brickwork patterns

I’ve used the word ‘patterns’ because it’s more understandable when searching for, but the proper term is brickwork bonds and this better describes what they really are. Although the patterns created by the way bricks in a wall are put together do have importance in their own right, the reason for them is usually as much to do with the structure as the appearance. For example, most people would probably imagine the surface of a brick wall like this

stretcher bond

In each row the bricks are laid end-to-end, but the bricks in the row above start from the mid-point of the bricks below. Anyone who’s played with Lego as a child knows why this has to be .. even with mortar sticking the bricks together the wall would fall down pretty quickly unless the vertical divisions are staggered like this. It also follows that every other course has to begin (also to end in this case) with a brick placed on-end because this interlocks with the side walls. But this ‘bond’ represents the simplest arrangement of bricks, giving a wall which is only one brick-width thick. This is perhaps understandly most familiar to us in modern times, after the invention of cavity insulation or structures principally made of concrete. The brickwork surface we see is not the solid, structural one. Older walls, which were just bricks, built solid and not just in one layer, had to have a different arrangement with a regular distribution of bricks going through the wall to anchor the layers together. Therefore we see just as many headers (the end face of the brick) as stretchers (the side face of the brick). Over the centuries the creativity of builders has led to a really surprising number of variations which combine these two faces in an evenly distributed way. One of those most common in older buildings in the UK, perhaps especially London, is the Flemish bond, in which each course of bricks alternates a side-on with an end-on, resulting in an attractive pattern when the courses are staggered, as shown below

Flemish bond

Notice also the way the brickwork is finished at each side. I’m assuming that the length of walls can’t always be planned exactly according to a set number of stretchers and headers, so often the ends have to include a cut brick to make up the length (or to finish neatly around door or window openings). The common practice has always been to insert this extra before the end-brick, because this is structurally more sound and also looks better.

Using these templates

These brickwork bonds are reproduced here courtesy of Wikipedia where they can be found (along with many other variations) on a very informative and authoritative page

I’ve adjusted the size of these so that they should print in 1:25 scale at 1:1 or ‘full’ size. If in doubt the printed patterns should measure 94mm across. I have reproduced them to be used as templates, just for size reference or for marking divisions, not as printed substitutes for brickwork modelling. The way I usually simulate brickwork is by scoring the surface of soft foam ( see the articles in Materials/-Surfacing ) and I mark up using pattern references such as these rather than having to measure out with a scale ruler each time.

The size of a brick

This is an interesting subject, with a function-led poetry of its own! Traditionally the size of a brick has been determined over time by what the bricklayer can most comfortably hold in one hand while working. This is not just in terms of overall weight but also the width has developed according to the average span of the hand when picking the brick up to lay it flat upon another. The width of a brick is therefore around 100mm. If, as in earlier brick building, the bricks have to work comfortably both side-on and end-on the width and the length of the brick should have a clear and simple relationship to each other. In the UK bricks have conformed for a fairly long time now to ..

length 215mm width 102.5mm height 65mm

In this case, two bricks laid end-on with the ‘statutory’ 10mm of mortar between them make exactly the same length as a single brick laid side-on. This conformity means that regular ‘patterns’ are easier to create and that the vertical mortar divisions (known as perpends) are easier to align nicely throughout the elevation.

On the whole bricks are a similar size the world over, as would be expected given the above. They are a similar size .. but not the same! In colder countries bricks are made thicker for better insulation so the thickness also increases the length. For example the standard size in Russia is ..

length 250mm width 120mm heigt65mm

and the US standard, apparently, is ..

length 203mm width 102mm height 57mm

.. which doesn’t seem entirely logical, as if the first brickmakers just forget about the mortar allowance but the size somehow stuck!

There is a table detailing common sizes used in other countries on another useful Wikipedia page here

Something that has changed more noticeably over time is the height of bricks. For example in the UK bricks were often thinner i.e. c. 51mm prior to more standardization in the Georgian period.

Below is another fairly common bond from earlier times in the UK called English bond. Here complete rows of stretchers are alternated with headers. Apparaently this resulted in a very strong wall and can be still seen in many older industrial buildings.

English bond

3 thoughts on “brickwork patterns

  1. Good reference. I googled brick sizes several months back and came up with all different sizes and patterns thru out the world. I was so concerned about scale. Still kinda lost on using theses as templates compared to marking each row with a scale. There is one pattern (I forget the name ) that is in a V shape. Saw this on an old English Cottage while looking at patterns. Can not seem to find it again. Maybe you can. thanks

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