Simple Decorative Work


Despite an individual brick being nothing more than a simple cuboid, bricks may be combined together in many different ways in order to create visually stunning decorative patterns and shapes of enormous complexity. These decorative applications can be greatly enhanced by the myriad of brick colours and textures that are available. The results certainly give some credence to the notion that a bricklayer is not just a craftsman, but an ‘artist in burnt clay’. The aim here is to provide some ideas for enhancing the appearance of the type of brickwork already described, using a number of simple decorative applications. In addition, there is a vast array of brickwork in the built environment, which can give additional inspiration.

By its very nature, decorative brickwork is intended to draw attention to visual features in the walling and to be a focal point in itself. With this in mind, it is vital to consider the following key points:

• All decorative work must be truly level and plumb.

• The angles at which bricks are laid must be carefully checked.

• Any projecting or oversailing brickwork must be carefully lined in to the edge or arris to which the eye-line will be drawn. The general rule, for example, is that work at a high level, above head height, should be lined in to the

bottom edge, and the reverse is the case for work at a low level. There are some exceptions to this rule and these will be highlighted.

• Any cuts should be carefully marked out and cut neatly and accurately.

• Individual bricks for decorative work should be carefully selected and any defective and/or damaged bricks should be rejected.

• Bricks used for decorative features should be carefully selected to be of uniform size. Any variations will be very noticeable and will spoil the overall effect, with over – or undersized bricks resulting in uneven mortar joints.

• The location of decorative features should be carefully

chosen. Many such features can interfere with the bonding arrangement of the main wall and, in themselves, sacrifice structural strength in favour of aesthetics. Accordingly, they should not be used in significant load-bearing situations: for example, a

decorative panel on an isolated gate pier would be acceptable but not where the pier is supporting the end of a structural beam.

• Concentration is required when building decorative features – there is nothing worse than suddenly remembering that a contrasting-coloured brick should have been inserted six courses ago!