Sunday, July 25, 2010

True Confessions of a Building Material - Part One: Brick

If my dog/cat/bird could talk he'd say.....
If walls could talk, they'd say....

We all do it. It's called "anthropomorphics". Or "ascribing human characteristics to nonhuman things."

If building materials could talk, they'd tell you what they liked, disliked, their strengths and weaknesses, and what would destroy or preserve them.

The world famous architect Louis Kahn said "I asked the brick what it liked, and it replied, 'I like an arch.'"

Kahn's brick didn't say much. Tight-lipped and terse. But when I asked a brick what it liked, I got an earful.

1. Squeeze me but don't bend me. [Bricks are strong in "compression", meaning you can stack them up and support a building with them, but they are weak in "bending", meaning they are brittle and will break if you try to make a beam out of a bunch of them and don't reinforce them with steel.]

2. Don't let me get soaking wet, then allow me to freeze. [If you do, the brick will spall, which means the hard face of the brick will pop off, and the "soft" core will be exposed. Not good.]

3. Butter me, but DON'T SLUSH MY HEAD JOINTS. [Apparently a pet peeve! Ever watch a bricklayer work? Troweling mortar onto a brick is called buttering. Cute! First he creates a horizontal "bed" of mortar on the existing brick course. This mortar forms the "bed joint". Then he butters the end of the brick which forms the "head joint", then taps it down into the bed mortar and over against the adjacent brick. But sometimes they don't butter the end of the brick, then fling or "slush" the mortar at the joint after it's laid. You don't get good mortar penetration that way.]

4. Hard face out towards the weather. [Not all bricks are created/fired equal. A bricklayer wants/needs to put the most weather-worthy face of the brick outwards. Similarly, a sodlayer needs to remember to put the green side up.]

5. Make sure you like my color, I'm gonna be around a LONG time. [Brick will outlive your grandchildren.]

6. Don't hate me because I'm more expensive, because like I said, I'm gonna be around a LONG time and PAY for myself.
[As L'Oreal used to say: "I'm more expensive but I'm worth it."]

7. I'm beautiful. [Can't argue with or hate THAT. As Pantene used to say, "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful." Bricks come in hundreds of colors, and can be mixed and matched.]

8. And yeah yeah I ALSO like an arch, but I like other patterns, too. [No doubt tired of hearing about Louis Kahn. There are many STANDARD bonding patterns to choose from, or you can CUSTOMIZE, and even mix in different colored brick as well.]

9. I love the sun and don't mind the rain. I'm easy. [Now he's bragging but it's true. The same ultraviolet light that fades paint, weathers wood, and eventually cooks vinyl siding until brittle, has no effect on brick.]

That's where the discussion ended. Apparently that demanded a lot of effort from such a dense character. And this dense characteristic not only blocks sound from entering your house and provides fire-resistance, but also provides thermal mass which smooths out and lessens energy usage.

The analysis of construction materials and systems is known as value-engineering. Lifespan versus cost. Bang for the buck.

Brick is a premium siding material. You have to lay bucks out to lay brick down, but you get a LOT of bang for it.

No comments:

Post a Comment