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Masonry Material

Brick Manufacturing

Composition of local bricks

• Bricks have been used in Sri Lanka for centuries
dating back to 2nd century B.C. or before
• The earliest bricks used were sun dried
• Burnt bricks had been used subsequently
• The binding mortar used was simple clay where
the bed joint thickness had been maintained as
low as possible
• This gradual gain of knowledge has led to the
construction of edifices over 100m tall using
locally burnt bricks as the unit of construction
The principal elements of clay:
• Alumina (Al2O3) - renders the clay plastic thus facilitates the
moulding process
– If incorrectly proportioned it will cause the brick to crack, twist and shrink
excessively when being burnt.
• Silica (SiO2 ) – may be combined with alumina or it may be free in
the form of sand
• Brittle bricks will result if the sand content is excessive
• Other minor elements
• Limestone, salts such as MgSO4, Na2SO4, K2SO4, CaSO4 in
addition to organic matter and water
• Iron oxide gives red colour and magnesia gives brown to black
• Organic matter if in excessive quantity may contain compounds
which can discolour the plaster
preliminary tests to check
whether available clay is suitable
for brick making
• Excavate a trench of 6 ft deep and obtain soil samples at
every one foot level and conduct the tests on each
• Slowly squeeze the moistened soil sample placed on
your palm. If finger marks appear on the soil sample it is
• Roll the soil sample between your palms. If it remains
unbroken it is satisfactory and if the end breaks easily
soil sample contains too much sand.
• Lay the moistened soil sample on a 1”thick layer and
allow drying in the sun. If the soil sample shrinks and
displays hair cracks, the soil sample is satisfactory for
brick making.
Production process

Preparation of soil
• Remove the top soil to prevent mixing of
tree roots, stones etc.
• Break firm lumps of clay and grind it with
water (1water: 3 clay) to bring the clay to a
consistency suitable for moulding
• Mix using a mill or by walking over the clay
mixture with bare feet

Machine moulding
• Wire-cut and pressure process are used as machine
• In this process clay in the form of a continuous plastic
band is propelled from an auger over oiled rollers to
the cutting table
• When extruded clay column touches the stop of the
cutting table, wire frame moves through the clay
column cutting it into separate bricks (Figure 1)
• Dimensions of the cut brick are slightly greater than
the required size depending on the shrinkage of the
material, 6.4 mm to 8.5 mm per 100 mm which occurs
during the drying and burning process
• In the pressure process the prepared clay
is fed into moulds in a rotating table
• As each mould is filled a plunger
consolidates under great pressure
• As the table rotates another mould is filled
and pressed while the brick pressed
earlier is pushed upwards clear of the
moulds and removed
Hand moulding

• The timber mould has neither top nor bottom (Figure 2)

• Its internal dimensions are greater than those of a
finished brick due to allowances needed for shrinkage.
Take a portion of the clay of correct consistency, form it
into a ball and then into a near rectangular shape which
is about one quarter larger than the mould.
• Place it in the mould and completely fill it by pressing the
clay down with the fingers. Draw a wood straight edge
dipped in water across the top of the mould.
• Place a pallet board over the mould and remove the
mould leaving the clay brick on the pallet board with
another pallet board brick can be carried to any position
and placed in position for drying.

• As water content at moulding exceeds

25% it is necessary to dry the bricks
before burning to economise on fuel
• Bricks are stacked on edge to facilitate
drying. When natural drying is used the
bricks are left in the sun for about a week
• When artificial drying is used waste heat
from boilers or kilns are used

• This is the final process in brick manufacturing.

Permanent kilns are used for burning wire-cut
bricks while clamp burning is used for ordinary
• A clamp consists of a large mass of green bricks
stacked on a foundation of old bricks (usually
rejected bricks).
• It has neither walls nor roof. Although this
method is widely used in Sri Lanka, it is
inefficient due to energy losses and produces
bricks of low quality due to difficulty of controlling
burning process (Figure 3).
The method of operation
• Clamp is formed by placing rows of bricks vertically on
edge allowing a small gap (about 50 mm) for hot air
• About five tunnels running through the clamp are formed
so that fires can be formed at the base of the clamp.
• External faces of the clamp are made with old bricks. To
minimize heat losses it should be plastered with mud
• Burning is commenced by a starting a small fire in the
tunnels and these fires are maintained for about 2 days.
• Drying takes place during this stage and should be
continued till smoke (steam) ceases to rise.
• When steam ceases to rise one side of the tunnel
openings are blocked with GI corrugated sheets and
long firewood logs inserted through the other end.
• Firing should be continued for 2 to 3 days; day and night
continuously till top layer of bricks becomes red-hot.
When paper or straw is placed on top layer bricks and if
it ignites firing can be stopped.
• At this stage tunnel openings should be closed by brick
walls using mud mortar, so that heat losses can be
prevented. Leave the clamp to gradually cool for at least
a week before removing the bricks.
A comparison of ancient bricks
and modern bricks
Mineral Modern Old bricks from the ancient
Bricks structure

Quartz (sand) 30 – 40% 50 - 60%

Clay 55 – 65% 35 - 45%

Voids 1 - 5% 3 - 8%
• At a height of over 400 feet (120 m), it is the tallest stupa
in the world, largest brick building ever built, and 3rd
largest structure in the ancient world, after the two
largest of the Great Pyramids of Giza. Approximately
93,300,000 baked bricks were used to build the stupa
(Ratnayake, 1993).
• The compound covers approximately 8 acres
• One side of the stupa is 576 feet long
• The stupa has a 6m deep foundation, and sits on
• Stone inscriptions in the courtyard give the names of
people who donated to the building effort
• The modern bricks contained less sand than the old
• The clay content is less in the old bricks, but the voids
ratio is higher
• It was also reported that the old brick was about three
times stronger than the modern bricks. The stress when
the first crack appeared in the modern bricks was about
1.5 N/mm2 and it was 4.3 N/mm2 for old bricks.
Unfortunately, the ultimate strengths had not been
• It can be seen from Table 2 that the sand used in the old
brick has been carefully selected and contain only of
certain sizes, but the sand used in modern bricks does
not indicate any careful selection as such
Defects in Bricks
• Black core or Hearting
This is due to brick being too rapidly heated in the kiln,
causing the surface of the brick to vitrify and the
interior remaining black
• Swelling
This is due to the presence of excessive quantity of
carbonaceous matter and due to bad burning
• Chuffs or shuffs
These are badly cracked or misshapen bricks produced by
rain falling on them when hot
• Crozzling
Excessive heating in the kiln produce misshapen bricks
• Efflorescence
Bricks made from clay containing a relatively large
proportion of soluble salts, particularly CaSO4 are liable
to become discoloured by the formation of a whitish and
as the bricks become dry the salt solution is brought to
the surface by capillarity, evaporation takes place and
the salts remain on the face.
• Grizzling
This defect causes bricks of good shape to be weak due to
under burning. These bricks can be easily identified by a
light colour and a dull sound when struck.
• Iron spots
These are surface dark spots, due to the presence of iron sulphides in
the clay which make the bricks unsuitable for exposed brick work
• Laminations
These are caused by the air in the voids between the particles of clay
not being eliminated in the grinding process, as producing the
formation of thin laminations on the faces of bricks which may
scale off on exposure to the weather
• Cracking
This is due to drying or cooling the bricks too quickly in the kiln
• Distortion
This is due to excessive water in the clay and can be overcome by
reducing water used for mixing
• Softening in water
If brick becomes soft when immersed in water it is under burnt
Cement –sand blocks
• For hand moulded blocks, timber moulds are widely
• The mould surface should be cleaned and smeared
with suitable oil after each casting
• Compaction is carried out in at least 2 layers, till the
volume reduction of 30% is reached
• Recommended mix proportions for solid bocks are 1
cement: 12 sand: water – cement ratio 1.3(weight of
water/weight of cement 1.3)
• 1 cement: 7 sand: water-cement ratio of 0.9 for two
storey work
• Curing by sprinkling of water for at least 7 days is
• These blocks should not be used for wall construction till 28 days
after casting
• This would help the block to undergo the main portion of shrinkage
before it is built into the wall, thus keeping the wall crack free

• The blocks should not be wetted before use. Wetting will produce
moisture expansion in the block which will subsequently increase
the shrinkage of the wall. As sand particles or hydrated cement will
not absorb water, it will be used up in filling small cavities which will
later flow out on to the green mortar increasing its water- cement
ratio and reducing mortar strength

• As water absorption of dry blocks is low there is no danger of block

absorbing all the water in the mortar mix
Chip-concrete blocks
• This chip is of size 6-8 mm. These could be manufactured either
using block making machines or alternatively could be hand
• When selecting the mixes for block making, special attention
should be placed to minimize the usage of cement while
achieving the required strength
• The mix proportion of a 1:8:14 cement, fine aggregate and chips
can be recommended for the block work
• For the manufacturing of blocks, cement and fine aggregates are
• Then chips are placed on it and water is sprayed prior to mixing.
The amount of water used is just sufficient to give a reasonably
dry mix so that the mould could be removed sometime after
casting of the block
• Stones used should be small enough to be lifted and placed by
hand. The height of the stone may be 300 mm maximum.

• Bond stones should be at least 150 mm square at the face and

should run through the full thickness of the wall.

• In case of walls exceeding 600 mm in thickness more than one

stone may be used to run through the full thickness with overlap
of not less than 150 mm.

• The hearting or interior filling of the wall should consist of stones

of any shape which is smaller than 150 mm diameter.
Thickness of these stones in any direction should not be less than
100 mm.

• Chip stones are greater than 25 mm and smaller than hearting.

• Stones should be hammer dressed on the face, the
sides and beds, to enable it to come into close proximity
with the neighbouring stone. The “bushing” in the face
should not project more than 40 mm on an exposed
face, and 10 mm on a face to be plastered (Figure 4)
• All stones should be clean and free of dust and should
be wetted before use. Chips, spalls (or hearting) etc.
Should be washed clean with water to ensure a clean
surface for mortar to adhere to
• The stones should be laid on a full even bed of mortar.
The bond is obtained by filling adjacent stones closely
and by using bond stones
• Hearting should be carefully laid and hammered down
with a wooden mallet into position and solidly bedded in

• Chips and spalls of stone being used whenever

necessary to avoid thick mortar beds or joints and to
ensure that no hollow spaces are left in the wall

• Hearting should be nearly level with facing and backing

except that at 1 m intervals
• Use of chips is restricted to the filling of interstices
between adjacent stones in hearting, and these should
not exceed 20 % of the quantity of stone masonry

• The wall should be carried up truly to plumb and wall

raised uniformly not exceeding 1.5 m per day. Where
masonry of one part has to be delayed, the wall shall be
racked back at an angle not steeper than 45. Toothing in
stone work should not be allowed.

• As the normal size of stones available are 9” (225 mm),

6” (150 mm) and 4” (100 mm ), the wall thickness are
normally 10” (250 mm), 12” (300 mm), 14” (350 mm) and
18 “ (450 mm).