Brick and Paver Technical Dictionary


Absorption, initial rate of (IRA)

See initial rate of absorption (IRA).

Absorption, water

The amount of water the unit will absorb when immersed in either cold or boiling water for a stated length of time. Expressed as a percent of the weight of the dry unit. Compare porosity.

Admixture (or additive)

Material added to mortar as a water repellent or coloring agent, to retard or speed up setting,   or as a plasticizer to improve mortar work-ability.


See also tie. A piece or connected pieces of metal or plastic used to attach building parts such as plates or joists to masonry materials, or attach masonry facings to  the  building structure.


A structural member used to span openings or recesses. Structurally, an arch is a component, or assembly of components, so arranged over an opening that the supported load is resolved into pressures on the side supports.

Arch Types


The edge formed by any two surfaces meeting at an angle; specifically, the edges of a brick.

Articulated masonry construction

Brickwork that is divided into panels, usually at full height door and window openings, with an allowance for movement between them to prevent cracking caused by the stresses arising from foundation movements. See also control gap.

AS (or AS/NZS)

Prefix to numbering system for standards issued by Standards Australia (or issued in association with Standards New Zealand).

Attached pier

See pier – engaged pier.

Brick arch terms


Back filling

Soil back-filled into an excavation.


That part of a masonry wall behind the exterior facing.


A rough method of finishing brickwork, usually  in preparation for a painted finish, by applying a slurry of mortar with a hessian bag or similar material.

Barge course

Also called coping course. A course of brick set on edge and transverse to the wall to form a coping.

Base course

In paving, the structural course or layer of granular material beneath the bedding course (see flexible pavement). The base course distributes loads to the subgrade.

Base wall

See wall.


A piece of cut or broken brick; commonly refers to a half brick.


Recessing or sloping a wall back in successive courses; the opposite of corbel.

Beaded joint

See joint.

Bearing wall

See wall.

Bed joint

See joint.

Bedding course

The layer or course of sand on which the pavers are bedded to form the pavement surface (see flexible pavement).

Belt course

See string course.


A large masonry unit.  Although  there  is  no formal definition, a block is generally considered to be greater than double the volume of a traditional size brick.  A  double  height  brick  is not considered to be a block. See also brick.

Typical clay block dimensions


Plan of typical clay blocks
Broad faced chisel used to split bricks and pavers.


See also paving patterns.
  1. Tying the various parts of a brick wall by lapping one unit over another.
  2. Adhesion of mortar to a brick.
  3. Pattern formed by exposed brick faces.
    • Colonial bond Three stretcher courses fol- lowed by one header course. Example: English garden wall bond.
    • English bond Alternate stretcher and header courses.
    • Flemish bond Alternate headers and stretch- ers in each course.
    • Garden wall bond Three stretchers to one header in each course.
    • Stack bond Stretchers laid one above the other with the perpends in line.
    • Stretcher bond All stretchers, except where a header is needed to complete a course. Also called half bond.

Bond types


See also shaped brick.
A solid or perforated clay masonry unit formed into a rectangular prism and hardened by firing. A brick is traditionally described as having:
  1. Gross volume not exceeding 4 x 103 mm (about double the volume of a traditional size brick).
  2. Length not less than 1.5 times the width and not more than 390 mm.
  3. Height not greater than 60 percent of length.
The gross volume and length are useful when differentiating between bricks and blocks. These provisions do not apply to bricks cut or purpose- made to complete a bond.
  • Air brick Terracotta or similar fired clay unit built into a wall to allow air circulation through the wall.
  • Brick shapes See shaped brick.
  • Callow brick An underfired clay brick.
  • Clinker brick A very hard fired clay brick, often bloated and distorted, produced by burning to the point of complete vitrification.
  • Common brick
  1. Any brick made primarily for building pur- poses and not especially treated for texture or colour.
  2. Reject facing bricks of a quality suitable for use where they will not be visible in the finished wall.
  • Dough-boy See callow brick.
  • Dry pressed brick Brick made by high pres- sure moulding of a free-flowing clay or shale powder with a 5 to 10 percent moisture content.
  • Extruded brick Brick made  by  forcing  clay with an 18 to 25 percent moisture content through a die in a continuous column that is then wire cut to the required height; aka a wirecut brick.
  • Fire brick Brick made from refractory ceramic material that will withstand high temperatures.
  • Facing brick Brick made primarily for use where it will be visible in the finished wall.
  • Hard-fired/burned brick A term applied  to bricks fired at high temperatures to near vitrifica- tion producing low water absorption and high compressive strength.
  • Modular brick A brick with format dimensions that are multiples of a 100 mm module. Usual work sizes: 290x90x90 mm or 190x90x90 mm.
  • Modulated brick A brick with modular dimen- sions in length and width but its height is such that several units are required to achieve a multi-module. For example: work size
  • 290x90x65 mm – four courses to a height of 300 mm.
  • Re-pressed brick Brick made  by  extruding clay with a 14 to 17 percent moisture content into a mould to give a roughly shaped clot that is then compacted and repressed. Aka stiff plastic pressed brick.
  • Traditional (size) brick Unit with a work size of 230x110x76 mm.
  • Wire cut brick See brick – extruded brick.

Brick nogging

Brickwork used to fill in space between studs in a framed building.

Brick-on-edge construction

Wall construction in which traditional size bricks are laid on their narrow edge, usually with the visible faces rendered. Used widely in South Australia in full-brick construction with the external leaf laid in the normal manner.

Brick sand

A sand, used for making mortar, that contains a high proportion of fine material, that is particles that pass a 75 micron sieve. Most of that material is silt but some is clay with a particle size around 2 microns that acts as a plasticising agent. Aka brickie's sand (SA and Victoria), brickie's loam (Queensland and Tasmania) and bush sand (NSW).

Brick shape

See shaped brick.

Brick-veneer (construction)

Construction in which the loadbearing structure is usually a timber or metal frame, with a single leaf of brickwork forming the exposed exterior  of the building. The non-structural brickwork is tied to the structure. Compare with full-brick (construction).

Broken bond

Occurs where the number of bricks will not exactly fit into the required length of a wall so that a brick of odd size has to be inserted into each course.

Bullnose brick

See shaped brick.

Bush sand

See brick sand.


Placing mortar on the full head area of the brick before laying. Compare tip jointing.


An attached pier designed to counteract a side thrust.


California Bearing Ratio (CBR)

In paving, an indicator of the shear strength of subgrade material.

Cavity brick/cavity wall (construction)

See full-brick construction.


Temporary framework, usually of timber, upon which the brickwork of an arch or reinforced brick lintel is supported until it becomes self-supporting.


When applied to a clay masonry strength property, means that strength will be exceeded by 95% of the units in the lot, ie, not more than 5% of the lot will fail to achieve that strength.


A continuous vertical or horizontal recess cut or built into a wall to receive pipes, ducts, etc.
A raked joint to receive flashing or other material built into the brickwork.


A piece of brick used to fill a small hole.

Clay masonry unit

See masonry.

Clay paver

Fired clay unit complying with the specification and intended to form the surface course of a pavement (see flexible pavement).


A brick, less than full-size, used to bring the end of a wall to a vertical face.
  • Bevelled closer A brick cut to have one end half the normal dimension and the other end full width.
  • King closer A brick with one corner cut off between the mid-points of adjacent sides.
  • Queen closer A brick that has been cut in half longitudinally.

Colonial bond

See bond.

Colouring agent

See admixture (or additive).

Concave joint

See joint.

Control gap

A vertical or horizontal gap to accommodate differential movement between  various elements of a structure. Aka control joint, expansion joint, expansion gap, movement joint or movement gap. See also articulated masonry construction.

Coordinating size

The dimensions (length, width and height) of  the space occupied by an individual brick and its mortar joints. Aka format size. Compare with work size.

Coping course

See barge course.


Material or units used to form a cap or finish on top of a wall, pier or pilaster to protect the brickwork below from water penetration from above.


A shelf or ledge formed by projecting successive courses of brickwork out from the face of the wall, usually supporting a structural or decorative element.


Continuous holes, usually vertical, formed in extruded (wirecut) bricks.


A continuous horizontal layer of bricks bonded with mortar.

Cross joint

See perpend.


Damp course

See damp-proof course

Damp-proof course (DPC)

A course or layer of impervious material in a  wall or floor to prevent the upward or downward migration of moisture. Also called damp-proof course, commonly abbreviated to DPC.

dB (decibel)

See units of measure.

Dimensions (of units)

See co-ordinating size and work size.

Dogs tooth

Bricks laid so that their corners project from the face of the wall, usually at external corners  other than 90 degrees. See also squint quoin and shaped brick—squint brick.


A projecting piece of material so shaped as to throw off water and prevent its running down the face of the wall or other surface of which it is a part.

Dwarf wall

See wall.


Edge restraint

An existing or constructed element forming a boundary to a paved area. Edge restraints minimise lateral movement of the pavers and material loss from the bedding course.

Typical paver edge types


A white or coloured powder, often furry in appearance, that sometimes  forms  on  the surface of brickwork by the deposition of soluble salts.

em value

See units of measure and moisture expansion.

English bond

See bond.

Expansion joint (or gap)

See control gap.

Exposure grade

Clay masonry units suitable for use in external walls exposed to saline environments such as sea fronts, retaining walls, or where there is possible exposure to salts in the soil, in ground water or in the air.

Exterior wall

See wall.


See arch.



The long surface of a brick to be exposed in a wall, or the exposed surface of a wall.


The smallest range of particle sizes in sand or mortar mixes

Fire resistance level (FRL)

The time a building element will remain intact when in contact with fire. An FRL has three components – structural adequacy, integrity and insulation – and each is given a rating specified    in minutes.

Flemish bond

See bond.

Flexible pavement

A pavement that does not rely on a rigid layer, such as a concrete slab, to distribute superimposed loads to the subgrade. Compare rigid pavement.

Flush joint

See joint.


That part of a building transferring loads to the foundation.

Format size

See co-ordinating size.


In paving, the final shape of the subgrade surface following completion of earthworks.


The earth supporting building elements.

Foundation wall

See wall.


See fire resistance level.


A depression in one surface of a pressed brick.

Full-brick (construction)

Construction in which the roof and ceiling are supported off brick external and internal walls. The external walls are usually composed of two leaves with a cavity between them. Sometimes known colloquially as solid brick, double brick or cavity wall construction. Compare with brick- veneer (construction).


Method of finishing the inside of a brick wall to provide an air space for insulation, to prevent transmittance of moisture and sound and to level surface irregularities. Usually consists of wood or metal strips attached to the wall to which sheet finishes are applied.

Typical section thru flexible clay pavement


Garden wall bond

See bond.


The reduction of the brickwork opening between the top of the firebox and the flue.

Gauge rod

Pole marked by the bricklayer and used during construction to measure the vertical height of brick courses, doors, windows and other openings.


Nailing strips, usually wood, placed in brick walls to which trim or furring is attached.


In reinforced brickwork, an especially-made concrete-like material that will flow without segregation.
In unreinforced brickwork, mortar of a consistency such that it will flow without segregation of the materials.



Scarring the brick face to provide a key for an applied finish such as plaster.

Hard burned

See brick – hard-fired.


See arch.

Head joint

See perpend.


The short end surface of a brick that may or may not be exposed in a wall.


A brick laid with its greatest dimension perpendicular to the face of the wall. Generally used to tie two skins of brickwork together. Also the end of a brick showing on the face of a wall. See also snap header.

Header course

A continuous bonding course of header units. Aka heading course.

Hit and miss brickwork

Brick in which the perpends are larger than normal and do not contain mortar so that a perforated wall is formed.

Hydrated lime

Quicklime to which sufficient water has been added to convert the oxides to hydroxides. This is usually a factory process and the dried product is sold in bags as dry hydrated lime.
See also lime putty.


Initial rate of absorption (IRA)

The amount of water absorbed when a dry unit is immersed to a depth of 3 mm for a period of one minute. Unit: kg/m2/min. Aka suction or suction rate.


The effect of frictional shear forces induced in the sand-filled joints between pavers that  inhibits paver movement and transfers loads between adjacent pavers. Interlock accounts for the load-spreading capability of pavers.


See arch.

Ironed joint

See joint – concave joint.



The vertical sides of an opening in brickwork.


The layer of mortar bonding two bricks.
  • Bed joint The horizontal layer of mortar on which the brick is laid.
  • Concave joint A joint with a concave surface, aka ironed joint.
  • Cross joint See perpend.
  • Flush joint Joint trowelled to a smooth surface flush with the brickwork.
  • Head joint See perpend.
  • Ironed joint see concave joint.
  • Raked joint Joint raked out to give a key for plaster or to accentuate the line of the joints.
  • Struck joint A trowelled finish leaving the mortar  at a slight angle to the face of the brickwork with the upper edge flush with the brick face and a shallow ledge below. Prefer a weatherstruck joint.
  • Weatherstruck joint A trowelled finish similar to  a struck joint but with the lower edge flush with the brick face. More durable than a struck joint.
Brick joint finishes types

Jointing sand

Fine sand that is swept and vibrated to fill the vertical joints between pavers. Bedding sand is not always satisfactory as a jointing sand. Aka gap sand.


Kiln scum

A deposit of salts baked onto the surface of a clay masonry unit during firing.

kN (kilonewton)

See units of measure.


Lateral support (of walls)

Vertical or horizontal wall bracing by buttresses or crosswalls, or by floor or roof constructions. In brick veneer construction lateral support is provided by the loadbearing frame to which the brickwork is connected, usually with ties.


The section of a wall built up and stepped back on successive courses at the corner of a building. A stringline is attached to the leads and the wall is then built up between them.


Each continuous vertical thickness of brickwork. Also called skin and sometimes, incorrectly, withe (or wythe).

Lime pitting

Aka pitting due to lime particles or lime blowing. Lime particles on the face of a clay masonry unit that expand when contacted by water causing a particle or particles to break off the surface.

Lime putty

Hydrated lime in a plastic form ready to be added to mortar.


See hydrated lime.


A beam of  various  materials,  including reinforced brickwork, placed over an opening in   a wall to carry the superimposed weight above.


The situation where a brick, or bricks, have been laid with one edge set in or out from the wall plane.


See brick sand.


Manufacturing size

See work size.


An assembly of bricks, blocks or stone held together with mortar.

Masonry (unit)

A brick, block, stone or similar building unit.
  • Clay masonry unit Generic term encompassing clay bricks and blocks.

Masonry cement

A factory-prepared mixture of cement, plasticising agent and sometimes colouring agents and waterproofers. Sand and water are added on the site to prepare mortar.

Modular brick

See brick.

Moisture expansion

An increase of the dimensions of a fired clay unit after exposure to moist air. The total expansion varies with different clays, manufacturing and firing methods. Aka brick growth.


A plastic mixture of cementitious materials, fine aggregate (sand) and water that is required to comply with the Building Code of Australia and

AS 3700
mortar type



Portland cement
blended cement



the relevant standards referenced by that code.
  • Cement mortar A mortar composed of one part of cement to three parts of sand. Up to one quarter part of lime may be added. (All measurements are by volume.)
  • Composition mortar Often called compo. A mortar composed of any one of the following proportions by volume:
  • Fat mortar A plastic, workable mortar,  containing  a high proportion of fine grained plasticising material.
  • Harsh mortar A mortar that has poor workability and is difficult to spread. Also called hungry mortar.
  • Lean mortar A mortar that has a small proportion of cementitious material.
  • Lime mortar A mortar composed of one part of hydrated lime to three parts of sand.
  • Mortar aggregate Fine granular material (sand) composed of hard, strong and durable mineral products free from injurious amounts of saline, alkaline, organic or other deleterious substances.

Mortar joint

See joint.

Movement joint (or gap)

See control gap.

MPa (megapascal)

See units of measure.


New building bloom

A heavy efflorescence appearing on the surface of newly completed brickwork. Usually not harmful and is easily removed or weathers off in a short time.


A small brickwork projection from the wall face.

Nominal size (of bricks)

See work size.


Overhand work

The process of building a wall with the face away from the bricklayer.


See shaped brick.


Parapet wall

See wall.


The process of applying a coat of mortar to the back of the facing material or the face of the backing material, commonly used on the inside of a chimney flue. Aka pargetting.

Party wall

See wall.


See clay paver.

Paving patterns

Twelve popular paving patterns



The vertical mortar joint between the heads of bricks. Better known as a perp, aka head joint or cross joint.

Pier and panel construction

Walls, usually free-standing, in which the lateral stability is dependant to some degree upon the support provided by piers.


A column of brickwork.
  • Isolated pier A freestanding pier that may or may not be loadbearing. Aka isolated, sleeper or detached pier.
  • Engaged pier A pier that is bonded to a wall. Also called an attached pier or pilaster. 

Pig (in a wall)

A situation where for any given height at both ends of a wall, there is a different number of courses.


See admixture (or additive).


See pier – engaged pier.


See admixture (or additive).

Plinth brick

See shaped brick.


Trowelling mortar into a joint after the brick is laid.
  • Tuckpointing A process traditionally used to artificially create the appearance of brickwork of great precision. Achieved by raking the joints and filling them flush with a mortar coloured to match the bricks. A thin joint, usually of white mortar, is applied to the surface and trimmed on each side.


The volume of the pore space of a brick expressed as a percentage of the total volume of the piece. Compare absorption.



Exterior brickwork corner. See also dogs tooth, squint quoin and shaped brick – squint brick.



Method of building the end of a wall by stepping back each course so that it can be built on to and against without toothers. See also lead.

Raked joint

See joint.

Rat-trap bond

A hollow wall with the two leaves connected across the cavity by header ties alternating with a stretcher, usually in every sixth course.
Traditional size bricks are laid on edge to create the cavity.

Reinforced brickwork

Masonry reinforced with embedded steel causing the two materials to act together in resisting forces.

Reinforced grouted cavity brickwork

Brickwork in which the continuous cavity contains the steel reinforcement and is filled with grout as the wall is built. No headers are used in this type of construction.


  1. The action of mixing additional water into the mortar set out on the bricklayers' boards to replace the water lost by evaporation.
  2. The bad practice of adding fresh cement to partially-set mortar.


Any surface turned back from the face of the principal surface.


That portion of a jamb or recess visible from the face of a wall back to the frame placed between jambs.

Rigid pavement

A pavement that relies on a rigid layer, such as a concrete  slab,  to distribute superimposed loads to the subgrade.


Ungraded and unsorted fired clay bricks from a single kiln.

R value

See units of measure.


Salt attack/damp

Fretting of bricks and/or mortar caused by the drying out of water within brickwork that contains salts in solution. The resulting salt crystals frequently occupy a larger volume than their parent solution and can exert sufficient force in their formation to damage the brick face. See also moisture expansion.


See mortar – mortar aggregate.

Shaped brick

A brick with non-standard geometry, designed  to be used in conjunction with standard units for decorative purposes or to allow formations not readily achievable with standard units. Aka brick shapes, special shape bricks, specials.

Sill brick

See shaped brick.

Sill course

See string course and shaped brick.

Skew back

The brick from which an arch springs.


See leaf.

Sleeper wall

See wall.

Snap (or snapped) header

A half brick (bat) laid with its head exposed, but not extending through the thickness of the wall as a bonding header.


The underside of a beam, lintel, arch, reveal or suspended slab floor.

Soft burned

Clay units fired at low temperatures resulting in relatively high absorptions and low compressive strengths. See also brick – callow brick.


A brick laid on its end so that its greatest dimension is vertical.

Solid (brickwork)

  1. A leaf or two or more leaves of brickwork bonded to form a composite element.
  2. Colloquial term for cavity brickwork (see full- brick (construction)).


A small fragment removed from the face of a brick by a blow or by the action of the elements.


See arch.

Spandrel wall

See wall.

Special brick/Special shape brick

See shaped brick.


See arch.

Squint quoin

A salient angle or corner of a wall other than a right angle. See also shaped brick – squint brick.

Stack bond

See bond – stack bond.


Any structure or part of a structure, partly or wholly exposed to the atmosphere, that contains one or more flues for the discharge of gases. Commonly called a chimney or chimney stack.

Staggered wall

A wall incorporating alternating left and right hand returns, often used to increase the walls' stability.

Story rod (pole)

See gauge rod.

Straight joint

Two or more perpends in line in succeeding courses.

Stretcher bond

See bond – stretcher bond.


A brick laid with its greatest dimension parallel to the face of the wall.

String course

Sometimes called belt course or sill course. A narrow, horizontal course of brickwork, often moulded and usually slightly projected or otherwise contrasting with the rest of the wall.

Stringing mortar

The procedure of spreading enough mortar on the bed joint to lay more than one brick.

Struck joint

See joint.


The upper part of the soil, natural or  constructed, that supports the loads transmitted by the overlying pavement layers (see flexible pavement).

Suction (rate)

See initial rate of absorption (IRA).

Surface course

A layer of pavers on a bedding course that act as a wearing course and a major structural element of the pavement (see flexible pavement).


Target size

See work size.


To moisten and mix mortar to the proper consistency for use.

Thermal inertia (of brickwork)

The characteristic of brickwork that dampens internal temperature fluctuations. See also volumetric heat capacity.

Thermal mass

See volumetric heat capacity.

Tie (wall)

A unit used to link the two leaves of a cavity wall or to attach the single masonry leaf of brick-veneer construction to its supporting frame.


Laying bricks so that the top edges project from the wall plane surface.

Tip jointing

Placing the mortar on one (or sometimes both) edges of the head of the brick before placing in the wall. Compared with buttering this gives poor quality work.


Compressing and shaping the face of a mortar joint with a special tool other than a trowel.


A brick projecting from the end of a wall against which another wall is to be built.


The temporary end of a wall built so that the   end stretcher of every alternate course projects.


See pointing.

Tumbling in

Tilted courses of sloping brickwork


Units of measure

  • dB (decibel) A measure of sound level
  • em value An estimate of the amount of growth expected over the 15 years after the clay masonry unit has left the kiln. See moisture expansion.
  • kN (kilonewton) A measure of force
  • MPa (megapascal) A measure of pressure
  • R value A measure of thermal resistance, that is the resistance given by a wall to the transmission of heat. The reciprocal of  U value.
  • U value The thermal transmittance value, that is the ease with which heat  moves through a wall. The reciprocal of R-value



Trace constituent of some clays and fuels that produces non-destructive yellow or green stains, usually on light coloured clay bricks.

Veneered wall

See wall – veneered wall.


That characteristic of a clay product resulting when the kiln temperature is sufficient to fuse the grains and close the pores of the clay, making the mass impervious.

Volumetric heat capacity (of brickwork)

The amount of heat energy brickwork can store per unit of mass. Unit: kJ/m3.


(Pronounced vuh-swa.) Aka arch brick. See arch.


Wall plate

A horizontal member, usually of wood, secured to masonry and to which the frame, usually a roof frame, is attached.

Wall tie

See tie.


  • Base wall  That portion of a wall below the level   of the adjacent grade, or below the structure of the lower floor.
  • Bearing wall A wall that supports a substantially vertical load in addition to its own weight.
  • Brick veneer wall See brick-veneer (construction).
  • Cavity wall See full-brick (construction).
  • Dwarf wall A wall or partition that does not extend to the ceiling; also an interior wall between the topmost ceiling level and the finished roof level. Any low wall. Also used for the wall that supports the floor joists. Aka sleeper wall.
  • Exterior wall Any outside wall or  vertical enclosure of a building other than a party wall.
  • Foundation wall See base wall.
  • Parapet wall That part of any wall entirely above the roof line.
  • Party wall A wall used for joint service by adjoining buildings.
  • Sleeper wall See dwarf wall.
  • Spandrel wall  That part of a wall above the top  of a window in one storey and below the sill of the window in the storey above. See also arch.
  • Veneered wall A wall in which the facing and backing are tied together, but not bonded in a manner that ensures common action under load. Compare brick-veneer (construction).

Water absorption

See absorption, water.

Water repellent

See admixture (or additive).

Water retention

The mortar property that prevents the rapid loss of water to bricks of high suction (initial rate of absorption) and `bleeding' when the mortar is in contact with relatively impervious units.

Wearing surface

The surface designated by the clay paver manufacturer to be laid upmost and trafficked.


A sloping surface arranged to throw rainwater clear of the face of lower brickwork.

Weatherstruck joint

See joint.


Openings placed in perpend joints above the level of flashing to permit the escape of water collected by the flashing. Also used in retaining walls to drain water from the rear face of the  wall and prevent the development of hydrostatic pressure.

Withe (or wythe)

Traditionally, the continuous brick partition between flues in a chimney stack but frequently used to describe any single leaf of brickwork.

Work size

Unit dimensions adopted for manufacture. Previously known as manufacturing size, target size or nominal size.

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