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Material analysis

MasterFormat Number: 042113

Single Brick

Traditional uses

  • Sun-baked brick was used to build the earliest tombs in Egypt. Fire brick was used to build many structures in the Roman Empire.
  • Typical material in older structures such as mills, town houses and loft buildings.
  • It is continually used in both commercial and residential applications.
  • Building structure (walls, floors and foundations) pedestrian pathways and roads, furnaces and chimneys.

Finish & Aesthetic qualities

  • Appearance is dependent on clay color, process brick is formed, size of brick, temperature it is fired, pattern selected when laid and type of mortar.
  • Color is varied based on the temperature the brick is fired. The darker the color, the higher the temperature.
  • Colors range from white, to blue to variations of red

Surface forms / shapes

Brick Paving Patterns
  • Brick can be laid in many different traditional patterns. Bond is the pattern of a brick wall. Running or Stretcher Bond, Stack Bond, Flemish Bond, Herringbone and Basket weave to name a few.
  • Brick is the first type of unit masonry.

Cost analysis

  • In brick masonry work, labor constitutes approximately 60% of the total price. Bricks are typically sold by square footage. They can be about $2-$3 per square foot.
  • Specification Tip: Different manufactures have different actual sizes so buying by actual size and buying all of the same is important.

Material properties

Primary structural use

  • Structural, will support other items. Compression and decoration
  • As a brick veneer over a wood frame or concrete block.

Material performance

  • Under normal weather conditions and with the proper maintenance, bricks can last for a century or more. With the proper attention, brick is not difficult to maintain. However, they are vulnerable to moisture, and can degrade, or “spall,” over time, especially when subject to freezing/thawing cycles. Mortar is less durable than brick, and can be maintained by “repointing.”
  • Veins can cause weak points that might cause cracking or crumbling.

Dimensional and opening restriction

  • Common Brick - Nominal Size: 4” x 2 2/3” x 8“
  • Common Brick - Actual Size: 3 5/8” x 2 1/4” x 7 5/8“
  • No. Per Square foot with 3/8” mortar joints: 6.27
  • A second option of brick is Roman brick. It was widely used by Frank Lloyd Wright and is known for its horizontal prominence. Roman brick measures 3 5/8" x 1 1/2" x 11 5/8" or 11 7/8".
  • A third option of brick is Norman brick. This type measures 3 5/8" x 2 1/4" x 11 5/8" or 11 7/8".
  • Requires lentil or arch to support opening. Some of these openings are called: flat, semicircular, segmental and stone.

Manufacturing process and assembly

  • Brick is an artificial stone made by forming clay into rectangular blocks which are hardened, either by burning in a kiln or sometimes, in warm countries, by sun-drying. Machine molded Portland cement, aggregate, and water.
  • Brick is held together and set with mortar. The quality of mortar affects the structural integrey of the brick wall as this is the most vulnerable part of the wall. The mortar joints come in a variety of types.

Environmental Impact

  • (Sustainability, Off-gassing issues Maintenance/Resilience/Durability): In interior applications, surface stains can often be removed with chemical cleansers. In exterior applications, acid rain, industrial pollution, and exhaust fumes may cause severe deterioration.
  • Durability in exterior applications may be improved by adding a silicone sealant after the mortar dries to make it more water resistant.
  • Mortar Joints with out a shelf on an exterior brick wall maintain better over time as they do not collect rain water.


  • Brick masonry’s thermal mass reduces the heating and cooling loads, which could potentially reduce the size of a building's HVAC system. It is most beneficial when the brick masonry is exposed on the interior of a building, but also has an impact when the brick is used as a veneer.
  • LEED points can be gained by using brick if:
    • The brick contains recycled content
    • The brick is manufactured within 500 miles of the building site (this is an easily attainable point if construction is withing the US).
    • It is used as an interior finish (indoor air quality is improved by eliminating the need for paint and in turn, VOCs).
    • It is implemented as a heat-storing element in a passive solar design.

Life Safety & Ratings

Flammability rating

  • Class A FSR
  • A nominal 4-in. (100 mm) brick wall has a one-hour fire rating
  • Brick is a non-combustible material which does not emit toxic fumes in fires

Coefficient of friction

  • .6

Acoustical rating

  • Brick masonry walls have a sound transmission class (STC) of 45 or greater, providing remarkable resistance to sound penetration.


TECHNICAL NOTES on Brick Construction


Student contributions

  • Amanda Lennon, Spring 2007
  • Rania Makkas, Spring 2008
  • Amy Tufts, Spring 2009
  • Maria Sophia Morrissey, Spring 2010

See also

Similar materials

Building references

  • Faneuil Hall

340 Faneuil Hall Market Pl Boston, MA 02109

External links

Additional resources

Material specific resources

Reid, David. “Looking at Bricks”. 28 Jan 2007 Bricklayer Standard Patterns

Path Partners. “Maintenance Tips for a Brick Home”. 28 Jan 2007 A Public-Private Partnership for Advancing Housing Technology

Masonry Advisory Council. “Face Brick - How Size Effects Cost” 23 Jan 2007 Brick Sizes and Cost

General material resources

Ballast, David Kent. Interior Construction & Detailing. Professional Publications, Inc. Belmont, CA, 2002.

Rupp, William and Arnold Freidmann. Construction Materials for Interior Design: Principles of Structure and Properties of Materials. Watson-Guptill Publications, New York, NY, 1989.

Leading manufacturers

  • Bricks are manufactured throughout the U.S. buying bricks from a local supplier is more environmentally responsible.

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