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The Basics of Brick and Masonry

For some reason, bricks scare people. Oh it's not that they're dangerous; it's just that the prospect of building something with them can be intimidating.  And if you intend to make it part of your house, it's even worse. However, it doesn't have to be this way. Armed with just a few suggestions and the right tools, you can master the art of completing outstanding brick and masonry projects. And we're talking about bricks of all sorts. While it used to be that all bricks were made of clay, today you can find bricks of various materials, including silica, ceramic, and sand mixed with water. You can use any of these effectively, if you know how.

So why use brick in the first place? There are numerous benefits. They can be used to insulate a house, plus they are weather-proof. They also do a good job of withstanding the elements. The worst heat or cold are nearly powerless against a solid brick job. The same goes for wind and rain. There's no better house type to be in during severe weather than brick (Hey, there's a reason the Big Bad Wolf couldn't blow down the brick house!). No matter which kind of brick you choose, you will be building a solid structure.

Another benefit of brick is the wide variety available. You can buy them today in many different colors, sizes and shapes. Here are three basic forms of brick you need to know:

1) Face Brick: This one comes in many shapes, sizes and colors, and is a solid brick.
2) Building Brick: This one is also known as a Structural Brick, and is the one most often used for construction. They normally have a couple of holes in them in order to help reduce the weight load. They also reduce the cost of the bricks.
3) Paver: You would normally use the Paver for patios, sidewalks, and edging.
4) Antique or Tumbled Brick: People who want to make something that has an old, antique look to it will usually opt for Antique Brick. They come in different grades.  For instance, there is a GRADE SW ("Severe Weathering") that is good at handling extreme temperature changes. Grade MW ("moderate Weathering") handles frost-to-freeze temperature changes. You'll commonly encounter these in outdoor walls  Then there's NW ("No Weathering) grade that are not meant for outdoor use at all.

So let's talk about the bricklaying process itself. As we mentioned, this is not nearly as difficult as you might think. You just need to have the right tools, a little bit of knowledge, and some time (One of the important keys to doing a good job laying brick is to be patient; take your time.). Just as with any new skill, you'll just need a little bit of practice. Plus it helps if you understand a bit about load-bearing aspects. If you find a need to alter a brick's shape, a chisel and hammer will be needed (or else a circular saw or brick saw with a diamond blade).

As you're going through the bricklaying process, remember these guidelines. First, you'll need five standard bricks per each square foot that you plan to cover (Seven per square foot if you're bricking a wall). There are normally 516 bricks per pallet at any home-improvement store, or 896 per pallet for pavers. Remember to expect mistakes, but don't get upset by that. Most bricking mistakes can be corrected fairly easily if caught early. Finally, you can find a good bricklaying guide at most any home-improvement store. Pick one up, follow its suggestions, and you'll be laying brick like a pro in no time.

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