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Last edited 10 Sep 2019
Typically, a brick wall is a vertical element of construction that is made of bricks and mortar and is used to form the external walls of buildings, parapets, internal partitions, freestanding walls and garden features, eg planters.
The first walls were made from mud bricks held together by a thin mud slurry, some of which have proved to be surprisingly resilient. A contemporary brick wall can be made of clay, concrete or calcium-silicate bricks. The most common brick size is 215mm (L) x 102.5mm (W) x 65mm (H). Bricks are bound together by a cementitious or lime mortar, usually 10mm thick for the horizontal (bedding) joints and 10mm wide for the vertical (perpend) joints.
Brick walls can be straight, curved or zig-zag in plan and can vary in thickness from 102mm (half-brick) upwards. In modern construction, brick walls (sometimes referred to as brickwork) tend to be used for housing as the external component of cavity-wall construction in which they are tied to an inner masonry leaf which can also be brick but is more often blockwork.
In contrast, Victorian brick walls are mainly termed ‘solid brickwork’ ie, either one-brick-thick (9-inches or 275mm) or one-and-a-half-brick-thick (13 inches or 330mm). However, in some instances they could be thicker depending on the application.
A brick wall usually requires a foundation which can be either a concrete strip or a traditional ‘footing’. In the latter, the base of the brickwork is stepped out either side, usually by a third of a brick width at a time, for three or four courses in order to increase the width and so spread the load over a wider area.
Because clay brickwork undergoes a degree of thermal expansion when temperatures rise, movement joints must be installed to accommodate the expansion, otherwise cracking of the bricks would result, possibly leading to instability. Movement joints in clay brickwork are usually placed every 10m-12m around the building perimeter. However, parapets and free-standing walls are less restrained (ie, they are free to move at their uppermost ends) and so the spacing is usually reduced to 6m-8m. Detailed information is available from The Brick Development Association.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Aircrete blocks.
- Brick strip foundation.
- Brick veneer.
- Cavity tray.
- Cavity wall.
- Damp-proof course.
- Defects in brickwork
- How to lay bricks.
- Practical Building Conservation: Earth, Brick and Terracotta.
- Swift brick.
- Testing bricks.
- Treating brickwork with sealant or water repellent.
- Types of brick bonding.
- Types of bricks.
- Unfired clay masonry: An introduction to low-impact building materials.
- Which way up should you lay a brick?
- Wall tie failure.
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