Determining the Era of Mason Materials
For the purpose of restoration and repair projects, it is sometimes helpful for contractors and/or homeowners to know the age of the bricks used. Masonry bricks have histories that can be traced by for centuries. There are a couple of secrets to determining the era of materials used on your home or project at hand including some self-inspections techniques as well as some ways to solicit expert guesses.
To begin, examine for surface details. Bricks from early construction periods may contain straw or grass marks, will likely have uneven shapes, and will be larger than modern day bricks. Though bricks can still be handmade today, they are costly, time consuming, and otherwise inefficient, so it is likely that these characteristics are those of more historical masonry.
Sometimes just feeling the bricks will reveal some uniqueness that will help verify the era in which it was made. Those made after the sixteen hundreds will have a frog. This is an indentation that was meant to hold the mortar. This feature will be absent on water struck or solid brick whish will also be smooth, and uniform reflecting pressed production.
Manufactures bricks, in short those that are not handmade and therefore more modern, will usually be stamped or otherwise marked with a company name, logo, or location of the quarry either on the frog depression or on the face of the brick itself.
Other tricks to help identify the period in which a brick was made include color and surface textures. If there are variations in color and/or fold lines, there is indication that a clamp kiln was used. Clamp kilns were used in early manufacturing and this unevenness in hue and texture is a tale-tell sign of the era. Most modern products are cut from lengthened and pliable clay materials after which they are dried in a closed kiln are nearly two-thousand degrees.
If you are working with an expert, you may be able to make these determinations on your own; however, you can take a sample of the brick to a local masonry yard and solicit expertise in determining the age. They may be able to do a chemical analysis in an attempt to identify its construction process and contained materials. Knowing this will be helpful in making an accurate estimation of age. You can also find records in your county recorder’s office on your home or project detailing the time in which your home was built and an abstract on any previous restorations or repairs. The time period in which your home was built will give several clues about the type of masonry.
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