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Asphalt concrete?

Asphalt batch mix plant A machine laying asphalt concrete, fed from a dump truck

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Asphalt concrete (commonly called asphaltblacktop, or pavement in North America, and tarmac or bitumen macadam or rolled asphalt in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland) is a composite material commonly used to surface roads, parking lots, airports, as well as the core of embankment dams. It consists of mineral aggregate bound together with asphalt, laid in layers, and compacted. The process was refined and enhanced by Belgian inventor and U.S. immigrant Edward de Smedt.[3]

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The terms asphalt (or asphaltic) concrete, bituminous asphalt concrete, and bituminous mixture are typically used only in engineering and construction documents, which define concrete as any composite material composed of mineral aggregate adhered with a binder. The abbreviation, AC, is sometimes used for asphalt concrete but can also denote asphalt content or asphalt cement, referring to the liquid asphalt portion of the composite material.

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As shown in this cross-section, many older roadways are smoothed by applying a thin layer of asphalt concrete to the existing portland cement concrete, creating a composite pavement.

Mixing of asphalt and aggregate is accomplished in one of several ways:[4]

Hot-mix asphalt concrete (commonly abbreviated as HMA) This is produced by heating the asphalt binder to decrease its viscosity, and drying the aggregate to remove moisture from it prior to mixing. Mixing is generally performed with the aggregate at about 300 °F (roughly 150 °C) for virgin asphalt and 330 °F (166 °C) for polymer modified asphalt, and the asphalt cement at 200 °F (95 °C). Paving and compaction must be performed while the asphalt is sufficiently hot. In many countries paving is restricted to summer months because in winter the compacted base will cool the asphalt too much before it is able to be packed to the required density. HMA is the form of asphalt concrete most commonly used on high traffic pavements such as those on major highways, racetracks and airfields. It is also used as an environmental liner for landfills, reservoirs, and fish hatchery ponds.[5] Asphaltic concrete laying machine in operation in Laredo, Texas Warm-mix asphalt concrete (commonly abbreviated as WMA) This is produced by adding either zeolites, waxes, asphalt emulsions, or sometimes even water to the asphalt binder prior to mixing. This allows significantly lower mixing and laying temperatures and results in lower consumption of fossil fuels, thus releasing less carbon dioxide, aerosols and vapors. Not only are working conditions improved, but the lower laying-temperature also leads to more rapid availability of the surface for use, which is important for construction sites with critical time schedules. The usage of these additives in hot mixed asphalt (above) may afford easier compaction and allow cold weather paving or longer hauls. Use of warm mix is rapidly expanding. A survey of US asphalt producers found that nearly 25% of asphalt produced in 2012 was warm mix, a 416% increase since 2009.[6] Cold-mix asphalt concrete This is produced by emulsifying the asphalt in water with (essentially) soap prior to mixing with the aggregate. While in its emulsified state the asphalt is less viscous and the mixture is easy to work and compact. The emulsion will break after enough water evaporates and the cold mix will, ideally, take on the properties of an HMA pavement. Cold mix is commonly used as a patching material and on lesser trafficked service roads. Cut-back asphalt concrete Is a form of cold mix asphalt produced by dissolving the binder in kerosene or another lighter fraction of petroleum prior to mixing with the aggregate. While in its dissolved state the asphalt is less viscous and the mix is easy to work and compact. After the mix is laid down the lighter fraction evaporates. Because of concerns with pollution from the volatile organic compounds in the lighter fraction, cut-back asphalt has been largely replaced by asphalt emulsion.[7] Mastic asphalt concrete, or sheet asphalt This is produced by heating hard grade blown bitumen (i.e., partly oxidised) in a green cooker (mixer) until it has become a viscous liquid after which the aggregate mix is then added. The bitumen aggregate mixture is cooked (matured) for around 6–8 hours and once it is ready the mastic asphalt mixer is transported to the work site where experienced layers empty the mixer and either machine or hand lay the mastic asphalt contents on to the road. Mastic asphalt concrete is generally laid to a thickness of around ​3⁄4–1 ​3⁄16 inches (20–30 mm) for footpath and road applications and around ​3⁄8 of an inch (10 mm) for flooring or roof applications. High-modulus asphalt concrete, sometimes referred to by the French-language acronym EMÉ (enrobé à module élevé) This uses a very hard bituminous (penetration 10/20), sometimes modified, in proportions close to 6% on the weight of the aggregates, and a proportion of mineral powder also high, between 8–10%, to create an asphalt concrete layer with a high modulus of elasticity, of the order of 13000 MPa, as well as very high fatigue strengths.[8] High-modulus asphalt layers are used both in reinforcement operations and in the construction of new reinforcements for medium and heavy traffic. In base layers, they tend to exhibit a greater capacity of absorbing tensions and, in general, better fatigue resistance.[9]

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In addition to the asphalt and aggregate, additives, such as polymers, and antistripping agents may be added to improve the properties of the final product.

Asphalt concrete pavements—especially those at airfields—are sometimes called tarmac for historical reasons, although they do not contain tar and are not constructed using the macadam process.

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A variety of specialty asphalt concrete mixtures have been developed to meet specific needs, such as stone-matrix asphalt, which is designed to ensure a very strong wearing surface, or porous asphalt pavements, which are permeable and allow water to drain through the pavement for controlling stormwater.

An airport taxiway, one of the uses of asphalt concrete

Different types of asphalt concrete have different performance characteristics in terms of surface durability, tire wear, braking efficiency and roadway noise. In principle, the determination of appropriate asphalt performance characteristics must take into account the volume of traffic in each vehicle category, and the performance requirements of the friction course. Asphalt concrete generates less roadway noise than a Portland cement concrete surface, and is typically less noisy than chip seal surfaces.

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Because tire noise is generated through the conversion of kinetic energy to sound waves, more noise is produced as the speed of a vehicle increases. The notion that highway design might take into account acoustical engineering considerations, including the selection of the type of surface paving, arose in the early 1970s.[12][13] With regard to structural performance, the asphalt behaviour depends on a variety of factors including the material, loading and environmental condition. Furthermore, the performance of pavement varies over time. Therefore, the long-term behaviour of asphalt pavement is different from its short-term performance. The LTPP is a research program by the FHWA, which is specifically focusing on long-term pavement behaviour.[14][15]

Asphalt damaged by frost heaves

Asphalt deterioration can include crocodile cracking, potholes, upheaval, raveling, bleeding, rutting, shoving, stripping, and grade depressions. In cold climates, frost heaves can crack asphalt even in one winter. Filling the cracks with bitumen is a temporary fix, but only proper compaction and drainage can slow this process.

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Factors that cause asphalt concrete to deteriorate over time mostly fall into one of three categories: construction quality, environmental considerations, and traffic loads. Often, damage results from combinations of factors in all three categories.

Construction quality is critical to pavement performance. This includes the construction of utility trenches and appurtenances that are placed in the pavement after construction. Lack of compaction in the surface of the asphalt, especially on the longitudinal joint can reduce the life of a pavement by 30 to 40%. Service trenches in pavements after construction have been said to reduce the life of the pavement by 50%, mainly due to the lack of compaction in the trench, and also because of water intrusion through improperly sealed joints.

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Environmental factors include heat and cold, the presence of water in the subbase or subgrade soil underlying the pavement, and frost heaves.

High temperatures soften the asphalt binder, allowing heavy tire loads to deform the pavement into ruts. Paradoxically, high heat and strong sunlight also cause the asphalt to oxidize, becoming stiffer and less resilient, leading to crack formation. Cold temperatures can cause cracks as the asphalt contracts. Cold asphalt is also less resilient and more vulnerable to cracking.

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Water trapped under the pavement softens the subbase and subgrade, making the road more vulnerable to traffic loads. Water under the road freezes and expands in cold weather, causing and enlarging cracks. In spring thaw, the ground thaws from the top down, so water is trapped between the pavement above and the still-frozen soil underneath. This layer of saturated soil provides little support for the road above, leading to the formation of potholes. This is more of a problem for silty or clay soils than sandy or gravelly soils. Some jurisdictions pass frost laws to reduce the allowable weight of trucks during the spring thaw season and protect their roads.

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The damage a vehicle causes is proportional to the axle load raised to the fourth power,[16] so doubling the weight an axle carries actually causes 16 times as much damage. Wheels cause the road to flex slightly, resulting in fatigue cracking, which often leads to crocodile cracking. Vehicle speed also plays a role. Slowly moving vehicles stress the road over a longer period of time, increasing ruts, cracking, and corrugations in the asphalt pavement.

Other causes of damage include heat damage from vehicle fires, or solvent action from chemical spills.

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The life of a road can be prolonged through good design, construction and maintenance practices. During design, engineers measure the traffic on a road, paying special attention to the number and types of trucks. They also evaluate the subsoil to see how much load it can withstand. The pavement and subbase thicknesses are designed to withstand the wheel loads. Sometimes, geogrids are used to reinforce the subbase and further strengthen the roads. Drainage, including ditches, storm drains and underdrains are used to remove water from the roadbed, preventing it from weakening the subbase and subsoil.

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Good maintenance practices center on keeping water out of the pavement, subbase and subsoil. Maintaining and cleaning ditches and storm drains will extend the life of the road at low cost. Sealing small cracks with bituminous crack sealer prevents water from enlarging cracks through frost weathering, or percolating down to the subbase and softening it.

For somewhat more distressed roads, a chip seal or similar surface treatment may be applied. As the number, width and length of cracks increases, more intensive repairs are needed. In order of generally increasing expense, these include thin asphalt overlays, multicourse overlays, grinding off the top course and overlaying, in-place recycling, or full-depth reconstruction of the roadway.

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It is far less expensive to keep a road in good condition than it is to repair it once it has deteriorated. This is why some agencies place the priority on preventive maintenance of roads in good condition, rather than reconstructing roads in poor condition. Poor roads are upgraded as resources and budget allow. In terms of lifetime cost and long term pavement conditions, this will result in better system performance. Agencies that concentrate on restoring their bad roads often find that by the time they’ve repaired them all, the roads that were in good condition have deteriorated.

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Some agencies use a pavement management system to help prioritize maintenance and repairs.

A small-scale asphalt recycler

Asphalt concrete is 100% recyclable and is the most widely reused construction material in the world. Very little asphalt concrete — less than 1 percent, according to a 2011 survey by the Federal Highway Administration and the National Asphalt Pavement Association — is actually disposed of in landfills.

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There is asphalt recycling on a large scale (known as in-place asphalt recycling or asphalt recycling performed at a hot mix plant) and asphalt recycling on a smaller scale. For small scale asphalt recycling, the user separates asphalt material into three different categories:

Blacktop cookies Chunks of virgin uncompacted hot mix asphalt which can be used for pothole repair. The use of blacktop cookies has been investigated as a less expensive, less labor-intensive, more durable alternative to repairing potholes with cold patch. In a program in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, workers purchased new hot mix asphalt and spread it liberally on the ground to produce approximately 25 lb. wafers. Once cooled, the wafers could be stored until reheated in a hotbox to make minor road repairs. Blacktop cookies may also be produced from leftover material from paving jobs.[19] Reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) Chunks of asphalt that have been removed from a road, parking lot or driveway are considered RAP. These chunks of asphalt typically are ripped up when making a routine asphalt repair, man hole repair, catch basin repair or sewer main repair. Because the asphalt has been compacted, RAP is a denser asphalt material and typically takes longer to recycle than blacktop cookies. Asphalt millings Small pieces of asphalt produced by mechanically grinding asphalt surfaces are referred to as asphalt millings. Large millings that have a rich, black tint indicating a high asphalt cement content are best for asphalt recycling purposes. Surface millings are recommended over full depth millings when choosing asphalt millings to recycle. Full depth millings usually contain sub-base contaminants such as gravel, mud and sand. These sub base contaminants will leach oil away from original asphalt and dry out the material in the recycling process. Asphalt milled from asphalt is better than asphalt milled from concrete. When milling asphalt from concrete the dust that is created is not compatible with asphalt products because it is not asphalt.

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Small scale asphalt recycling will usually involve high speed on-site asphalt recycling equipment or overnight soft heat asphalt recycling.

Small scale asphalt recycling is used when wanting to make smaller road repairs vs. large scale asphalt recycling which is done for making new asphalt or for tearing up old asphalt and simultaneously recycling / replacing existing asphalt. Recycled asphalt is very effective for pothole and utility cut repairs. The recycled asphalt will generally last as long or longer than the road around it as new asphalt cement has been added back to the material.

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For larger scale asphalt recycling, several in-place recycling techniques have been developed to rejuvenate oxidized binders and remove cracking, although the recycled material is generally not very water-tight or smooth and should be overlaid with a new layer of asphalt concrete. Cold in-place recycling mills off the top layers of asphalt concrete and mixes the resulting loose millings with asphalt emulsion. The mixture is then placed back down on the roadway and compacted. The water in the emulsion is allowed to evaporate for a week or so, and new hot-mix asphalt is laid on top.

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Asphalt concrete that is removed from a pavement is usually stockpiled for later use as aggregate for new hot mix asphalt at an asphalt plant. This reclaimed material, or RAP, is crushed to a consistent gradation and added to the HMA mixing process. Sometimes waste materials, such as asphalt roofing shingles, crushed glass, or rubber from old tires, are added to asphalt concrete as is the case with rubberized asphalt, but there is a concern that the hybrid material may not be recyclable.

Macadam

Residential Paving Cost Estimate Raised sidewalks beside a 2000-year-old paved road, Pompeii, Italy

A sidewalk (American English) or pavement (British English), also known as a footpath or footway, is a path along the side of a road. A sidewalk may accommodate moderate changes in grade (height) and is normally separated from the vehicular section by a curb. There may also be a median strip or road verge (a strip of vegetation, grass or bushes or trees or a combination of these) either between the sidewalk and the roadway or between the sidewalk and the boundary.

In some places, the same term may also be used for a paved path, trail or footpath that is not next to a road, for example, a path through a park.

The term "sidewalk" is usually preferred in most of North America, along with many other countries worldwide that are not members of the Commonwealth of Nations. The term "pavement" is more common in the United Kingdom,[1] as well as parts of the Mid-Atlantic United States such as Philadelphia and New Jersey.[2][3] Many Commonwealth countries use the term "footpath". The professional, civil engineering and legal term for this in North America is "sidewalk" while in the United Kingdom it is "footway".[4]

In the United States, the term sidewalk is used for the pedestrian path beside a road. "Shared use paths" or "multi-use paths" are available for use by both pedestrians and bicyclists.[5] "Walkway" is a more comprehensive term that includes stairs, ramps, passageways, and related structures that facilitate the use of a path as well as the sidewalk.[6]

In the UK, the term "footpath" is mostly used for paths that do not abut a roadway.[7] The term "shared-use path" is used where cyclists are also able to use the same section of path as pedestrians.[8]

East India House, Leadenhall Street, London, 1766. The sidewalk is separated from the main street by six bollards in front of the building.

There is evidence that sidewalks were built in ancient times. It was claimed that the Greek city of Corinth was paved by the 4th-century, and the Romans were particularly prolific sidewalk builders – they called them semitas.[9]

However, by the Middle Ages, narrow roads had reverted to being simultaneously used by pedestrians and wagons without any formal separation between the two categories. Early attempts at ensuring the adequate maintenance of foot-ways or sidewalks were often made, such as the 1623 Act for Colchester, although they were generally not very effective.[10]

Following the Great Fire of London in 1666, attempts were slowly made to bring some order to the sprawling city. In 1671, 'Certain Orders, Rules and Directions Touching the Paving and Cleansing The Streets, Lanes and Common Passages within the City of London' were formulated, calling for all streets to be adequately paved for pedestrians with cobblestones. Purbeck stone was widely used as a durable paving material. Bollards were also installed to protect pedestrians from the traffic in the middle of the road.

A series of Paving Acts from the House of Commons during the 18th century, especially the 1766 Paving & Lighting Act, authorized the City of London Corporation to create foot-ways throughout all the streets of London, to pave them with Purbeck stone (the thoroughfare in the middle was generally cobblestone) and to raise them above the street level with curbs forming the separation.[11] The Corporation was also made responsible for the regular upkeep of the roads, including their cleaning and repair, for which they charged a tax from 1766.[12] By the late 19th-century large and spacious sidewalks were routinely constructed in European capitals, and were associated with urban sophistication.

In the United States, adjoining property owners must in most situations finance all or part of the cost of sidewalk construction. In a legal case in 1917 involving E. L. Stewart, a former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives and a lawyer in Minden in Webster Parish, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that owners must pay whether they wish for the sidewalk to be constructed or not.[13]

Pedestrians walking on the pavement (sidewalk) in London.

Sidewalks play an important role in transportation, as they provide a safe path for people to walk along that is separated from the motorized traffic. They aid road safety by minimizing interaction between pedestrians and motorized traffic. Sidewalks are normally in pairs, one on each side of the road, with the center section of the road for motorized vehicles.

In rural roads, sidewalks may not be present as the amount of traffic (pedestrian or motorized) may not be enough to justify separating the two. In suburban and urban areas, sidewalks are more common. In town and city centers (known as downtown in North America) the amount of pedestrian traffic can exceed motorized traffic, and in this case the sidewalks can occupy more than half of the width of the road, or the whole road can be reserved for pedestrians, see Pedestrian zone.

Sidewalks may have a small effect on reducing vehicle miles traveled and carbon dioxide emissions. A study of sidewalk and transit investments in Seattle neighborhoods found vehicle travel reductions of 6 to 8% and CO2 emission reductions of 1.3 to 2.2% [14]

Sidewalk with bike path See also: Road traffic safety

Research commissioned for the Florida Department of Transportation, published in 2005, found that, in Florida, the Crash Reduction Factor (used to estimate the expected reduction of crashes during a given period) resulting from the installation of sidewalks averaged 74%.[15] Research at the University of North Carolina for the U.S. Department of Transportation found that the presence or absence of a sidewalk and the speed limit are significant factors in the likelihood of a vehicle/pedestrian crash. Sidewalk presence had a risk ratio of 0.118, which means that the likelihood of a crash on a road with a paved sidewalk was 88.2 percent lower than one without a sidewalk. “This should not be interpreted to mean that installing sidewalks would necessarily reduce the likelihood of pedestrian/motor vehicle crashes by 88.2 percent in all situations. However, the presence of a sidewalk clearly has a strong beneficial effect of reducing the risk of a ‘walking along roadway’ pedestrian/motor vehicle crash.” The study does not count crashes that happen when walking across a roadway. The speed limit risk ratio was 1.116, which means that a 16.1-km/h (10-mi/h) increase in the limit yields a factor of (1.116)10 or 3.[16]

The presence or absence of sidewalks was one of three factors that were found to encourage drivers to choose lower, safer speeds.[17]

On the other hand, the implementation of schemes which involve the removal of sidewalks, such as shared space schemes, are reported to deliver a dramatic drop in crashes and congestion too, which indicates that a number of other factors, such as the local speed environment, also play an important role in whether sidewalks are necessarily the best local solution for pedestrian safety.[18]

In cold weather, black ice is a common problem with unsalted sidewalks. The ice forms a thin transparent surface film which is almost impossible to see, and so results in many slips by pedestrians.

Riding bicycles on sidewalks is discouraged since some research shows it to be more dangerous than riding in the street.[19] Some jurisdictions prohibit sidewalk riding except for children. In addition to the risk of cyclist/pedestrian collisions, cyclists face increase risks from collisions with motor vehicles at street crossings and driveways. Riding in the direction opposite to traffic in the adjacent lane is especially risky.[20]

Since residents of neighborhoods with sidewalks are more likely to walk, they tend to have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and other health issues related to sedentary lifestyles.[21] Also, children who walk to school have been shown to have better concentration.[22]

Native Americans busking at Orchard Road, Singapore

Some sidewalks may be used as social spaces with sidewalk cafes, markets, or busking musicians, as well as for parking for a variety of vehicles including cars, motorbikes and bicycles.

Contemporary sidewalks are most often made of concrete in the United States and Canada, while tarmac, asphalt, brick, stone, slab and (increasingly) rubber are more common in Europe.[23] Different materials are more or less friendly environmentally: pumice-based trass, for example, when used as an extender is less energy-intensive than Portland cement concrete or petroleum-based materials such as asphalt or tar-penetration macadam). Multi-use paths alongside roads are sometimes made of materials that are softer than concrete, such as asphalt.

In the 19th century and early 20th century, sidewalks of wood were common in some North American locations. They may still be found at historic beach locations and in conservation areas to protect the land beneath and around, called boardwalks.

Brick sidewalks are found in some urban areas, usually for aesthetic purposes. Brick sidewalk construction usually involves the usage of a mechanical vibrator to lock the bricks in place after they have been laid (and/or to prepare the soil before laying). Although this might also be done by other tools (as regular hammers and heavy rolls), a vibrator is often used to speed up the process.

Stone slabs called flagstones or flags are sometimes used where an attractive appearance is required, as in historic town centers. In other places, pre-cast concrete slabs (called paving slabs or, less correctly, paving stones) are used. These may be colored or textured to resemble stone.

Freshly laid concrete sidewalk, with horizontal strain-relief grooves faintly visible

In the United States and Canada, the most common type of sidewalk consists of a poured concrete ribbon, examples of which from as early as the 1860s can be found in good repair in San Francisco, and stamped with the name of the contractor and date of installation.[citation needed] When quantities of Portland cement were first imported to the United States in the 1880s, its principal use was in the construction of sidewalks.[24]

Today, most sidewalk ribbons are constructed with cross-lying strain-relief grooves placed or sawn at regular intervals typically 5 feet (1.5 m) apart. This partitioning, an improvement over the continuous slab, was patented in 1924 by Arthur Wesley Hall and William Alexander McVay, who wished to minimize damage to the concrete from the effects of tectonic and temperature fluctuations, both of which can crack longer segments.[25] The technique is not perfect, as freeze-thaw cycles (in cold-weather regions) and tree root growth can eventually result in damage which requires repair.

In highly variable climates which undergo multiple freeze-thaw cycles, the concrete blocks will be separated by expansion joints to allow for thermal expansion without breakage. The use of expansion joints in sidewalks may not be necessary, as the concrete will shrink while setting.[26]

In the United Kingdom, Australia and France suburban sidewalks are most commonly constructed of tarmac. In urban or inner-city areas sidewalks are most commonly constructed of slabs, stone, or brick depending upon the surrounding street architecture and furniture.

Alley

Paving Companies Quotes A single brick A wall constructed in glazed-headed Flemish bond with bricks of various shades and lengths Raw (green) Indian brick An old brick wall in English bond laid with alternating courses of headers and stretchers Bricked Front Street along the Cane River in historic Natchitoches, Louisiana

A brick is building material used to make walls, pavements and other elements in masonry construction. Traditionally, the term brick referred to a unit composed of clay, but it is now used to denote any rectangular units laid in mortar. A brick can be composed of clay-bearing soil, sand, and lime, or concrete materials. Bricks are produced in numerous classes, types, materials, and sizes which vary with region and time period, and are produced in bulk quantities. Two basic categories of bricks are fired and non-fired bricks.

Block is a similar term referring to a rectangular building unit composed of similar materials, but is usually larger than a brick. Lightweight bricks (also called lightweight blocks) are made from expanded clay aggregate.

Fired bricks are one of the longest-lasting and strongest building materials, sometimes referred to as artificial stone, and have been used since circa 5000 BC. Air-dried bricks, also known as mudbricks, have a history older than fired bricks, and have an additional ingredient of a mechanical binder such as straw.

Bricks are laid in courses and numerous patterns known as bonds, collectively known as brickwork, and may be laid in various kinds of mortar to hold the bricks together to make a durable structure.

House construction using bricks in Kerala, India The Roman Basilica Aula Palatina in Trier, Germany, built with fired bricks in the 4th century as an audience hall for Constantine I

The earliest bricks were dried brick, meaning that they were formed from clay-bearing earth or mud and dried (usually in the sun) until they were strong enough for use. The oldest discovered bricks, originally made from shaped mud and dating before 7500 BC, were found at Tell Aswad, in the upper Tigris region and in southeast Anatolia close to Diyarbakir.[1] Other more recent findings, dated between 7,000 and 6,395 BC, come from Jericho, Catal Hüyük, the ancient Egyptian fortress of Buhen, and the ancient Indus Valley cities of Mohenjo-daro, Harappa,[2] and Mehrgarh.[3] Ceramic, or fired brick was used as early as 3000 BC in early Indus Valley cities.[4]

The ancient Jetavanaramaya stupa in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka is one of the largest brick structures in the world. The world's highest brick tower of St. Martin's Church in Landshut, Germany, completed in 1500 Malbork Castle, former Ordensburg of the Teutonic Order – biggest brick castle in the world

In pre-modern China, bricks were being used from the 2nd millennium BC at a site near Xi'an.[5] Bricks were produced on a larger scale under the Western Zhou dynasty about 3,000 years ago, and evidence for some of the first fired bricks ever produced has been discovered in ruins dating back to the Zhou.[6][7][8] The carpenter's manual Yingzao Fashi, published in 1103 at the time of the Song dynasty described the brick making process and glazing techniques then in use. Using the 17th century encyclopaedic text Tiangong Kaiwu, historian Timothy Brook outlined the brick production process of Ming Dynasty China:

"...the kilnmaster had to make sure that the temperature inside the kiln stayed at a level that caused the clay to shimmer with the colour of molten gold or silver. He also had to know when to quench the kiln with water so as to produce the surface glaze. To anonymous labourers fell the less skilled stages of brick production: mixing clay and water, driving oxen over the mixture to trample it into a thick paste, scooping the paste into standardised wooden frames (to produce a brick roughly 42 cm long, 20 cm wide, and 10 cm thick), smoothing the surfaces with a wire-strung bow, removing them from the frames, printing the fronts and backs with stamps that indicated where the bricks came from and who made them, loading the kilns with fuel (likelier wood than coal), stacking the bricks in the kiln, removing them to cool while the kilns were still hot, and bundling them into pallets for transportation. It was hot, filthy work." The brickwork of Shebeli Tower in Iran displays 12th-century craftsmanship Main article: Roman brick

Early civilisations around the Mediterranean adopted the use of fired bricks, including the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The Roman legions operated mobile kilns,[9] and built large brick structures throughout the Roman Empire, stamping the bricks with the seal of the legion.

During the Early Middle Ages the use of bricks in construction became popular in Northern Europe, after being introduced there from Northern-Western Italy. An independent style of brick architecture, known as brick Gothic (similar to Gothic architecture) flourished in places that lacked indigenous sources of rocks. Examples of this architectural style can be found in modern-day Denmark, Germany, Poland, and Russia.

This style evolved into Brick Renaissance as the stylistic changes associated with the Italian Renaissance spread to northern Europe, leading to the adoption of Renaissance elements into brick building. A clear distinction between the two styles only developed at the transition to Baroque architecture. In Lübeck, for example, Brick Renaissance is clearly recognisable in buildings equipped with terracotta reliefs by the artist Statius von Düren, who was also active at Schwerin (Schwerin Castle) and Wismar (Fürstenhof).

Chile house in Hamburg, Germany

Long-distance bulk transport of bricks and other construction equipment remained prohibitively expensive until the development of modern transportation infrastructure, with the construction of canal, roads, and railways.

Production of bricks increased massively with the onset of the Industrial Revolution and the rise in factory building in England. For reasons of speed and economy, bricks were increasingly preferred as building material to stone, even in areas where the stone was readily available. It was at this time in London that bright red brick was chosen for construction to make the buildings more visible in the heavy fog and to help prevent traffic accidents.[10]

The transition from the traditional method of production known as hand-moulding to a mechanised form of mass-production slowly took place during the first half of the nineteenth century. Possibly the first successful brick-making machine was patented by Henry Clayton, employed at the Atlas Works in Middlesex, England, in 1855, and was capable of producing up to 25,000 bricks daily with minimal supervision.[11] His mechanical apparatus soon achieved widespread attention after it was adopted for use by the South Eastern Railway Company for brick-making at their factory near Folkestone.[12] The Bradley & Craven Ltd ‘Stiff-Plastic Brickmaking Machine’ was patented in 1853, apparently predating Clayton. Bradley & Craven went on to be a dominant manufacturer of brickmaking machinery.[13] Predating both Clayton and Bradley & Craven Ltd. however was the brick making machine patented by Richard A. Ver Valen of Haverstraw, New York in 1852.[14]

The demand for high office building construction at the turn of the 20th century led to a much greater use of cast and wrought iron, and later, steel and concrete. The use of brick for skyscraper construction severely limited the size of the building – the Monadnock Building, built in 1896 in Chicago, required exceptionally thick walls to maintain the structural integrity of its 17 storeys.

Following pioneering work in the 1950s at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the Building Research Establishment in Watford, UK, the use of improved masonry for the construction of tall structures up to 18 storeys high was made viable. However, the use of brick has largely remained restricted to small to medium-sized buildings, as steel and concrete remain superior materials for high-rise construction.[15]

This wall in Beacon Hill, Boston shows different types of brickwork and stone foundations

There are thousands of types of bricks that are named for their use, size, forming method, origin, quality, texture, and/or materials.

Categorized by manufacture method:

Categorized by use:

Specialized use bricks:

Bricks named for place of origin:

Brick making at the beginning of the 20th century.

Three basic types of brick are un-fired, fired, and chemically set bricks. Each type is manufactured differently.

Main article: Mudbrick

Unfired bricks, also known as mudbricks, are made from a wet, clay-containing soil mixed with straw or similar binders. They are air-dried until ready for use.

Raw bricks sun-drying before being fired

Fired bricks are burned in a kiln which makes them durable. Modern, fired, clay bricks are formed in one of three processes – soft mud, dry press, or extruded. Depending on the country, either the extruded or soft mud method is the most common, since they are the most economical.

Normally, bricks contain the following ingredients:[16]

  1. Silica (sand) – 50% to 60% by weight
  2. Alumina (clay) – 20% to 30% by weight
  3. Lime – 2 to 5% by weight
  4. Iron oxide – ≤ 7% by weight
  5. Magnesia – less than 1% by weight

Three main methods are used for shaping the raw materials into bricks to be fired:

Xhosa brickmaker at kiln near Ngcobo in 2007

In many modern brickworks, bricks are usually fired in a continuously fired tunnel kiln, in which the bricks are fired as they move slowly through the kiln on conveyors, rails, or kiln cars, which achieves a more consistent brick product. The bricks often have lime, ash, and organic matter added, which accelerates the burning process.

A brickmaker in India – Tashrih al-aqvam (1825)

The other major kiln type is the Bull's Trench Kiln (BTK), based on a design developed by British engineer W. Bull in the late 19th century.

An oval or circular trench is dug, 6–9 metres wide, 2-2.5 metres deep, and 100–150 metres in circumference. A tall exhaust chimney is constructed in the centre. Half or more of the trench is filled with "green" (unfired) bricks which are stacked in an open lattice pattern to allow airflow. The lattice is capped with a roofing layer of finished brick.

In operation, new green bricks, along with roofing bricks, are stacked at one end of the brick pile; cooled finished bricks are removed from the other end for transport to their destinations. In the middle, the brick workers create a firing zone by dropping fuel (coal, wood, oil, debris, and so on) through access holes in the roof above the trench.

The advantage of the BTK design is a much greater energy efficiency compared with clamp or scove kilns. Sheet metal or boards are used to route the airflow through the brick lattice so that fresh air flows first through the recently burned bricks, heating the air, then through the active burning zone. The air continues through the green brick zone (pre-heating and drying the bricks), and finally out the chimney, where the rising gases create suction that pulls air through the system. The reuse of heated air yields savings in fuel cost.

As with the rail process, the BTK process is continuous. A half-dozen labourers working around the clock can fire approximately 15,000–25,000 bricks a day. Unlike the rail process, in the BTK process the bricks do not move. Instead, the locations at which the bricks are loaded, fired, and unloaded gradually rotate through the trench.[17]

Yellow London Stocks at Waterloo station

The fired colour of tired clay bricks is influenced by the chemical and mineral content of the raw materials, the firing temperature, and the atmosphere in the kiln. For example, pink bricks are the result of a high iron content, white or yellow bricks have a higher lime content. Most bricks burn to various red hues; as the temperature is increased the colour moves through dark red, purple, and then to brown or grey at around 1,300 °C (2,372 °F). The names of bricks may reflect their origin and colour, such as London stock brick and Cambridgeshire White. Brick tinting may be performed to change the colour of bricks to blend-in areas of brickwork with the surrounding masonry.

An impervious and ornamental surface may be laid on brick either by salt glazing, in which salt is added during the burning process, or by the use of a slip, which is a glaze material into which the bricks are dipped. Subsequent reheating in the kiln fuses the slip into a glazed surface integral with the brick base.

Chemically set bricks are not fired but may have the curing process accelerated by the application of heat and pressure in an autoclave.

Swedish Mexitegel is a sand-lime or lime-cement brick.

Calcium-silicate bricks are also called sandlime or flintlime bricks, depending on their ingredients. Rather than being made with clay they are made with lime binding the silicate material. The raw materials for calcium-silicate bricks include lime mixed in a proportion of about 1 to 10 with sand, quartz, crushed flint, or crushed siliceous rock together with mineral colourants. The materials are mixed and left until the lime is completely hydrated; the mixture is then pressed into moulds and cured in an autoclave for three to fourteen hours to speed the chemical hardening.[18] The finished bricks are very accurate and uniform, although the sharp arrises need careful handling to avoid damage to brick and bricklayer. The bricks can be made in a variety of colours; white, black, buff, and grey-blues are common, and pastel shades can be achieved. This type of brick is common in Sweden, especially in houses built or renovated in the 1970s. In India these are known as fly ash bricks, manufactured using the FaL-G (fly ash, lime, and gypsum) process. Calcium-silicate bricks are also manufactured in Canada and the United States, and meet the criteria set forth in ASTM C73 – 10 Standard Specification for Calcium Silicate Brick (Sand-Lime Brick).

Main article: Concrete masonry unit A concrete brick-making assembly line in Guilinyang Town, Hainan, China. This operation produces a pallet containing 42 bricks, approximately every 30 seconds.

Bricks formed from concrete are usually termed as blocks, and are typically pale grey. They are made from a dry, small aggregate concrete which is formed in steel moulds by vibration and compaction in either an "egglayer" or static machine. The finished blocks are cured, rather than fired, using low-pressure steam. Concrete blocks are manufactured in a much wider range of shapes and sizes than clay bricks and are also available with a wider range of face treatments – a number of which simulate the appearance of clay bricks.

Concrete bricks are available in many colours and as an engineering brick made with sulfate-resisting Portland cement or equivalent. When made with adequate amount of cement they are suitable for harsh environments such as wet conditions and retaining walls. They are made to standards BS 6073, EN 771-3 or ASTM C55. Concrete bricks contract or shrink so they need movement joints every 5 to 6 metres, but are similar to other bricks of similar density in thermal and sound resistance and fire resistance.[18]

Main article: Compressed earth block

Compressed earth blocks are made mostly from slightly moistened local soils compressed with a mechanical hydraulic press or manual lever press. A small amount of a cement binder may be added, resulting in a stabilised compressed earth block.

Comparison of typical brick sizes of assorted countries with isometric projections with dimensions in mm Loose bricks

For efficient handling and laying, bricks must be small enough and light enough to be picked up by the bricklayer using one hand (leaving the other hand free for the trowel). Bricks are usually laid flat, and as a result, the effective limit on the width of a brick is set by the distance which can conveniently be spanned between the thumb and fingers of one hand, normally about four inches (about 100 mm). In most cases, the length of a brick is about twice its width, about eight inches (about 200 mm) or slightly more. This allows bricks to be laid bonded in a structure which increases stability and strength (for an example, see the illustration of bricks laid in English bond, at the head of this article). The wall is built using alternating courses of stretchers, bricks laid longways, and headers, bricks laid crossways. The headers tie the wall together over its width. In fact, this wall is built in a variation of English bond called English cross bond where the successive layers of stretchers are displaced horizontally from each other by half a brick length. In true English bond, the perpendicular lines of the stretcher courses are in line with each other.

A bigger brick makes for a thicker (and thus more insulating) wall. Historically, this meant that bigger bricks were necessary in colder climates (see for instance the slightly larger size of the Russian brick in table below), while a smaller brick was adequate, and more economical, in warmer regions. A notable illustration of this correlation is the Green Gate in Gdansk; built in 1571 of imported Dutch brick, too small for the colder climate of Gdansk, it was notorious for being a chilly and drafty residence. Nowadays this is no longer an issue, as modern walls typically incorporate specialised insulation materials.

The correct brick for a job can be selected from a choice of colour, surface texture, density, weight, absorption, and pore structure, thermal characteristics, thermal and moisture movement, and fire resistance.

In England, the length and width of the common brick has remained fairly constant over the centuries (but see brick tax), but the depth has varied from about two inches (about 51 mm) or smaller in earlier times to about two and a half inches (about 64 mm) more recently. In the United Kingdom, the usual size of a modern brick is 215 × 102.5 × 65 mm (about ​8 5⁄8 × ​4 1⁄8 × ​2 5⁄8 inches), which, with a nominal 10 mm (​3⁄8 inch) mortar joint, forms a unit size of 225 × 112.5 × 75 mm (9 × ​4 1⁄2 × 3 inches), for a ratio of 6:3:2.

In the United States, modern standard bricks are specified for various uses;[19] most are sized at about 8 × ​3 5⁄8  × ​2 1⁄4 inches (203 × 92 × 57 mm). The more commonly used is the modular brick ​7 5⁄8  × ​3 5⁄8  × ​2 1⁄4 inches (194 × 92 × 57 mm). This modular brick of ​7 5⁄8 with a ​3⁄8 mortar joint eases the calculation of the number of bricks in a given wall.[20]

Some brickmakers create innovative sizes and shapes for bricks used for plastering (and therefore not visible on the inside of the building) where their inherent mechanical properties are more important than their visual ones.[21] These bricks are usually slightly larger, but not as large as blocks and offer the following advantages:

Blocks have a much greater range of sizes. Standard co-ordinating sizes in length and height (in mm) include 400×200, 450×150, 450×200, 450×225, 450×300, 600×150, 600×200, and 600×225; depths (work size, mm) include 60, 75, 90, 100, 115, 140, 150, 190, 200, 225, and 250. They are usable across this range as they are lighter than clay bricks. The density of solid clay bricks is around 2000 kg/m³: this is reduced by frogging, hollow bricks, and so on, but aerated autoclaved concrete, even as a solid brick, can have densities in the range of 450–850 kg/m³.

Bricks may also be classified as solid (less than 25% perforations by volume, although the brick may be "frogged," having indentations on one of the longer faces), perforated (containing a pattern of small holes through the brick, removing no more than 25% of the volume), cellular (containing a pattern of holes removing more than 20% of the volume, but closed on one face), or hollow (containing a pattern of large holes removing more than 25% of the brick's volume). Blocks may be solid, cellular or hollow

The term "frog" can refer to the indentation or the implement used to make it. Modern brickmakers usually use plastic frogs but in the past they were made of wood.

Brick arch from a vault in Roman Bath – England A brick section of the old Dixie Highway, United States

The compressive strength of bricks produced in the United States ranges from about 1000 lbf/in² to 15,000 lbf/in² (7 to 105 MPa or N/mm² ), varying according to the use to which the brick are to be put. In England clay bricks can have strengths of up to 100 MPa, although a common house brick is likely to show a range of 20–40 MPa.

In the United States, bricks have been used for both buildings and pavements. Examples of brick use in buildings can be seen in colonial era buildings and other notable structures around the country. Bricks have been used in pavements especially during the late 19th century and early 20th century. The introduction of asphalt and concrete reduced the use of brick pavements, but it is used as a method of traffic calming or as a decorative surface in pedestrian precincts. For example, in the early 1900s, most of the streets in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, were paved with bricks. Today, there are only about 20 blocks of brick-paved streets remaining (totalling less than 0.5 percent of all the streets in the city limits).[22] Much like in Grand Rapids, municipalities across the United States began replacing brick streets with inexpensive asphalt concrete by the mid-20th century.[23]

Bricks in the metallurgy and glass industries are often used for lining furnaces, in particular refractory bricks such as silica, magnesia, chamotte and neutral (chromomagnesite) refractory bricks. This type of brick must have good thermal shock resistance, refractoriness under load, high melting point, and satisfactory porosity. There is a large refractory brick industry, especially in the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, Belgium and the Netherlands.

In Northwest Europe, bricks have been used in construction for centuries. Until recently, almost all houses were built almost entirely from bricks. Although many houses are now built using a mixture of concrete blocks and other materials, many houses are skinned with a layer of bricks on the outside for aesthetic appeal.

Engineering bricks are used where strength, low water porosity or acid (flue gas) resistance are needed.

In the UK a red brick university is one founded in the late 19th or early 20th century. The term is used to refer to such institutions collectively to distinguish them from the older Oxbridge institutions, and refers to the use of bricks, as opposed to stone, in their buildings.

Colombian architect Rogelio Salmona was noted for his extensive use of red bricks in his buildings and for using natural shapes like spirals, radial geometry and curves in his designs.[24] Most buildings in Colombia are made of brick, given the abundance of clay in equatorial countries like this one.

Starting in the 20th century, the use of brickwork declined in some areas due to concerns with earthquakes. Earthquakes such as the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the 1933 Long Beach earthquake revealed the weaknesses of unreinforced brick masonry in earthquake-prone areas. During seismic events, the mortar cracks and crumbles, and the bricks are no longer held together. Brick masonry with steel reinforcement, which helps hold the masonry together during earthquakes, was used to replace many of the unreinforced masonry buildings. Retrofitting older unreinforced masonry structures has been mandated in many jurisdictions.

A panorama after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Asphalt Construction Quotes