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Masonry crews rely on various patterns, or bonds, when setting bricks. The type of brick bond chosen can impact everything from the appearance and a wall or other structure to its strength and durability over time. Different types of brick bonds are determined based on which side of the brick is positioned towards the outside of the structure, as well as how the bricks are placed in relation to one another. The three main types of brick bonds include English, Flemish, and stretcher, though many variations of these patterns can also be used when laying brick.
To understand different types of brick bonds, it is helpful to understand the name used to describe different brick positions. For example, a brick placed so that its large face is parallel to the ground, and its longest side facing out is known as a stretcher. When the stretcher is turned so that it sits perpendicular to the ground, it is called a soldier. If the short end of the brick is placed parallel to the ground and facing out, it is called a header. Headers turned perpendicular to the ground are known as rowlocks.
English, or Old English patterns represent the oldest and strongest type of brick bonds. This pattern consists of alternating rows of stretchers and headers, so that a full horizontal row of stretchers is sandwiched between full rows of headers. English bonds are very durable because the brick joints are unlikely to overlap. This bond pattern is also considered visually appealing, though less so than some newer bond designs.
Flemish brick bonds date back to the Tudor period in England, when masons were looking for a more attractive alternative to traditional English bonds. In a Flemish bond, masons alternate stretchers and headers within the same row, and each row follows a similar pattern. This bond is not as strong or durable as English bond, but is considered much more decorative.
The majority of modern structures were built using a running, or stretcher bond pattern. With this design, stretchers are placed end to end along the length of a row. The stretchers above and below this row are staggered to prevent the joints from lining up. Stretcher patterns are quick and easy to build, and thus less expensive than other brick bonds. At the same time, they are also less durable and offer much less decorative appeal.
Any of these brick bonds can be modified using special masonry techniques. With diapering patterns, masons use different colored bricks to emphasize the patterns in traditional English or Flemish bonds. A single course brick bond that differs from the rest of the structure is known as a stringer, while a unique brick pattern used at the top of a wall is known as a cornice.