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Stone origins: Brick

The humble brick is actually the product of a rather dynamic process.

In the final part of our ‘Stone origins’ series, we come to one of the most common and popular types of stone there are: Brick.

Brick may be a man-made stone, but its ubiquity in the architecture of buildings in America and all around the world nonetheless make it important to discuss – particularly as it’s a material that is especially prone to spalling and water ingress.

Without further ado, let’s take look at the composition of brick and how it comes to be.

The ingredients of brick

If you’ve been reading through some previous entries of our ‘Stone origins’, you might’ve noticed a pattern when it comes to man-made stone. Namely, whether it’s terracotta or porcelain, clay plays an integral role in its formation. So it goes with brick.

According to the Brick Industry Association, there are three main types of clay:

  • Surface clays, found on the surface of the earth and made from recent sediment deposits
  • Shales, put under enormous pressure and close to hardening into slate
  • Fire clays, found in deeper areas

All of these clays are made up of alumina, silica and metallic oxides, which fuse the particles together.

How brick is built

Firstly, the clay must be formed, most commonly through what is known as the ‘stiff-mud process’. Water is mixed with the clay, is de-aired to remove air bubbles, put through a die and cut into individual clay bricks. The clay is then dried to help ensure less cracking.

Next comes the firing. Bricks are placed in the kiln, and then fired for 10-40 hours, depending on various factors. This firing itself has several steps, mostly to do with gradually increasing temperatures. These temperatures will run the gamut from 300 degrees Fahrenheit to as high as 2,400 degrees.

After this, the products are cooled for anywhere between 5 and 24 hours and – voila! –  you’ve got yourself a finished set of bricks.

Depending on the particular type of clay, other materials and the exact process, brick’s porosity can range. Whatever the case of your particular brick, it’s always a good idea to keep it sealed with DRY-TREAT-40SK and keep it protected from efflorescence and other nasty types of damage.

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