchers. Concrete wall.jpg
An old brick wall in English bond laid with alternating courses of headers and stretchers.

A brick is a type of construction material used to build walls, pavements and other elements in masonry construction. Properly, the term brick denotes a unit primarily composed of clay, but is now also used informally to denote units made of other materials or other chemically cured construction blocks. Bricks can be joined using mortar, adhesives or by interlocking. [1] [2] Bricks are usually produced at brickworks in numerous classes, types, materials, and sizes which vary with region, and are produced in bulk quantities. [3]


Block is a similar term referring to a rectangular building unit composed of clay or concrete, but is usually larger than a brick. Lightweight bricks (also called lightweight blocks) are made from expanded clay aggregate.

Fired bricks are one of the longest-lasting and strongest building materials, sometimes referred to as artificial stone, and have been used since circa 4000 BC. Air-dried bricks, also known as mud-bricks, have a history older than fired bricks, and have an additional ingredient of a mechanical binder such as straw.

Bricks are laid in courses and numerous patterns known as bonds, collectively known as brickwork, and may be laid in various kinds of mortar to hold the bricks together to make a durable structure.


Middle East and South Asia

The ancient Jetavanaramaya stupa of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka is one of the largest brick structures in the world. SL Anuradhapura asv2020-01 img24 Jetavanaramaya Stupa.jpg
The ancient Jetavanaramaya stupa of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka is one of the largest brick structures in the world.

The earliest bricks were dried mud-bricks, meaning that they were formed from clay-bearing earth or mud and dried (usually in the sun) until they were strong enough for use. The oldest discovered bricks, originally made from shaped mud and dating before 7500 BC, were found at Tell Aswad, in the upper Tigris region and in southeast Anatolia close to Diyarbakir. [4]

Mud-brick construction was used at Çatalhöyük, from c. 7,400 BC. [5]

Mud-brick structures, dating to c. 7,200 BC have been located in Jericho, Jordan Valley. [6] These structures were made up of the first bricks with dimension 400x150x100 mm. [7]

Between 5000 and 4500 BC, Mesopotamia had discovered fired brick. [7] The standard brick sizes in Mesopotamia followed a general rule: the width of the dried or burned brick would be twice its thickness, and its length would be double its width. [8]

The South Asian inhabitants of Mehrgarh also constructed, air-dried mud-brick structures, between 7000 and 3300 BC. [9] and later the ancient Indus Valley cities of Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, [10] and Mehrgarh. [11] Ceramic, or fired brick was used as early as 3000 BC in early Indus Valley cities like Kalibangan. [12]

In the middle of the third millennium BC, there was a rise in monumental baked brick architecture in Indus cities. Examples included the Great Bath at Mohenjo-daro, the fire altars of Kaalibangan, and the granary of Harappa. There was a uniformity to the brick sizes throughout the Indus Valley region, conforming to the 1:2:4, thickness, width, and length ratio. As the Indus civilization began its decline at the start of the second millennium BC, Harappans migrated east, spreading their knowledge of brickmaking technology. This led to the rise of cities like Pataliputra, Kausambi, and Ujjain, where there was an enormous demand for kiln-made bricks. [13]

By 604 BC, bricks were the construction materials for architectural wonders such as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, where glazed fired bricks were put into practice. [7]

The brickwork of Shebeli Tower in Iran displays 12th-century craftsmanship Shebli2.jpg
The brickwork of Shebeli Tower in Iran displays 12th-century craftsmanship


The earliest fired bricks appeared in Neolithic China around 4400 BC at Chengtoushan, a walled settlement of the Daxi culture. [14] These bricks were made of red clay, fired on all sides to above 600 °C, and used as flooring for houses. By the Qujialing period (3300 BC), fired bricks were being used to pave roads and as building foundations at Chengtoushan. [15]

According to Lukas Nickel, the use of ceramic pieces for protecting and decorating floors and walls dates back at various cultural sites to 3000-2000 BC and perhaps even before, but these elements should be rather qualified as tiles. For the longest time builders relied on wood, mud and rammed earth, while fired brick and mud-brick played no structural role in architecture. Proper brick construction, for erecting walls and vaults, finally emerges in the third century BC, when baked bricks of regular shape began to be employed for vaulting underground tombs. Hollow brick tomb chambers rose in popularity as builders were forced to adapt due to a lack of readily available wood or stone. [16] The oldest extant brick building above ground is possibly Songyue Pagoda, dated to 523 AD.

By the end of the third century BCE in China, both hollow and small bricks were available for use in building walls and ceilings. Fired bricks were first mass-produced during the construction of the tomb of China's first Emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi. The floors of the three pits of the terracotta army were paved with an estimated 230,000 bricks, with the majority measuring 28x14x7 cm, following a 4:2:1 ratio. The use of fired bricks in Chinese city walls first appeared in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 AD-220 AD). [17] Up until the Middle Ages, buildings in Central Asia were typically built with unbaked bricks. It was only starting in the ninth century CE when buildings were entirely constructed using fired bricks. [16]

The carpenter's manual Yingzao Fashi , published in 1103 at the time of the Song dynasty described the brick making process and glazing techniques then in use. Using the 17th-century encyclopaedic text Tiangong Kaiwu , historian Timothy Brook outlined the brick production process of Ming Dynasty China:

...the kilnmaster had to make sure that the temperature inside the kiln stayed at a level that caused the clay to shimmer with the colour of molten gold or silver. He also had to know when to quench the kiln with water so as to produce the surface glaze. To anonymous labourers fell the less skilled stages of brick production: mixing clay and water, driving oxen over the mixture to trample it into a thick paste, scooping the paste into standardised wooden frames (to produce a brick roughly 42 cm long, 20 cm wide, and 10 cm thick), smoothing the surfaces with a wire-strung bow, removing them from the frames, printing the fronts and backs with stamps that indicated where the bricks came from and who made them, loading the kilns with fuel (likelier wood than coal), stacking the bricks in the kiln, removing them to cool while the kilns were still hot, and bundling them into pallets for transportation. It was hot, filthy work.


The Roman Basilica Aula Palatina in Trier, Germany, built with fired bricks in the fourth century as an audience hall for Constantine I Trier - Aula Palatina.JPG
The Roman Basilica Aula Palatina in Trier, Germany, built with fired bricks in the fourth century as an audience hall for Constantine I

Early civilisations around the Mediterranean, including the Ancient Greeks and Romans, adopted the use of fired bricks. By the early first century CE, standardised fired bricks were being heavily produced in Rome. [18] The Roman legions operated mobile kilns, [19] and built large brick structures throughout the Roman Empire, stamping the bricks with the seal of the legion. [20] The Romans used brick for walls, arches, forts, aqueducts, etc. Notable mentions of Roman brick structures are the Herculaneum gate of Pompeii and the baths of Caracalla. [21]

During the Early Middle Ages the use of bricks in construction became popular in Northern Europe, after being introduced there from Northwestern Italy. An independent style of brick architecture, known as brick Gothic (similar to Gothic architecture) flourished in places that lacked indigenous sources of rocks. Examples of this architectural style can be found in modern-day Denmark, Germany, Poland, and Kaliningrad (former East Prussia). [22]

Malbork Castle of the Teutonic Order in Poland - the largest brick castle in the world Castillo de Malbork, Polonia, 2013-05-19, DD 04.jpg
Malbork Castle of the Teutonic Order in Poland – the largest brick castle in the world

This style evolved into the Brick Renaissance as the stylistic changes associated with the Italian Renaissance spread to northern Europe, leading to the adoption of Renaissance elements into brick building. Identifiable attributes included a low-pitched hipped or flat roof, symmetrical facade, round arch entrances and windows, columns and pilasters, and more. [23]

A clear distinction between the two styles only developed at the transition to Baroque architecture. In Lübeck, for example, Brick Renaissance is clearly recognisable in buildings equipped with terracotta reliefs by the artist Statius von Düren, who was also active at Schwerin (Schwerin Castle) and Wismar (Fürstenhof).[ citation needed ]

Long-distance bulk transport of bricks and other construction equipment remained prohibitively expensive until the development of modern transportation infrastructure, with the construction of canal, roads, and railways.[ citation needed ]

Industrial era

In the National Museum of Roman Art in Merida, Spain (designed by Rafael Moneo and built in the 1980s) the coating of hard-fired clay bricks forms a compression-resistant element together with the fill of non-reinforced concrete. MNAR (Merida) Interior 01.jpg
In the National Museum of Roman Art in Mérida, Spain (designed by Rafael Moneo and built in the 1980s) the coating of hard-fired clay bricks forms a compression-resistant element together with the fill of non-reinforced concrete.

Production of bricks increased massively with the onset of the Industrial Revolution and the rise in factory building in England. For reasons of speed and economy, bricks were increasingly preferred as building material to stone, even in areas where the stone was readily available. It was at this time in London that bright red brick was chosen for construction to make the buildings more visible in the heavy fog and to help prevent traffic accidents. [25]

The transition from the traditional method of production known as hand-moulding to a mechanised form of mass-production slowly took place during the first half of the nineteenth century. Possibly the first successful brick-making machine was patented by Henry Clayton, employed at the Atlas Works in Middlesex, England, in 1855, and was capable of producing up to 25,000 bricks daily with minimal supervision. [26] His mechanical apparatus soon achieved widespread attention after it was adopted for use by the South Eastern Railway Company for brick-making at their factory near Folkestone. [27] The Bradley & Craven Ltd 'Stiff-Plastic Brickmaking Machine' was patented in 1853, apparently predating Clayton. Bradley & Craven went on to be a dominant manufacturer of brickmaking machinery. [28] Predating both Clayton and Bradley & Craven Ltd. however was the brick making machine patented by Richard A. Ver Valen of Haverstraw, New York, in 1852. [29]

At the end of the 19th century, the Hudson River region of New York State would become the world's largest brick manufacturing region, with 130 brickyards lining the shores of the Hudson River from Mechanicsville to Haverstraw and employing 8,000 people. At its peak, about 1 billion bricks were produced a year, with many being sent to New York City for use in its construction industry. [30]

The demand for high office building construction at the turn of the 20th century led to a much greater use of cast and wrought iron, and later, steel and concrete. The use of brick for skyscraper construction severely limited the size of the building – the Monadnock Building, built in 1896 in Chicago, required exceptionally thick walls to maintain the structural integrity of its 17 storeys. [31]

Following pioneering work in the 1950s at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the Building Research Establishment in Watford, UK, the use of improved masonry for the construction of tall structures up to 18 storeys high was made viable. However, the use of brick has largely remained restricted to small to medium-sized buildings, as steel and concrete remain superior materials for high-rise construction. [32]

Bricks are often made of shale because it easily splits into thin layers.[ citation needed ]

Methods of manufacture

Brick making at the beginning of the 20th century Making and curing adobe bricks - NARA - 286037.jpg
Brick making at the beginning of the 20th century

Four basic types of brick are un-fired, fired, chemically set bricks, and compressed earth blocks. Each type is manufactured differently for various purposes.

Fired and unfired brick making process Fired and Unfired Brick Making Process.png
Fired and unfired brick making process


Unfired bricks, also known as mud-bricks, are made from a mixture of silt, clay, sand and other earth materials like gravel and stone, combined with tempers and binding agents such as chopped straw, grasses, tree bark, or dung. [33] [34] Since these bricks are made up of natural materials and only require heat from the Sun to bake, mud-bricks have a relatively low embodied energy and carbon footprint.

The ingredients are first harvested and added together, with clay content ranging from 30% to 70%. [35] The mixture is broken up with hoes or adzes, and stirred with water to form a homogenous blend. Next, the tempers and binding agents are added in a ratio, roughly one part straw to five parts earth to reduce weight and reinforce the brick by helping reduce shrinkage. [36] However, additional clay could be added to reduce the need for straw, which would prevent the likelihood of insects deteriorating the organic material of the bricks, subsequently weakening the structure. These ingredients are thoroughly mixed together by hand or by treading and are then left to ferment for about a day. [33]

The mix is then kneaded with water and molded into rectangular prisms of a desired size. Bricks are lined up and left to sundry for three days on both sides. After the six days, the bricks continue drying until required for use. Typically, longer drying times are preferred, but the average is eight to nine days spanning from initial stages to its application in structures. Unfired bricks could be made in the spring months and left to dry over the summer for use in the fall. Mud-bricks are commonly employed in arid environments to allow for adequate air drying. [33]

Fired brick

Raw bricks sun-drying before being fired Brick making in Java.jpg
Raw bricks sun-drying before being fired

Fired bricks are burned in a kiln which makes them durable. Modern, fired, clay bricks are formed in one of three processes – soft mud, dry press, or extruded. Depending on the country, either the extruded or soft mud method is the most common, since they are the most economical.

Clay and shale are the raw ingredients in the recipe for a fired brick. They are the product of thousands of years of decomposition and erosion of rocks, such as pegmatite and granite, leading to a material that has properties of being highly chemically stable and inert. Within the clays and shales are the materials of aluminosilicate (pure clay), free silica (quartz), and decomposed rock. [37]

One proposed optimal mix is: [38]

  1. Silica (sand) – 50% to 60% by weight
  2. Alumina (clay) – 20% to 30% by weight
  3. Lime – 2 to 5% by weight
  4. Iron oxide – ≤ 7% by weight
  5. Magnesia – less than 1% by weight

Shaping methods

Three main methods are used for shaping the raw materials into bricks to be fired:

  • Molded bricks – These bricks start with raw clay, preferably in a mix with 25–30% sand to reduce shrinkage. The clay is first ground and mixed with water to the desired consistency. The clay is then pressed into steel moulds with a hydraulic press. The shaped clay is then fired ("burned") at 900–1,000 °C (1,650–1,830 °F) to achieve strength.
  • Dry-pressed bricks – The dry-press method is similar to the soft-mud moulded method, but starts with a much thicker clay mix, so it forms more accurate, sharper-edged bricks. The greater force in pressing and the longer burn make this method more expensive.
  • Extruded bricks – For extruded bricks the clay is mixed with 10–15% water (stiff extrusion) or 20–25% water (soft extrusion) in a pugmill. This mixture is forced through a die to create a long cable of material of the desired width and depth. This mass is then cut into bricks of the desired length by a wall of wires. Most structural bricks are made by this method as it produces hard, dense bricks, and suitable dies can produce perforations as well. The introduction of such holes reduces the volume of clay needed, and hence the cost. Hollow bricks are lighter and easier to handle, and have different thermal properties from solid bricks. The cut bricks are hardened by drying for 20 to 40 hours at 50 to 150 °C (120 to 300 °F) before being fired. The heat for drying is often waste heat from the kiln.


Xhosa brickmaker at kiln near Ngcobo in 2007 Xhosa brickmaker at kiln near Ngcobo.jpg
Xhosa brickmaker at kiln near Ngcobo in 2007

In many modern brickworks, bricks are usually fired in a continuously fired tunnel kiln, in which the bricks are fired as they move slowly through the kiln on conveyors, rails, or kiln cars, which achieves a more consistent brick product. The bricks often have lime, ash, and organic matter added, which accelerates the burning process.

The other major kiln type is the Bull's Trench Kiln (BTK), based on a design developed by British engineer W. Bull in the late 19th century.

An oval or circular trench is dug, 6–9 metres (20–30 ft) wide, 2–2.5 metres (6 ft 7 in – 8 ft 2 in) deep, and 100–150 metres (330–490 ft) in circumference. A tall exhaust chimney is constructed in the centre. Half or more of the trench is filled with "green" (unfired) bricks which are stacked in an open lattice pattern to allow airflow. The lattice is capped with a roofing layer of finished brick.

In operation, new green bricks, along with roofing bricks, are stacked at one end of the brick pile. Historically, a stack of unfired bricks covered for protection from the weather was called a "hack". [39] Cooled finished bricks are removed from the other end for transport to their destinations. In the middle, the brick workers create a firing zone by dropping fuel (coal, wood, oil, debris, etc.) through access holes in the roof above the trench. The constant source of fuel maybe grown on the woodlots. [3] :6

The advantage of the BTK design is a much greater energy efficiency compared with clamp or scove kilns. Sheet metal or boards are used to route the airflow through the brick lattice so that fresh air flows first through the recently burned bricks, heating the air, then through the active burning zone. The air continues through the green brick zone (pre-heating and drying the bricks), and finally out the chimney, where the rising gases create suction that pulls air through the system. The reuse of heated air yields savings in fuel cost.

As with the rail process, the BTK process is continuous. A half-dozen labourers working around the clock can fire approximately 15,000–25,000 bricks a day. Unlike the rail process, in the BTK process the bricks do not move. Instead, the locations at which the bricks are loaded, fired, and unloaded gradually rotate through the trench. [40]

Influences on colour

Yellow London Stocks at Waterloo station London stock brick (bridge).jpg
Yellow London Stocks at Waterloo station

The colour of fired clay bricks is influenced by the chemical and mineral content of the raw materials, the firing temperature, and the atmosphere in the kiln. For example, pink bricks are the result of a high iron content, white or yellow bricks have a higher lime content. [41] Most bricks burn to various red hues; as the temperature is increased the colour moves through dark red, purple, and then to brown or grey at around 1,300 °C (2,370 °F). The names of bricks may reflect their origin and colour, such as London stock brick and Cambridgeshire White. Brick tinting may be performed to change the colour of bricks to blend-in areas of brickwork with the surrounding masonry.

An impervious and ornamental surface may be laid on brick either by salt glazing, in which salt is added during the burning process, or by the use of a slip, which is a glaze material into which the bricks are dipped. Subsequent reheating in the kiln fuses the slip into a glazed surface integral with the brick base.

Chemically set bricks

Chemically set bricks are not fired but may have the curing process accelerated by the application of heat and pressure in an autoclave.

Calcium-silicate bricks

Swedish Mexitegel is a sand-lime or lime-cement brick. Mexitegel.jpg
Swedish Mexitegel is a sand-lime or lime-cement brick.

Calcium-silicate bricks are also called sandlime or flintlime bricks, depending on their ingredients. Rather than being made with clay they are made with lime binding the silicate material. The raw materials for calcium-silicate bricks include lime mixed in a proportion of about 1 to 10 with sand, quartz, crushed flint, or crushed siliceous rock together with mineral colourants. The materials are mixed and left until the lime is completely hydrated; the mixture is then pressed into moulds and cured in an autoclave for three to fourteen hours to speed the chemical hardening. [42] The finished bricks are very accurate and uniform, although the sharp arrises need careful handling to avoid damage to brick and bricklayer. The bricks can be made in a variety of colours; white, black, buff, and grey-blues are common, and pastel shades can be achieved. This type of brick is common in Sweden as well as Russia and other post-Soviet countries, especially in houses built or renovated in the 1970s. A version known as fly ash bricks, manufactured using fly ash, lime, and gypsum (known as the FaL-G process) are common in South Asia. Calcium-silicate bricks are also manufactured in Canada and the United States, and meet the criteria set forth in ASTM C73 – 10 Standard Specification for Calcium Silicate Brick (Sand-Lime Brick).

Concrete bricks

A concrete brick-making assembly line in Guilinyang Town, Hainan, China. This operation produces a pallet containing 42 bricks, approximately every 30 seconds. Brickworks in Hainan - cement vessel, maker, stacker 01.jpg
A concrete brick-making assembly line in Guilinyang Town, Hainan, China. This operation produces a pallet containing 42 bricks, approximately every 30 seconds.

Bricks formed from concrete are usually termed as blocks or concrete masonry unit, and are typically pale grey. They are made from a dry, small aggregate concrete which is formed in steel moulds by vibration and compaction in either an "egglayer" or static machine. The finished blocks are cured, rather than fired, using low-pressure steam. Concrete bricks and blocks are manufactured in a wide range of shapes, sizes and face treatments – a number of which simulate the appearance of clay bricks.

Concrete bricks are available in many colours and as an engineering brick made with sulfate-resisting Portland cement or equivalent. When made with adequate amount of cement they are suitable for harsh environments such as wet conditions and retaining walls. They are made to standards BS 6073, EN 771-3 or ASTM C55. Concrete bricks contract or shrink so they need movement joints every 5 to 6 metres, but are similar to other bricks of similar density in thermal and sound resistance and fire resistance. [42]

Compressed earth blocks

A brick kiln in India Brick kiln, Belawadi, Mysore.jpg
A brick kiln in India

Compressed earth blocks are made mostly from slightly moistened local soils compressed with a mechanical hydraulic press or manual lever press. A small amount of a cement binder may be added, resulting in a stabilised compressed earth block.


This wall in Beacon Hill, Boston, shows different types of brickwork and stone foundations 2008 BeaconHill Boston 2302897829.jpg
This wall in Beacon Hill, Boston, shows different types of brickwork and stone foundations

There are thousands of types of bricks that are named for their use, size, forming method, origin, quality, texture, and/or materials.

Categorized by manufacture method:

Categorized by use:

Specialized use bricks:

Bricks named for place of origin:

Optimal dimensions, characteristics, and strength

Comparison of typical brick sizes of assorted countries with isometric projections and dimensions in millimetres Comparison house brick size.svg
Comparison of typical brick sizes of assorted countries with isometric projections and dimensions in millimetres

For efficient handling and laying, bricks must be small enough and light enough to be picked up by the bricklayer using one hand (leaving the other hand free for the trowel). Bricks are usually laid flat, and as a result, the effective limit on the width of a brick is set by the distance which can conveniently be spanned between the thumb and fingers of one hand, normally about 100 mm (4 in). In most cases, the length of a brick is twice its width plus the width of a mortar joint, about 200 mm (8 in) or slightly more. This allows bricks to be laid bonded in a structure which increases stability and strength (for an example, see the illustration of bricks laid in English bond, at the head of this article). The wall is built using alternating courses of stretchers, bricks laid longways, and headers, bricks laid crossways. The headers tie the wall together over its width. In fact, this wall is built in a variation of English bond called English cross bond where the successive layers of stretchers are displaced horizontally from each other by half a brick length. In true English bond, the perpendicular lines of the stretcher courses are in line with each other.

A bigger brick makes for a thicker (and thus more insulating) wall. Historically, this meant that bigger bricks were necessary in colder climates (see for instance the slightly larger size of the Russian brick in table below), while a smaller brick was adequate, and more economical, in warmer regions. A notable illustration of this correlation is the Green Gate in Gdansk; built in 1571 of imported Dutch brick, too small for the colder climate of Gdansk, it was notorious for being a chilly and drafty residence. Nowadays this is no longer an issue, as modern walls typically incorporate specialised insulation materials.

The correct brick for a job can be selected from a choice of colour, surface texture, density, weight, absorption, and pore structure, thermal characteristics, thermal and moisture movement, and fire resistance.

Faces of a brick Faces of brick.jpg
Faces of a brick
Face brick ("house brick") sizes, (alphabetical order)
StandardMetric (mm)Imperial (inches)
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 230 × 110 × 769.1 × 4.3 × 3.0
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China 240 × 155 × 539.4 × 6.1 × 2.1
Flag of Denmark.svg  Denmark 228 × 108 × 549.0 × 4.3 × 2.1
Flag of Germany.svg  Germany 240 × 115 × 719.4 × 4.5 × 2.8
Flag of India.svg  India 228 × 107 × 699.0 × 4.2 × 2.7
Flag of Japan.svg  Japan 210 × 100 × 608.3 × 3.9 × 2.4
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania 240 × 115 × 639.4 × 4.5 × 2.5
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia 250 × 120 × 659.8 × 4.7 × 2.6
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 222 × 106 × 738.7 × 4.2 × 2.9
Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden 250 × 120 × 629.8 × 4.7 × 2.4
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom 215 × 102.5 × 658.5 × 4.0 × 2.6
Flag of the United States.svg  United States 194 × 92 × 577.6 × 3.6 × 2.2

In England, the length and width of the common brick remained fairly constant from 1625 when the size was regulated by statute at 9 x 4+12 x 3 inches [43] (but see brick tax), but the depth has varied from about two inches (51 mm) or smaller in earlier times to about 2+12 inches (64 mm) more recently. In the United Kingdom, the usual size of a modern brick (from 1965) [44] is 215 mm × 102.5 mm × 65 mm (8+12 in × 4 in × 2+12 in), which, with a nominal 10 millimetres (38 in) mortar joint, forms a unit size of 225 by 112.5 by 75 millimetres (9 in × 4+12 in × 3 in), for a ratio of 6:3:2.

In the United States, modern standard bricks are specified for various uses; [45] The most commonly used is the modular brick has the actual dimensions of 7+58  × 3+58  × 2+14 inches (194 × 92 × 57 mm). With the standard 38 inch mortar joint, this gives the nominal dimensions of 8 x 4 x 2+23 inches which eases the calculation of the number of bricks in a given wall. [46] The 2:1 ratio of modular bricks means that when they turn corners, a 1/2 running bond is formed without needing to cut the brick down or fill the gap with a cut brick; and the height of modular bricks means that a soldier course matches the height of three modular running courses, or one standard CMU course.

Some brickmakers create innovative sizes and shapes for bricks used for plastering (and therefore not visible on the inside of the building) where their inherent mechanical properties are more important than their visual ones. [47] These bricks are usually slightly larger, but not as large as blocks and offer the following advantages:

Blocks have a much greater range of sizes. Standard co-ordinating sizes in length and height (in mm) include 400×200, 450×150, 450×200, 450×225, 450×300, 600×150, 600×200, and 600×225; depths (work size, mm) include 60, 75, 90, 100, 115, 140, 150, 190, 200, 225, and 250. [41] They are usable across this range as they are lighter than clay bricks. The density of solid clay bricks is around 2000 kg/m3: this is reduced by frogging, hollow bricks, and so on, but aerated autoclaved concrete, even as a solid brick, can have densities in the range of 450–850 kg/m3.

Bricks may also be classified as solid (less than 25% perforations by volume, although the brick may be "frogged," having indentations on one of the longer faces), perforated (containing a pattern of small holes through the brick, removing no more than 25% of the volume), cellular (containing a pattern of holes removing more than 20% of the volume, but closed on one face), or hollow (containing a pattern of large holes removing more than 25% of the brick's volume). Blocks may be solid, cellular or hollow.

The term "frog" can refer to the indentation or the implement used to make it. Modern brickmakers usually use plastic frogs but in the past they were made of wood.

The compressive strength of bricks produced in the United States ranges from about 7 to 103  MPa (1,000 to 15,000  lbf/in2 ), varying according to the use to which the brick are to be put. In England clay bricks can have strengths of up to 100 MPa, although a common house brick is likely to show a range of 20–40 MPa.


Front Street along the Cane River in historic Natchitoches, Louisiana, is paved with bricks. Historic brick street in Natchitoches, LA IMG 1943.JPG
Front Street along the Cane River in historic Natchitoches, Louisiana, is paved with bricks.

Bricks are a versatile building material, able to participate in a wide variety of applications, including: [37]

In the United States, bricks have been used for both buildings and pavement. Examples of brick use in buildings can be seen in colonial era buildings and other notable structures around the country. Bricks have been used in paving roads and sidewalks especially during the late 19th century and early 20th century. The introduction of asphalt and concrete reduced the use of brick for paving, but they are still sometimes installed as a method of traffic calming or as a decorative surface in pedestrian precincts. For example, in the early 1900s, most of the streets in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, were paved with bricks. Today, there are only about 20 blocks of brick-paved streets remaining (totalling less than 0.5 percent of all the streets in the city limits). [48] Much like in Grand Rapids, municipalities across the United States began replacing brick streets with inexpensive asphalt concrete by the mid-20th century. [49]

In Northwest Europe, bricks have been used in construction for centuries. Until recently, almost all houses were built almost entirely from bricks. Although many houses are now built using a mixture of concrete blocks and other materials, many houses are skinned with a layer of bricks on the outside for aesthetic appeal.

Bricks in the metallurgy and glass industries are often used for lining furnaces, in particular refractory bricks such as silica, magnesia, chamotte and neutral (chromomagnesite) refractory bricks. This type of brick must have good thermal shock resistance, refractoriness under load, high melting point, and satisfactory porosity. There is a large refractory brick industry, especially in the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Engineering bricks are used where strength, low water porosity or acid (flue gas) resistance are needed.

In the UK a red brick university is one founded in the late 19th or early 20th century. The term is used to refer to such institutions collectively to distinguish them from the older Oxbridge institutions, and refers to the use of bricks, as opposed to stone, in their buildings.

Colombian architect Rogelio Salmona was noted for his extensive use of red bricks in his buildings and for using natural shapes like spirals, radial geometry and curves in his designs. [50]


Starting in the 20th century, the use of brickwork declined in some areas due to concerns about earthquakes. Earthquakes such as the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the 1933 Long Beach earthquake revealed the weaknesses of unreinforced brick masonry in earthquake-prone areas. During seismic events, the mortar cracks and crumbles, so that the bricks are no longer held together. Brick masonry with steel reinforcement, which helps hold the masonry together during earthquakes, has been used to replace unreinforced bricks in many buildings. Retrofitting older unreinforced masonry structures has been mandated in many jurisdictions. However, similar to steel corrosion in reinforced concrete, rebar rusting will compromise the structural integrity of reinforced brick and ultimately limit the expected lifetime, so there is a trade-off between earthquake safety and longevity to a certain extent.

San Francisco earthquake.jpg
A panorama after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Adobe</span> Building material made from earth and organic materials

Adobe is a building material made from earth and organic materials. Adobe is Spanish for mudbrick. In some English-speaking regions of Spanish heritage, such as the Southwestern United States, the term is used to refer to any kind of earthen construction, or various architectural styles like Pueblo Revival or Territorial Revival. Most adobe buildings are similar in appearance to cob and rammed earth buildings. Adobe is among the earliest building materials, and is used throughout the world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Concrete</span> Composite construction material

Concrete is a composite material composed of aggregate bonded together with a fluid cement that cures over time. Concrete is the second-most-used substance in the world after water, and is the most widely used building material. Its usage worldwide, ton for ton, is twice that of steel, wood, plastics, and aluminium combined.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Masonry</span> Building of structures from individual units of stone, bricks, or blocks

Masonry is the craft of building a structure with brick, stone, or similar material, which are often laid in and bound together by mortar; the term masonry can also refer to the building units themselves. The common materials of masonry construction are bricks and building stone such as marble, granite, and limestone, cast stone, concrete blocks, glass blocks, and adobe. Masonry is generally a highly durable form of construction. However, the materials used, the quality of the mortar and workmanship, and the pattern in which the units are assembled can substantially affect the durability of the overall masonry construction. A person who constructs masonry is called a mason or bricklayer. These are both classified as construction trades.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mudbrick</span> Earth blocks for construction

A mudbrick or mud-brick is an air-dried brick, made of a mixture of mud mixed with a binding material such as rice husks or straw. Mudbricks are known from 9000 BCE.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stonemasonry</span> Creation of buildings, structures, and sculpture using stone

Stonemasonry or stonecraft is the creation of buildings, structures, and sculpture using stone as the primary material. Stonemasonry is the craft of shaping and arranging stones, often together with mortar, to form structures.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mud</span> Mixture of water and any combination of soil, silt, sand, and clay

Mud is soil, loam, silt or clay mixed with water. It is usually formed after rainfall or near water sources. Ancient mud deposits hardened over geological time to form sedimentary rock such as shale or mudstone. When geological deposits of mud are formed in estuaries, the resultant layers are termed bay muds.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mortar (masonry)</span> Workable paste which hardens to bind building blocks

Mortar is a workable paste which hardens to bind building blocks such as stones, bricks, and concrete masonry units, to fill and seal the irregular gaps between them, spread the weight of them evenly, and sometimes to add decorative colors or patterns to masonry walls. In its broadest sense, mortar includes pitch, asphalt, and soft mud or clay, as those used between mud bricks, as well as cement mortar. The word "mortar" comes from Old French mortier, "builder's mortar, plaster; bowl for mixing." (13c.).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Plaster</span> Broad range of building and sculpture materials

Plaster is a building material used for the protective or decorative coating of walls and ceilings and for moulding and casting decorative elements. In English, "plaster" usually means a material used for the interiors of buildings, while "render" commonly refers to external applications. The term stucco refers to plasterwork that is worked in some way to produce relief decoration, rather than flat surfaces.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Building material</span> Material which is used for construction purposes

Building material is material used for construction. Many naturally occurring substances, such as clay, rocks, sand, wood, and even twigs and leaves, have been used to construct buildings. Apart from naturally occurring materials, many man-made products are in use, some more and some less synthetic. The manufacturing of building materials is an established industry in many countries and the use of these materials is typically segmented into specific specialty trades, such as carpentry, insulation, plumbing, and roofing work. They provide the make-up of habitats and structures including homes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Concrete block</span> Standard-sized block used in construction

A concrete block, also known as a cinder block in North American English, breeze block in British English, concrete masonry unit (CMU), or by various other terms, is a standard-size rectangular block used in building construction. The use of blockwork allows structures to be built in the traditional masonry style with layers of staggered blocks.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Natural building</span>

A natural building involves a range of building systems and materials that place major emphasis on sustainability. Ways of achieving sustainability through natural building focus on durability and the use of minimally processed, plentiful or renewable resources, as well as those that, while recycled or salvaged, produce healthy living environments and maintain indoor air quality. Natural building tends to rely on human labor, more than technology. As Michael G. Smith observes, it depends on "local ecology, geology and climate; on the character of the particular building site, and on the needs and personalities of the builders and users."

The architecture of the California missions was influenced by several factors, those being the limitations in the construction materials that were on hand, an overall lack of skilled labor, and a desire on the part of the founding priests to emulate notable structures in their Spanish homeland. While no two mission complexes are identical, they all employed the same basic building style.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brickworks</span> Factory where bricks are made

A brickworks, also known as a brick factory, is a factory for the manufacturing of bricks, from clay or shale. Usually a brickworks is located on a clay bedrock, often with a quarry for clay on site. In earlier times bricks were made at brickfields, which would be returned to agricultural use after the clay layer was exhausted.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Earth structure</span> Building or other structure made largely from soil

An earth structure is a building or other structure made largely from soil. Since soil is a widely available material, it has been used in construction since prehistoric times. It may be combined with other materials, compressed and/or baked to add strength.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Compressed earth block</span>

A compressed earth block (CEB), also known as a pressed earth block or a compressed soil block, is a building material made primarily from an appropriate mix of fairly dry inorganic subsoil, non-expansive clay, sand, and aggregate. Forming compressed earth blocks requires dampening, mechanically pressing at high pressure, and then drying the resulting material. If the blocks are stabilized with a chemical binder such as Portland cement they are called compressed stabilized earth block (CSEB) or stabilized earth block (SEB). Typically, around 3,000 psi (21 MPa) of pressure is applied in compression, and the original material volume is reduced by about half.

The history of construction embraces many other fields, including structural engineering, civil engineering, city growth and population growth, which are relatives to branches of technology, science, history, and architecture. The fields allow both modern and ancient construction to be analyzed, as well as the structures, building materials, and tools used.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roman brick</span> Style of brick used in Ancient Roman architecture

Roman brick is a type of brick used in Ancient Roman architecture and spread by the Romans to the lands they conquered, or a modern adaptation derived from the ancient prototypes. In both cases, it characteristically has longer and flatter dimensions than those of standard modern bricks.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brickfield</span> Places where bricks are made

A brickfield is a field or other open site where bricks are made. Land may be leased by an owner to a brickmaster, by whom the manufacture of bricks may be conducted. Historically, the topsoil was typically removed and the clay beneath was stripped and mixed with chalk and ash to make bricks. In pre-19th-century England,

[i]n most areas the brickfield owner hired a brickmaster at a price per thousand bricks to superintend the site and take full responsibility for the output of the operations. He in turn contracted with moulders to temper, mould and hack the bricks. Each moulder then hired his own 'gang' of subsidiary labourers and acted as their employer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Structural clay tile</span> Class of building block

Structural clay tile describes a category of burned-clay building materials used to construct roofing, walls, and flooring for structural and non-structural purposes, especially in fireproofing applications. Also called building tile, structural terra cotta, hollow tile, saltillo tile, and clay block, the material is an extruded clay shape with substantial depth that allows it to be laid in the same manner as other clay or concrete masonry. In North America it was chiefly used during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, reaching peak popularity at the turn of the century and declining around the 1950s. Structural clay tile grew in popularity in the end of the nineteenth-century because it could be constructed faster, was lighter, and required simpler flat falsework than earlier brick vaulting construction. Each unit is generally made of clay or terra-cotta with hollow cavities, or cells, inside it. The colors of terracotta transform from gray to orange, red, yellow, and cream tones. This is due to an effect of the firing process which hardens the clay so it can be used for structural purposes. The material is commonly used in floor arches, fireproofing, partition walls, and furring. It continues to be used in Europe to build fire-resistant walls and partitions. In North America the material has largely been replaced by concrete masonry units.

Hydraform International Pty Ltd. is a manufacturer of brick and blockmaking machines. It was founded in Johannesburg, South Africa. The company specialises in brick and blockmaking machines and accessories that enable the development of a stabilised soil cement block or a compressed earth block (CEB). Their products include stabilised soil blockmaking machines, pan mixing machines that are used to create the mixture for the blockmaking mixtures and accessories for these machines. The brick that is created by their machines is an interlocking stabilised soil cement block that is made using a mixture of soil, water and Portland Cement.


  1. "Interlocking bricks & Compressed stablized earth bricks - CSEB". Buildup Nepal.
  2. "Bricks that interlock".
  3. 1 2 W., Beamish, A. Donovan (1990). Village-level brickmaking. Vieweg. ISBN   3-528-02051-2. OCLC   472930436.
  4. (in French) IFP Orient – Tell Aswad Archived 26 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine . Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  5. Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Neolithic Site of Çatalhöyük". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 30 January 2022.
  6. "Mud-brick Village Survived 7,200 Years in the Jordan Valley". Haaretz. Retrieved 30 January 2022.
  7. 1 2 3 Fiala, Jan; Mikolas, Milan; Fiala Junior, Jan; Krejsova, Katerina (2019). "History and Evolution of Full Bricks of Other European Countries". IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering. 603 (3): 032097. Bibcode:2019MS&E..603c2097F. doi: 10.1088/1757-899x/603/3/032097 . S2CID   203996304.
  8. Hasson Hnaihen, Kadim (18 December 2019). "The Appearance of Bricks in Ancient Mesopotamia". Athens Journal of History. 6 (1): 73–96. doi: 10.30958/ajhis.6-1-4 . ISSN   2407-9677. S2CID   214024042.
  9. Possehl, Gregory L. (1996)
  10. History of brickmaking, Encyclopædia Britannica.
  11. Kenoyer, Jonathan Mark (2005), "Uncovering the keys to the Lost Indus Cities", Scientific American, 15 (1): 24–33, doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0105-24sp, PMID   12840948
  12. Khan, Aurangzeb; Lemmen, Carsten (2013), Bricks and urbanism in the Indus Valley rise and decline, arXiv: 1303.1426 , Bibcode:2013arXiv1303.1426K
  13. Gupta, Sunil (May–June 1998). "History of Brick in India" (PDF). ARCHITECTURE+DESIGN. pp. 74–78. Retrieved 4 December 2022.
  14. Yoshinori Yasuda (2012). Water Civilization: From Yangtze to Khmer Civilizations. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 30–31. ISBN   9784431541103.
  15. Yoshinori Yasuda (2012). Water Civilization: From Yangtze to Khmer Civilizations. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 33–35. ISBN   9784431541103.
  16. 1 2 Lukas Nickel: Bricks in Ancient China and the Question of Early Cross-Asian Interaction, Arts Asiatiques, Vol. 70 (2015), pp. 49-62 (50f.)
  17. Xue, Q.; Jin, X.; Cheng, Y.; Yang, X.; Jia, X.; Zhou, Y. (2019). "The historical process of the masonry city walls construction in China during 1st to 17th centuries AD". PLOS ONE. 14 (3): e0214119. Bibcode:2019PLoSO..1414119X. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0214119 . PMC   6430406 . PMID   30901369.
  18. Östborn, Per; Gerding, Henrik (1 March 2015). "The Diffusion of Fired Bricks in Hellenistic Europe: A Similarity Network Analysis". Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. 22 (1): 306–344. doi:10.1007/s10816-014-9229-4. ISSN   1573-7764. S2CID   254606236.
  19. Ash, Ahmed (20 November 2014). Materials science in construction : an introduction. Sturges, John. Abingdon, Oxon. ISBN   9781135138417. OCLC   896794727.
  20. "Roman Brick Stamps: Auxiliary and Legionary Bricks". Retrieved 30 January 2022.
  21.; "The History of Bricks and Brickmaking". Retrieved 5 December 2022.
  22. Welle (, Deutsche. "Discover Brick Gothic architecture on the European route | DW | 01.06.2010". DW.COM. Retrieved 30 January 2022.
  23. "Italian Renaissance Revival Style 1890 - 1930 | PHMC > Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide". Retrieved 4 December 2022.
  24. Wiskemann, Barbara (2005). "Prefabrication". In Deplazes, Andrea (ed.). Constructing Architecture: Materials, Processes, Structures (PDF). Basel, Boston & Berlin: Birkhäuser – Publishers for Architecture. p. 55. ISBN   978-3-7643-7313-9. Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 October 2022.
  25. Peter Ackroyd (2001). London the Biography. Random House. p. 435. ISBN   978-0-09-942258-7.
  26. "Henry Clayton" . Retrieved 17 December 2012.
  27. The Mechanics Magazine and Journal of Engineering, Agricultural Machinery, Manufactures and Shipbuilding. 1859. p. 361.
  28. The First Hundred Years: the Early History of Bradley & Craven, Limited, Wakefield, England by Bradley & Craven Ltd (1963)
  29. "US Patent 9082" . Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  30. Falkenstein, Michelle (28 June 2022). "Brick collectors of the Hudson Valley". Retrieved 28 June 2022.
  31. "Monadnock Building: The Last Brick Skyscraper". Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  32. "The History of Bricks". De Hoop:Steenwerve Brickfields.
  33. 1 2 3 Emery, Virginia L. (27 August 2009). "Mud-Brick". UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology. 1 (1).
  34. Homsher, Robert S. (November 2012). "Mud Bricks and the Process of Construction in the Middle Bronze Age Southern Levant". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. 368: 1–27. doi:10.5615/bullamerschoorie.368.0001. ISSN   0003-097X. S2CID   164826274.
  35. Downton, Paul; Clarke, Dick (2020). "Mud brick". YourHome. Retrieved 11 December 2022.
  36. Tintner, Johannes; Roth, Kimberly; Ottner, Franz; Syrová-Anýžová, Zuzana; Žabičková, Ivana; Wriessnig, Karin; Meingast, Roland; Feiglstorfer, Hubert (20 March 2020). "Straw in Clay Bricks and Plasters—Can We Use Its Molecular Decay for Dating Purposes?". Molecules. 25 (6): 1419. doi: 10.3390/molecules25061419 . ISSN   1420-3049. PMC   7144354 . PMID   32244982.
  37. 1 2 Stoddard, Ralph Perkins; Carver, William (1946). Brick structures, how to build them ; practical reference data on materials, design, and construction methods employed in brick construction ... New York: McGraw-Hill.
  38. Punmia, B.C.; Jain, Ashok Kumar (2003), Basic Civil Engineering, Firewall Media, p. 33, ISBN   978-81-7008-403-7
  39. Connolly, Andrew. Life in the Victorian Brickyards of Flintshire and Denbigshire, p34. 2003, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch.
  40. Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency, Brick Kiln Units (PDF file) Archived 16 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  41. 1 2 Almssad, Asaad; Almusaed, Amjad; Homod, Raad Z. (January 2022). "Masonry in the Context of Sustainable Buildings: A Review of the Brick Role in Architecture". Sustainability. 14 (22): 14734. doi: 10.3390/su142214734 . ISSN   2071-1050.
  42. 1 2 McArthur, Hugh, and Duncan Spalding. Engineering materials science: properties, uses, degradation and remediation. Chichester, U.K.: Horwood Pub., 2004. 194. Print.
  43. Burton, Joseph & William (1911). "Brick"  . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica . Vol. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 518.
  44. "Brick sizes, variations and standardisation" . Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  45. Archived 29 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine . Brick Industry Association. Technical Note 9A, Specifications for and Classification of Brick. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  46. Archived 11 May 2017 at the Wayback Machine Technical Note 10, Dimensioning and Estimating Brick Masonry (pdf file) Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  47. Crammix Maxilite.
  48. Michigan | Success Stories | Preserve America | Office of the Secretary of Transportation | U.S. Department of Transportation.
  49. Schwartz, Emma (31 July 2003). "Bricks come back to city streets". USA Today . Retrieved 4 May 2017.
  50. Romero, Simon (6 October 2007). "Rogelio Salmona, Colombian Architect Who Transformed Cities, Is Dead at 78". The New York Times.
  51. Alejandro Porcel Arraut (16 October 2018). "Desarrollo inmobiliario en Xoco: relato de ciudades enfrentadas". Nexos (magazine) (in Spanish).

Further reading