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Your Guide to Special Shaped Bricks

June 4th 2019

Your Guide to Special Shaped Bricks

Looking to spruce up your home or next brickwork project with something unique? Perhaps you need to build a curved wall or form a non-right-angled corner? Look no further than special shaped bricks. Available in a variety of shapes, colours and materials, special shaped bricks can enhance the aesthetics and mood of any brick surface. They provide architects with more flexibility and offer functional solutions to designing distinct buildings using non-standard brickwork.

However, there are many types of special shaped bricks to choose from and finding the right type can be a challenge. That's why we've put together this brief guide to help you quickly understand how special shaped bricks are manufactured, where you can use them, and the different kinds that are available.

What are Special Shaped Bricks?

Look around any brick building and you'll likely notice irregular-shaped bricks along corners, edges, door frames and arches. These special shaped bricks ("specials") have been used for thousands of years in different architectural styles and decorative designs. Although specials were originally cut and manufactured in small batches for specific purposes, nowadays special shaped bricks are just as easy to order or customise as regular bricks and play an important role in many projects.

How are Special Shaped Bricks Manufactured?

Some specials are mass produced for common usage, but for the most part, special shaped bricks are tailored specifically for each project.

Special shaped bricks need to be carefully managed, monitored and manufactured. Due to the irregular shape and size, the amount of detail and care required to create a special shaped brick is greater than that of a standard brick.

Specials need a specific amount of heat and are often fired in a different kiln than standard bricks. This means they are sometimes produced in a separate plant and can contain slight colour variations from their standard brick counterpart. Standard bricks can also have finished faces that can only occur when the bricks are stacked together. Since the angular nature of specials prevents stacking, the finish of a special brick will be slightly different. Although, with developments in the industry, many modern brick manufacturers can now create special shaped bricks that match the colour and texture of any standard brick so that they appear identical.

Cut and Bond Specials

Whilst the best way to use special shaped bricks is to use those made specifically manufactured for that use, there is a time-saving alternative if you simply cannot wait. The process uses regular shaped bricks, cut and bonded together to make the shape needed. This process means that there may be a slight seam on the brick, or other evidence of cutting, where the specifically manufactured ones will be seamless. However this process can be done in a few days.

How to Use Special Shaped Bricks

Specials can be used in a manner of ways. Besides the aesthetic advantages, special shaped bricks can also be used to renovate, restore and protect portions of brickwork. For example, many people lay special shaped bricks to add durability to a pre-existing brick structure, improve the bond between new bricks, and prevent mortar problems.

You can also save time on site by avoiding the hassle of cutting standard bricks to fit a particular measurement. Order the right special shaped bricks in advance, and all your materials are pre-cut and ready to mortar.

For individual projects, special shaped bricks are a great way to create a distinct aesthetic that sets your brickwork apart from others. You can highlight your original brickwork by introducing "plinth" bricks that have a different colour or texture. Or you can upgrade your current brick element with special shaped bricks that match the colour and texture. You can create arches, spirals and subtle finishes to corners and frames that can alter the mood and ambience of a room or building.

Kinds of Special Shaped Bricks

There are many special brick sizes, shapes and variants. Special bricks are categorised based on how they're used - some are designed for very specific purposes, while others, such as bonding bricks, are frequently utilised in brick structures.

Below are the main groups of special shaped bricks and a description of their typical applications.

Bonding Bricks

Bonding bricks are cuboid bricks that are often utilised to fill gaps that would have required cutting a standard brick. While bricklayers may still cut standard bricks to fill a specific measurement, it's common to use bonding bricks if there are many instances that require non-standard bricks. They're also utilised when a standard brick proves difficult to cut.

Plinth Bricks

Plinth bricks are angled at 45 degrees and are typically used to change the depth of brickwork at the base. The sharp cuts and shapes on plinth bricks also make them perfect for detailing hard lines on returns, window sills, kerbs, capping and corbelling details.

Angle and Cant Bricks

As the name implies, angle bricks serve a functional purpose and allow a building to carry an angle other than 90 degrees (i.e. 30, 45 and 60-degree angles). Cant bricks provide clean and crisp lines to create chamfered features on door, corner and window openings. These can also be used as decorative capping for walling too.

Arch Bricks

Arch bricks are double tapered in length or width so that they can be placed together to create an archway or other curved elements, such as a circular window.

Bullnose Bricks

Featuring a smooth rounded edge on either one or two sides of a brick, bullnose bricks provide a soft and subtle transition for corners, windows and doors. Bullnose bricks are visually appealing and are great for making doorways, windows and corners feel open and welcoming. They are also used as decorative capping for walling.

Radial Bricks

Radial bricks are often used to create industrial chimneys, but can also be employed as an aesthetic device for curved and wavy structures. Radial bricks provide circular details without the aid of tapered joints.

Soldier Bricks

Soldier bricks are laid vertically and are primarily used for aesthetic purposes. They can complement or contrast the details on a brick surface by breaking up portions of the original brick pattern or highlighting particular areas of the brickwork.

Pistol Bricks

Pistol bricks are similar to soldier bricks in that they're vertical, but in this case, they're designed to hide the metal angles of a multi-storey structural frame. Rather than leaving the metal exposed, Pistol bricks create a seamless transition between brick and support.

Coping and Cappings

Coping bricks resemble a half-moon and are used as a decorative finish for parapet walls in order to protect the brickwork beneath. Cappings are designed to sit flush against a vertical wall, while copings project out from the wall.

Use Special Shaped Bricks in Your Next Project

Special shaped bricks can revitalise a pre-existing brick structure or add a splash of design to a new brick surface.

Interested in how you can apply special shaped bricks to your next project? Contact Us for more information. We'll estimate the cost of your special shaped bricks and help you match, customise and calculate the exact amount of bricks you need for your project.