Brick University

Design professionals enjoy the flexibility of brick as a building material. Special shaped brick can often be used to achieve a unique aesthetic design or to give a finished look to a brick detail. Many manufacturers have catalogues of standard shapes or shapes that can be made to order. It is important that shaped brick be manufactured at the same time as the regular field brick for a given job. Special shaped brick are special order items and may take extra time to produce. Planning ahead can make a real difference in the appearance of your finished job.

Think you know brick? Take our Brick University graduation exam, and send your results to us. We’ll send you a graduation diploma and a one of kind Brickyard Mortar Board.


As Northern Ohio’s premier brick distributor, we believe that knowledge is indeed power, and the more you know about the beauty, strength and timelessness of brick, we believe you’ll never build with anything else again (hey, we can dream, right?). So, if you want to earn your “mortar board” in brick studies, welcome to The Brickyard’s Brick University, chock full of useful information designed to help you make the most of your next brick masterpiece.


Brick are available in several sizes. Brick sizes are often chosen based on their aesthetics related to the overall project appearance or for a design requirement such as a particular bonding pattern. Cost of installation is also often a factor as larger brick units have (in general) lower cost of installation. Please note that nomenclature can vary from one manufacturer to another. It is best to confirm actual sizes rather than rely on a name.


After construction, masonry must be cleaned of excess mortar and other job site dirt. Good masonry installation practices will help keep the wall clean initially and minimize the need for later cleaning. The safest method for cleaning masonry is a brush and bucket. Plenty of water and a sturdy fibre brush are used to scrub the wall. Wire brushes should never be used. Other acceptable methods may include high pressure water, steam and chemicals.

Be sure to consult the manufacturer or brick distributor for a recommended cleaning method before proceeding. All methods should be carefully monitored and pre-tested in an inconspicuous area. Improper cleaning can result in stains and possibly remove the surface of the brick or otherwise damage the wall. Muriatic acid is never recommended for cleaning brick or stone. Muriatic acid may introduce impurities and may cause staining or “acid burn”. High pressure water, steam and sand blasting can also permanently damage mortar joints and the brick’s face.

Cost of Brick Construction

Brick is initially more expensive than some alternative siding materials. The lower maintenance cost, expected useful life and higher resale value of brick buildings easily offsets the higher initial cost of brick and makes brick your best value in exterior cladding.

Because brick is a premium product, it can cost slightly more than some other commonly used products. The difference is less than one might expect, however – a brick home cost 3 to 5% above the cost of a vinyl siding house, for example – and will quickly be offset by brick’s energy-efficiencies and low maintenance requirements.

According to Marshall and Swift’s Residential Cost Handbook, the appreciation of a brick home is, on average, 6% greater than that of an identical home with a vinyl, wood siding, cedar, or aluminum exterior.


The surface texture of brick is very important to its overall appearance. A variety of textures are available including smooth, wirecut or matt, (semi-smooth) and torn face (rough texture). Texture can also be created by applying coatings, machine made impressions, and other mechanical treatments.

Texture generally has little or no effect on the durability of a particular brick.

Unique textures can also be created with different manufacturing processes such as in handmade and wood moulded brick. These textures can sometimes be approximated by mechanically treating exturded brick through methods such as paper cutting and tumbling.


The color of brick is determined by the raw materials they contain and the method used to produce and fire them. Additives blended into the clay mixture can create color completely through the body of the brick. Sand coatings and other additives can be applied to the face of the brick to create different surface colors. Changing the firing temperature will also produce different shades of color from the same raw materials. Flashing is one method of firing brick which burns some of the brick darker than others. These flashed brick add color range and highlights to many styles of brick.

Benefits of Brick Construction

Low maintenance cost
Fire resistance
Thermal mass (i.e. lower heating and cooling cost)

Protection from the elements and other physical damage
Durability (lasts for decades)

Higher resale value
Beauty that never fades


When you place an order for brick, scheduling takes place immediately. Actual delivery to your job site depends on the availability of the brick and of delivery equipment. During peak construction periods schedule backlogs may be extensive. Normally when a brick is in stock, delivery to your job site should be within three to five working days.


Mortar can be nearly 20% of the total surface area of a wall. A change in color of mortar will effect the overall tone of the wall. The mortar can be tinted to blend or contrast with the brick color.

Mortar joints can also be finished with a variety of different techniques and joint profiles. The combination of mortar color and finish can have a profound effect on the finished appearance of a wall.

Mortars can also vary in terms of their physical properties. In practical terms a good mortar must have a satisfactory board life, workability, resistance to water penetration and bond to the masonry unit being laid. There is no single type of mortar that is suitable for all brick and stone and there is no one mortar composition that is superior to all others. For best results a mortar type and composition should be selected based on the characteristics of the masonry unit being laid.


Brick is a good construction material from an environmental perspective. The raw material required to make brick is some of the most abundant on earth. Very little refining or processing is required to prepare the raw material for making brick. The process of mining clay is regulated by the government and when a quarry is closed the land is usually returned to its natural condition. Although energy is required for in the production process and for transportation, this is offset by the energy saving offered by the thermal mass effect of brick buildings. The expected life span of brick buildings, which can be hundreds of years also reduces the environmental impact.

Production Process

Brick are a mixture of clay and shale ground to a fine consistency. This raw material is conveyed to the pug mill where it is mixed with water and blended.

It then passes through the vacum chamber of the brick machine where air is removed and the clay particles are more closely aligned.

Depending on the type of brick being made, the clay is either extruded through a die head or pressed into a mould box.

Once formed. Brick are sent to a drier where most of the moisture is removed.

They are then fired in a kiln at temperatures of approximatley 2000 ° F. Firing can take anywhere from 24 to 40 hours.

Finished brick are blended together and packaged for shipment.


Matching brick produced years ago to new production can be difficult. Brick color panels come and go and it may be that the one you require is no longer made. Even if the same brick is made, new brick is usually different from old brick due to the effect of dirt and pollution. Finally even brick produced at nearly the same time can show variation in color. This is due to small changes in the raw material as it is mined from slightly different locations in the clay pit as well as small changes in the kiln conditions from run to run. Your design professional or brick distributor can help you minimize matching problems.

American Society for Testing and Materials

Brick have standard specifications established by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). These specifications provide guidance in choosing the type of brick for specific building conditions. Brick are divided into different classes based on physical properties such as compressive strength, absorption, saturation coefficients and dimensional precision and uniformity. These standards also govern appearance such as texture variation and amount of permissible chippage.