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For other uses, see Asphalt (disambiguation). Note: The terms bitumen and asphalt are mostly interchangeable, Sealcoating Contractor in Brakpan except where asphalt is used as a shorthand for asphalt concrete. Natural bitumen from the Dead Sea Refined asphalt The University of Queensland pitch drop experiment, demonstrating the viscosity of asphalt

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Asphalt (/ˈæsˌfɔːlt, -ˌfɑːlt/), also known as bitumen (UK English: /ˈbɪtʃəmən, ˈbɪtjʊmən/,[1] US English: /bɪˈt(j)uːmən, baɪˈt(j)uːmən/)[2] is a sticky, black, and highly viscous liquid or semi-solid form of petroleum. It may be found in natural deposits or may be a refined product, and is classed as a pitch. Before the 20th century, the term asphaltum was also used.

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The primary use (70%) of asphalt Asphalt Driveway Cost 2017 is in road construction, where it is used as the glue or binder mixed with aggregate particles to create asphalt concrete. Its other main uses are for bituminous waterproofing products, including production of roofing felt and for sealing flat roofs.

The terms “asphalt” and “bitumen” are often used interchangeably to mean both natural and manufactured forms of the substance. In American English, “asphalt” (or “asphalt cement”) is commonly used for a refined residue from the distillation process of selected crude oils. Outside the United States, the product is often called “bitumen”, and geologists worldwide often prefer the term for the naturally occurring variety. Common colloquial usage often refers to various forms of asphalt as “tar”, as in the name of the La Brea Tar Pits.

Michigan left

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Naturally occurring asphalt is sometimes specified by the term “crude bitumen”. Sealcoating Contractor Its viscosity is similar to that of cold molasses[6][7] while the material obtained from the fractional distillation of crude oil boiling at 525 °C (977 °F) is sometimes referred to as “refined bitumen”. The Canadian province of Alberta has most of the world’s reserves of natural asphalt in the Athabasca oil sands, which cover 142,000 square kilometres (55,000 sq mi), an area larger than England.

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The word “asphalt” is derived from the late Middle English, in turn from French asphalte, based on Late Latin asphalton, asphaltum, which is the latinisation of the Greek ἄσφαλτος (ásphaltos, ásphalton), a word meaning “asphalt/bitumen/pitch” which perhaps derives from ἀ-, “without” and σφάλλω (sfallō), “make fall”.  Best Way To Clean Driveway Pavers the first use of asphalt by the ancients was in the nature of a cement for securing or joining together various objects, and it thus seems likely that the name itself was expressive of this application. Specifically, Herodotus mentioned that bitumen was brought to Babylon to build its gigantic fortification wall.[11] From the Greek, the word passed into late Latin, and thence into French (asphalte) and English (“asphaltum” and “asphalt”). In French, the term asphalte is used for naturally occurring asphalt-soaked limestone deposits, and for specialised manufactured products with fewer voids or greater bitumen content than the “asphaltic concrete” used to pave roads.

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The expression “bitumen” originated in the Sanskrit words jatu, meaning “pitch”, and jatu-krit, meaning “pitch creating” or “pitch producing” (referring to coniferous or resinous trees). The Latin equivalent is claimed by some to be originally gwitu-men (pertaining to pitch), and by others, pixtumens (exuding or bubbling pitch), which was subsequently shortened to bitumen, thence passing via French into English. From the same root is derived the Anglo-Saxon word cwidu (mastix), the German word Kitt (cement or mastic) and the old Norse word kvada.

In British English, “bitumen” is used instead of “asphalt”. The word “asphalt” is instead used to refer to asphalt concrete, a mixture of construction aggregate and asphalt itself (also called “tarmac” in common parlance). Bitumen mixed with clay was usually called “asphaltum”,[13] but the term is less commonly used today.[citation needed]


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In Australian English, “bitumen” is often used as the generic term for road surfaces.

In American English, “asphalt” is equivalent to the British “bitumen”. However, “asphalt” is also commonly used as a shortened form of “asphalt concrete” (therefore equivalent to the British “asphalt” or “tarmac”).

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In Canadian English, the word “bitumen” is used to refer to the vast Canadian deposits of extremely heavy crude oil,[14] while “asphalt” is used for the oil refinery product. Diluted bitumen (diluted with naphtha to make it flow in pipelines) is known as “dilbit” in the Canadian petroleum industry, while bitumen “upgraded” to synthetic crude oil is known as “syncrude”, and syncrude blended with bitumen is called “synbit”.[15]

“Bitumen” is still the preferred geological term for naturally occurring deposits of the solid or semi-solid form of petroleum. “Bituminous rock” is a form of sandstone impregnated with bitumen. The tar sands of Alberta, Canada are a similar material.

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Neither of the terms “asphalt” or “bitumen” should be confused with tar or coal tars.[further explanation needed]

See also: Asphaltene

The components of asphalt include four main classes of compounds:

The naphthene aromatics and polar aromatics are typically the majority components. Most natural bitumens also contain organosulfur compounds, resulting in an overall sulfur content of up to 4%. Nickel and vanadium are found at <10 parts per million, as is typical of some petroleum.

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The substance is soluble in carbon disulfide. It is commonly modelled as a colloid, with asphaltenes as the dispersed phase and maltenes as the continuous phase.[16] “It is almost impossible to separate and identify all the different molecules of asphalt, because the number of molecules with different chemical structure is extremely large”.

Asphalt may be confused with coal tar, which is a visually similar black, thermoplastic material produced by the destructive distillation of coal. During the early and mid-20th century, when town gas was produced, coal tar was a readily available byproduct and extensively used as the binder for road aggregates. The addition of coal tar to macadam roads led to the word “tarmac”, which is now used in common parlance to refer to road-making materials. However, since the 1970s, when natural gas succeeded town gas, asphalt has completely overtaken the use of coal tar in these applications. Other examples of this confusion include the La Brea Tar Pits and the Canadian oil sands, both of which actually contain natural bitumen rather than tar. “Pitch” is another term sometimes informally used at times to refer to asphalt, as in Pitch Lake.

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Bituminous outcrop of the Puy de la Poix, Clermont-Ferrand, France

The majority of asphalt used commercially is obtained from petroleum.[18] Nonetheless, large amounts of asphalt occur in concentrated form in nature. Naturally occurring deposits of bitumen are formed from the remains of ancient, microscopic algae (diatoms) and other once-living things. These remains were deposited in the mud on the bottom of the ocean or lake where the organisms lived. Under the heat (above 50 °C) and pressure of burial deep in the earth, the remains were transformed into materials such as bitumen, kerogen, or petroleum.

Natural deposits of bitumen include lakes such as the Pitch Lake in Trinidad and Tobago and Lake Bermudez in Venezuela. Natural seeps occur in the La Brea Tar Pits and in the Dead Sea.

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Bitumen also occurs in unconsolidated sandstones known as “oil sands” in Alberta, Canada, and the similar “tar sands” in Utah, US. The Canadian province of Alberta has most of the world’s reserves, in three huge deposits covering 142,000 square kilometres (55,000 sq mi), an area larger than England or New York state. These bituminous sands contain 166 billion barrels (26.4×10^9 m3) of commercially established oil reserves, giving Canada the third largest oil reserves in the world. Although historically it was used without refining to pave roads, nearly all of the output is now used as raw material for oil refineries in Canada and the United States.


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The world’s largest deposit of natural bitumen, known as the Athabasca oil sands, is located in the McMurray Formation of Northern Alberta. This formation is from the early Cretaceous, and is composed of numerous lenses of oil-bearing sand with up to 20% oil.[19] Isotopic studies show the oil deposits to be about 110 million years old.[20] Two smaller but still very large formations occur in the Peace River oil sands and the Cold Lake oil sands, to the west and southeast of the Athabasca oil sands, respectively. Of the Alberta deposits, only parts of the Athabasca oil sands are shallow enough to be suitable for surface mining. The other 80% has to be produced by oil wells using enhanced oil recovery techniques like steam-assisted gravity drainage.

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Much smaller heavy oil or bitumen deposits also occur in the Uinta Basin in Utah, US. The Tar Sand Triangle deposit, for example, is roughly 6% bitumen.

Bitumen may occur in hydrothermal veins. An example of this is within the Uinta Basin of Utah, in the US, where there is a swarm of laterally and vertically extensive veins composed of a solid hydrocarbon termed Gilsonite. These veins formed by the polymerization and solidification of hydrocarbons that were mobilized from the deeper oil shales of the Green River Formation during burial and diagenesis.

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Bitumen is similar to the organic matter in carbonaceous meteorites.[23] However, detailed studies have shown these materials to be distinct.[24] The vast Alberta bitumen resources are considered to have started out as living material from marine plants and animals, mainly algae, that died millions of years ago when an ancient ocean covered Alberta. They were covered by mud, buried deeply over time, and gently cooked into oil by geothermal heat at a temperature of 50 to 150 °C (120 to 300 °F). Due to pressure from the rising of the Rocky Mountains in southwestern Alberta, 80 to 55 million years ago, the oil was driven northeast hundreds of kilometres and trapped into underground sand deposits left behind by ancient river beds and ocean beaches, thus forming the oil sands.

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The use of natural bitumen for waterproofing, and as an adhesive dates at least to the fifth millennium BC, with a crop storage basket discovered in Mehrgarh, of the Indus Valley Civilization, lined with it.[25] By the 3rd millennia BC refined rock asphalt was in use, in the region, and was used to waterproof the Great Bath, Mohenjo-daro.

In the ancient Middle East, the Sumerians used natural bitumen deposits for mortar between bricks and stones, to cement parts of carvings, such as eyes, into place, for ship caulking, and for waterproofing.[3] The Greek historian Herodotus said hot bitumen was used as mortar in the walls of Babylon.

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The 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) long Euphrates Tunnel beneath the river Euphrates at Babylon in the time of Queen Semiramis (ca. 800 BC) was reportedly constructed of burnt bricks covered with bitumen as a waterproofing agent.

Bitumen was used by ancient Egyptians to embalm mummies.[3][28] The Persian word for asphalt is moom, which is related to the English word mummy. The Egyptians’ primary source of bitumen was the Dead Sea, which the Romans knew as Palus Asphaltites (Asphalt Lake).

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Approximately 40 AD, Dioscorides described the Dead Sea material as Judaicum bitumen, and noted other places in the region where it could be found.[29] The Sidon bitumen is thought to refer to material found at Hasbeya.[30] Pliny refers also to bitumen being found in Epirus. It was a valuable strategic resource, the object of the first known battle for a hydrocarbon deposit—between the Seleucids and the Nabateans in 312 BC.

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In the ancient Far East, natural bitumen was slowly boiled to get rid of the higher fractions, leaving a thermoplastic material of higher molecular weight that when layered on objects became quite hard upon cooling. This was used to cover objects that needed waterproofing,[3] such as scabbards and other items. Statuettes of household deities were also cast with this type of material in Japan, and probably also in China.

In North America, archaeological recovery has indicated bitumen was sometimes used to adhere stone projectile points to wooden shafts.[32] In Canada, aboriginal people used bitumen seeping out of the banks of the Athabasca and other rivers to waterproof birch bark canoes, and also heated it in smudge pots to ward off mosquitoes in the summer.

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In 1553, Pierre Belon described in his work Observations that pissasphalto, a mixture of pitch and bitumen, was used in the Republic of Ragusa (now Dubrovnik, Croatia) for tarring of ships.


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An 1838 edition of Mechanics Magazine cites an early use of asphalt in France. A pamphlet dated 1621, by “a certain Monsieur d’Eyrinys, states that he had discovered the existence (of asphaltum) in large quantities in the vicinity of Neufchatel”, and that he proposed to use it in a variety of ways – “principally in the construction of air-proof granaries, and in protecting, by means of the arches, the water-courses in the city of Paris from the intrusion of dirt and filth”, which at that time made the water unusable. “He expatiates also on the excellence of this material for forming level and durable terraces” in palaces, “the notion of forming such terraces in the streets not one likely to cross the brain of a Parisian of that generation”.

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But the substance was generally neglected in France until the revolution of 1830. In the 1830s there was a surge of interest, and asphalt became widely used “for pavements, flat roofs, and the lining of cisterns, and in England, some use of it had been made of it for similar purposes”. Its rise in Europe was “a sudden phenomenon”, after natural deposits were found “in France at Osbann (Bas-Rhin), the Parc (Ain) and the Puy-de-la-Poix (Puy-de-Dôme)”, although it could also be made artificially.[35] One of the earliest uses in France was the laying of about 24,000 square yards of Seyssel asphalt at the Place de la Concorde in 1835.

Among the earlier uses of bitumen in the United Kingdom was for etching. William Salmon’s Polygraphice (1673) provides a recipe for varnish used in etching, consisting of three ounces of virgin wax, two ounces of mastic, and one ounce of asphaltum.[37] By the fifth edition in 1685, he had included more asphaltum recipes from other sources.

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The first British patent for the use of asphalt was “Cassell’s patent asphalte or bitumen” in 1834.[35] Then on 25 November 1837, Richard Tappin Claridge patented the use of Seyssel asphalt (patent #7849), for use in asphalte pavement,[39][40] having seen it employed in France and Belgium when visiting with Frederick Walter Simms, who worked with him on the introduction of asphalt to Britain.[41][42] Dr T. Lamb Phipson writes that his father, Samuel Ryland Phipson, a friend of Claridge, was also “instrumental in introducing the asphalte pavement (in 1836)”.[43] Indeed, mastic pavements had been previously employed at Vauxhall by a competitor of Claridge, but without success.


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Claridge obtained a patent in Scotland on 27 March 1838, and obtained a patent in Ireland on 23 April 1838. In 1851, extensions for the 1837 patent and for both 1838 patents were sought by the trustees of a company previously formed by Claridge. Claridge’s Patent Asphalte Company—formed in 1838 for the purpose of introducing to Britain “Asphalte in its natural state from the mine at Pyrimont Seysell in France”,—”laid one of the first asphalt pavements in Whitehall”.  Trials were made of the pavement in 1838 on the footway in Whitehall, the stable at Knightsbridge Barracks,”and subsequently on the space at the bottom of the steps leading from Waterloo Place to St. James Park”. “The formation in 1838 of Claridge’s Patent Asphalte Company (with a distinguished list of aristocratic patrons, and Marc and Isambard Brunel as, respectively, a trustee and consulting engineer), gave an enormous impetus to the development of a British asphalt industry”.[45] “By the end of 1838, at least two other companies, Robinson’s and the Bastenne company, were in production”,[50] with asphalt being laid as paving at Brighton, Herne Bay, Canterbury, Kensington, the Strand, and a large floor area in Bunhill-row, while meantime Claridge’s Whitehall paving “continue(d) in good order”.

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Asphalt Driveway Costs 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.


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Bleeding or flushing is shiny, black surface film of asphalt on the road surface caused by upward movement of asphalt in the pavement surface.[1][2] Common causes of bleeding are too much asphalt in asphalt concrete, hot weather, low space air void content and quality of asphalt.[3]

Bleeding is a safety concern since it results in a very smooth surface, without the texture required to prevent hydroplaning.

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