A time-tested building material, bricks offer stability and old-fashioned elegance to buildings and walls. For this reason, new construction projects frequently make use of old bricks, salvaged from the destruction of old buildings. In essence, old or antique bricks fall into the same types as bricks built today, categorised based on their function and appearance.
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Known as either press bricks or pressed bricks, these kinds of bricks are traditionally used for exposed-face brickwork. A dry-pressing process creates pressed bricks, which have exceptionally smooth and regular surfaces, even edges and sharp corners, making them suitable for use as face bricks. Pressed bricks can even be produced from common bricks that are repressed.
Pressed bricks' cost restricts them from use in unseen locations, as they cost between two and five times as much as common bricks. Pressed bricks' manufacturing process also allows variations to make moulded, gauged, arch and circle bricks. These unusually shaped bricks allows decorative brickwork, such as circular windows, rounded brick towers or detailed cornices.
As the name indicates, common bricks generally include all bricks except for those used along face brickwork. Common bricks are just as sturdy as face or pressed bricks, making them appropriate for all kinds of construction; however, their rougher appearance lends them to unseen applications, such as the backing layers of solid or hollow brick walls. Depending on where a common brick sits within a kiln during its firing, it may be arch or hard brick, red or well-burnt brick or soft "salmon" brick. While the colour of common brick roughly corresponds to these three categories, it tends to be highly irregular in shade.
Even among historical bricks, there were special fire-retardant bricks indicated for use in chimneys, fireplaces, ovens, kilns and furnaces. Firebricks are notable for their regular form, size and texture; they cannot have any cracks and are easy to cut. Often a firebrick is somewhat larger than a common or pressed brick for regular construction. Firebrick composition is roughly 50 per cent raw flint clay and 50 per cent plaster clay. Several techniques are used to form a firebrick, including stiff-mud, dry-pressing and soft-mud processes.
Generally considered disposable, clinker bricks result from over-firing or mistakes in the kiln-firing process. They tend to have highly irregular shapes and colours. However, some reclaimed brick retailers also sell old clinker bricks as an inexpensive and visually interesting alternative to common and pressed bricks.
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