The History of Bricks and Brickmaking
Bricks of Yesteryear
Bricks are without doubt, one of the oldest known building materials. They date back to 7000BC where they were first found in southern Turkey and around the city of Jericho. The first bricks were sun dried and made from mud. Fired bricks were found to be more resistant to the harsher weather conditions, which made them a far more reliable brick to be used in the construction of permanent buildings, where mud bricks would not have been sufficient. Fired bricks were also very useful for absorbing any heat generated throughout the day, and releasing it at night.
Ancient Egyptian Bricks
The Ancient Egyptians also used sun dried mud bricks as building materials, evidence of this can still be seen today at ruins such as Harappa Buhen and Mohenjo-daro. Paintings on the tomb walls of Thebes portray Egyptian slaves mixing, tempering and carrying clay for the sun dried bricks. These bricks also consisted of a 4:2:1 ratio which enabled them to be laid more easily.
Ancient Roman Bricks
The Romans further distinguished those which had been dried by the sun and air and those bricks which were fired in a kiln. Preferring to make their bricks in the spring, the Romans held on to their bricks for two years before they were used or sold. The Romans also only used clay that was white or red to manufacture their bricks.
Using mobile kilns, the Romans were successful in introducing kiln fired bricks to the entire Roman Empire. The bricks were then stamped with the mark of the legion who supervised the brick production. These bricks were different from other ancient bricks in size and shape. Roman bricks were more commonly round, square, oblong, triangular or rectangular. The kiln fired bricks measured 1 or 2 Roman feet by 1 Roman foot, but with some larger bricks at up to 3 Roman feet. The Romans preferred this type of brick making during the first century of their civilisation and used the bricks for public and private buildings over the entire Roman empire.
Ancient Grecian Bricks
The Greeks also considered perpendicular brick walls more durable than stone walls and used them for public edifices. They also realised how the modern brick was less susceptible to erosion than the old style marble walls.
During the 12th century bricks were reintroduced to northern Germany from northern Italy. This created the brick gothic period which was a reduced style of Gothic architecture previously very common in the northern part of Europe. The buildings around this time were mainly built from fired red clay bricks. Brick Gothic style buildings can be found in the Baltic countries of Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Germany, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus and Russia. The brick gothic period can be categorized by the lack of figural architectural sculptures which had previously been carved from stone. The Gothic figures were virtually impossible to create out of bricks at that time, but could be identified by the use of split courses of bricks in varying colours, red bricks, glazed bricks and white lime plaster.
Eventually custom built and shaped bricks were introduced which could imitate the architectural sculptures.
During the renaissance and Baroque periods, exposed brick walls became rather unpopular and brickwork was generally covered in plaster. Only during the mid 18th century did visible brick walls start to regain there popularity.
Bricks tend to be more commonly used in the construction of buildings than any other material, with the exception of wood. Brick and terracotta architecture is dominant within its field and a great industry has developed and invested in the manufacture of many different types of bricks of all shapes and colours. With the advancement of modern machinery, earth moving equipment, powerful electric motors and modern tunnel kilns, making bricks has become far more productive and efficient than ever before. Bricks can be made from a variety of materials the most common being clay but also calcium silicate and concrete. With clay bricks being the most popular, they are now manufactured using three processes. These brick manufacturing processes are soft mud, dry press and extruded. Also during 2007 the new ‘fly ash’ brick was created using the by-products from coal power plants.
Good quality bricks have a major advantage over stone as they are reliable, weather resistant and can tolerate acids, pollution and fire. Bricks can be made to any specification in colour, size and shape which makes bricks much easier to build with than stone. Brickwork is also much cheaper than cut stone work. However there are some bricks which are more porous and therefore more susceptible to dampness when they are exposed to water. For best results in any construction work, the correct brick should be selected in accordance with the job specifications.