How to Build Style With Brick

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There are thousands of types of brick, and endless ways you can use it. No other material offers so much opportunity for expression, design and detail.

Whether you are building a new home or adding a brick feature to your home, you will want to work closely with your builder or architect. Together, you can make the right decisions and achieve exactly the effect you want. Here are a few facts about brick that can get you off to a knowledgeable start.

You should know that brick is made of fired clay. Its color is derived primarily from the clay, but can be varied even further with coatings, glazes, and other additives. Brick can also be fired to contain numerous color variations within a range of tones appearing in a single brick. No matter what the color of the brick, the color is always permanent.

Brick is also available in a wide variety of textures. Smooth textures provide a crisp, modern appearance. Highly textured surfaces recall the traditions of handcrafted brick.

The most common size of brick module is 4 inches thick by 2 1/4 inches high by 8 inches long. Yet this dimension can also be varied. Jumbo brick adds impact, and special shapes can be used to create arches, round circular forms, create unusual angles or shed water under a window.

And there are even more options to choose from...

Wall Construction

There are two kinds of wall construction used in residential homes.

A structural, or load bearing, brick wall is a wall in which brick supports the weight of the structure. The brick is the structural system, with no frame behind it. This kind of wall construction is most commonly used today in freestanding walls, such as in landscaping design.

A veneered wall is a wall in which brick veneer is attached to the frame of a structure. The frame supports the weight of the structure, while the brick veneer establishes the structure's aesthetic character and adds to its "curb appeal." This kind of construction is the most commonly used in home-building today.


Brick can be stacked or "laid up" in a variety of bonds, or patterns, to build walls. To understand the following patterns, you'll want to know that stretchers are bricks laid lengthwise along the wall. Headers are bricks laid with the short end at the face of the wall. And a course is a horizontal row of brick. In addition to selecting from the five basic kinds of brick bonds described here, you can further vary brickwork by recessing or projecting courses. These techniques create shadow lines and frames, highlight important features such as windows and doors, and even change the way we perceive the scale of a structure.

A running bond is made exclusively from stretchers.

A common bond is created when a course of headers appears at regular intervals, interrupting courses of stretchers. Header courses may appear every fifth, sixth or seventh course.

A Flemish bond is created by courses of alternating stretchers and headers, with every header centered over a stretcher above and below.

An English bond is created by alternating courses of headers centered on stretchers above and below.

A stack bond is created by using either all stretchers or all headers, with joints aligned vertically.

Paver Patterns

Brick can be set in a variety of patterns for walkways, driveways and patios.


Mortar is the material that binds the brick to each other, side by side and course to course. Mortar is available in many colors, and can be selected or custom-blended to match or contrast with the brick. It can also be applied in a variety of styles, formed by tools that scrape the mortar away from the brick in a distinctive shape or angle between courses. The most effective joints for moisture resistance are concave, v-shaped, and weathered joints.

Courtesy of the Brick Institute of America

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