rough mortar joins on steps

The art of masonry meets the science of brick

There’s a lot science in modern brick manufacturing to get precise and consistent color in a product that meets stringent engineering standards and maintains tight specifications in size and dimension. And there’s a lot of art in masonry, to apply the brick in sometimes ornate patterns and straight runs of the right combination of brick tones and patterns.

Strength and beauty with brick

Brick work on new lakeside home is nearly complete.

We stopped in on the banks of Belews Lake, just southwest of the Pine Hall Brick plant in Madison, North Carolina to see the work of Fred’s Grading & Masonry as they finish up their part of a new home coming together in its gated community.

applying mortar with pastry bag

Like a baker decorating a cake, a mason applies a thick bead of mortar that will later be smooth out with a special tool.

autumn day on brick house job

Bullnose brick shows color range in Oyster Pearl.

Fred’s owner, Hugo Yanez, was directing the completion of his contract and it was a good time to see role brick plays in the modern homebuilding process, while checking out the art of masonry.

brick saw

Thin slices of brick for special masonry effects.

Not only does the mason have to keep every line plumb and unerring, he also has to lay the brick following the subtle pattern of the brick run itself. Brick molds give every manufacturers a unique “signature” of lines that the average person doesn’t notice. But when the brick is applied by an expert, comes together like a textural puzzle of pattern and color.

Art of masonry includes mortar color

Bullnose brick for rounded corners with fresh mortar. The mason must maintain mortar color with perfect consistency.

There’s also the mortar. Mortar joints—what holds the brick together—actually make up about 20% of the total surface of a brick wall. So the color the homeowner specified needs to be consistent in all batches of mortar. The joints themselves, which can be created in nearly a dozen styles—e.g., concave, V, beaded, and grapevine joints—are something the homeowner carefully chooses that make a big difference in the look of the home. Again, the mason has to be consistent with the choice throughout the job.

english bond in the art of masonry

Masonry meets lumber as lakeside home nears completion. Note the English bond pattern of the brick.

precise masonry cuts

Expert corners with precisely cut brick around odd-shaped window.

masonry almost complete

The brickwork is complete. Time for the siding and finishing touches.

Yanez achieved beautiful results with Oyster Pearl brick laid in an English bond (note the pattern of darker, jutting brick in the façades). Oyster Pearl is tumbled to give it a timeless, worn look, to go with a “white brick” color that’s rich with red tones where the white finish gives way to the more raw clay…intentionally imperfect.

The masonry, on the other hand, has to be perfect and precise, even if it is art. See more of the art of masonry on our Pinterest page.

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