Brick Glossary

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Term Definition

The weight of water a brick unit absorbs, when immersed in either cold or boiling water for a stated length of time. Expressed as a percentage of the weight of the dry unit. See ASTM Specification C 67.


Materials added to mortar to impart special properties to the mortar.


A piece or assemblage, usually metal, used to attach building parts (e.g., plates, joists, trusses, etc.) to masonry or masonry materials.


American National Standards Institute.


A curved compressive structural member, spanning openings or recesses; also built flat.

Back Arch: A concealed arch carrying the backing of a wall where the exterior facing is carried by a lintel. Jack Arch: One having horizontal or nearly horizontal upper and lower surfaces. Also called flat or straight arch. Major Arch: Arch with spans greater than 6 ft and equivalent to uniform loads greater than 1000 lb. per ft. Typically known as Tudor arch, semicircular arch, Gothic arch or parabolic arch. Has rise to span ratio greater than 0.15. Minor Arch: Arch with maximum span of 6 ft and loads not exceeding 1000 lb. per ft. Typically known as jack arch, segmental arch or multicentered arch. Has rise to span ratio less than or equal to 0.15. Relieving Arch: One built over a lintel, flat arch, or smaller arch to divert loads, thus relieving the lower member from excessive loading. Also known as discharging or safety arch. Trimmer Arch: An arch, usually a low rise arch of brick, used for supporting a fireplace hearth.

Ashlar Masonry

Masonry composed of rectangular units of burned clay or shale, or stone, generally larger in size than brick and properly bonded, having sawed, dressed or squared beds, and joints laid in mortar. Often the unit size varies to provide a random pattern, random ashlar.


American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc.

ASTM: American Society for Testing and Materials.

Back Filling

1. Rough masonry built behind a facing or between two faces. 2. Filling over the extrados of an arch. 3. Brickwork in spaces between structural timbers, sometimes called brick nogging.


That part of a masonry wall behind the exterior facing.


A piece of brick.


Recessing or sloping masonry back in successive courses; the opposite of corbel.

Bed Joint

The horizontal layer of mortar on which a masonry unit is laid.

Belt Course

A narrow horizontal course of masonry, sometimes slightly projected such as window sills which are made continuous. Sometimes called string course or sill course.


A method of bonding two adjoining or intersecting walls, not built at the same time, by means of offsets whose vertical dimensions are not less than 8 in.


1. Tying various parts of a masonry wall by lapping units one over another or by connecting with metal ties. 2. Patterns formed by exposed faces of units. 3. Adhesion between mortar or grout and masonry units or reinforcement.

Bond Beam

Course or courses of a masonry wall grouted and usually reinforced in the horizontal direction. Serves as horizontal tie of wall, bearing course for structural members or as a flexural member itself.

Bond Course

The course consisting of units which overlap more than one wythe of masonry.


A bonding unit. See Header.

Breaking Joints

Any arrangement of masonry units which prevents continuous vertical joints from occurring in adjacent courses.


A solid masonry unit of clay or shale, formed into a rectangular prism while plastic and burned or fired in a kiln.

Acid-Resistant Brick: Brick suitable for use in contact with chemicals, usually in conjunction with acid-resistant mortars. Adobe Brick: Large roughly-molded, sun-dried clay brick of varying size. Angle Brick: Any brick shaped to an oblique angle to fit a salient corner. Arch Brick: 1. Wedge-shaped brick for special use in an arch. 2. Extremely hard-burned brick from an arch of a scove kiln. Building Brick: Brick for building purposes not especially treated for texture or color. Formerly called common brick. See ASTM Specification C 62. Clinker Brick: A very hard-burned brick whose shape is distorted or bloated due to nearly complete vitrification. Common Brick: See Building Brick. Dry-Press Brick: Brick formed in molds under high pressures from relatively dry clay (5 to 7 percent moisture content). Economy Brick: Brick whose nominal dimensions are 4 by 4 by 8 in. Engineered Brick: Brick whose nominal dimensions are 4 by 3.2 by 8 in. Facing Brick: Brick made especially for facing purposes, often treated to produce surface texture. They are made of selected clays, or treated, to produce desired color. See ASTM Specification C 216. Fire Brick: Brick made of refractory ceramic material which will resist high temperatures. Floor Brick: Smooth dense brick, highly resistant to abrasion, used as finished floor surfaces. See ASTM Specification C 410. Gauged Brick: 1. Brick which have been ground or otherwise produced to accurate dimensions. 2. A tapered arch brick. Hollow Brick: A masonry unit of clay or shale whose net cross-sectional area in any plane parallel to the bearing surface is not less than 60 percent of its gross cross-sectional area measured in the same plane. See ASTM Specification C 652. Jumbo Brick: A generic term indicating a brick larger in size than the standard. Some producers use this term to describe oversize brick of specific dimensions manufactured by them. Norman Brick: A brick whose nominal dimensions are 4 by 2 2/3 by 12 in. Paving Brick: Vitrified brick especially suitable for use in pavements where resistance to abrasion is important. See ASTM Specification C 7. Roman Brick: Brick whose nominal dimensions are 4 by 2 by 12 in. Salmon Brick: Generic term for under-burned brick which are more porous, slightly larger, and lighter colored than hard-burned brick. Usually pinkish-orange color. "SCR Brick" (Reg U.S. Pat Off., SCPI (BIA)): See SCR (Reg U.S. Pat. Off., SCPI (BIA)). Sewer Brick: Low absorption, abrasive-resistant brick intended for use in drainage structures. See ASTM Specification C 32. Soft-Mud Brick: Brick produced by molding relatively wet clay (20 to 30 percent moisture). Often a hand process. When insides of molds are sanded to prevent sticking of clay, the product is sand-struck brick. When molds are wetted to prevent sticking, the product is water-struck brick. Stiff-Mud Brick: Brick produced by extruding a stiff but plastic clay (12 to 15 percent moisture) through a die.