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Bricks as garden paving; you can use bricks in all kinds of situations ... and patterns.

A rich palette of colors and broad range of styles make brick a top choice for garden paving. With the dozens of kinds now available, it offers more options than any other paving material.

Bold earth tones such as terra-cotta and sepia give patios and walkways warmth and intensity. Newer colors come in soft beiges, toast browns, delicate pinks, and pale grays; their quieter look blends handsomely with contemporary architecture and all kinds of plants.

Small size and shape make brick easy to work with and adaptable, whether it's used across a large area for entertaining and family activities, to define a formal entrance, or to cover a small patio.

And patterns are limited only by the imagination. Brick can be arranged in ways ranging from geometric to curvilinear, in simple to intricate designs.

Character comes from the clay

Brick's history dates back at least 6,000 years. Clay is first mixed with water, then it's machine-extruded or sometimes hand-molded into bricks and fired in a kiln. The color is a direct result of the clay's chemical composition and way it's fired.

Traditional "brick" color is orange-red (any clay containing iron will burn red when exposed to an oxidizing fire), but that color can vary from reddish brown to purplish red according to the source of the clay and the manufacturer.

Until fairly recently, brick supplies were regional. Color choices depended on local clays used to make them. Now many manufacturers distribute throughout the country, greatly increasing the number of colors available. Some also add minerals to alter the color of brick. Manganese can give a metallic blue tone to clay. Iron can give the clay a dark speckling.

Certain manufacturers offer what's called a color blend--dark, medium, and light bricks in the same batch--which gives the paved surface a less uniform appearance. Other colors are achieved by "flashing" brick in the kiln. Flashed brick is fired unevenly to darken either its face (large surface) or edge. Depending on how brick is set in the kiln, one side will have an even color and the other will look mottled.

When choosing a flashed brick, check to see which surface is mottled. If the mottling is on the face and you use it face-up, the surface color will be very irregular-looking. If you don't like this uneven look, choose another kind of brick.

Pay attention to size, texture, porosity

Brick is most often selected by color. But there are other considerations.

Dimensions vary according to the manufacturer. For one company, a standard size might be 2 1/4 by 3 5/8 by 7 5/8 inches. For another, it may be 2 1/2 by 3 7/8 by 8 1/4.

Other sizes include split (half as thick as standard brick); thin (3/8 to 1/2 inch thick), also called veneer, which must be applied on a concrete base and set in mortar; and Norman (about 11 1/2 inches long). The thinner type are usually used where thick bricks won't fit, such as around a doorway with a low threshold.

Size is particularly important when choosing a pattern. For instance, not all brick works for a basket-weave pattern (shown at far right). For the bricks to nest properly when set in sand, their length must be twice their width. But when using mortar, you must account for the 3/8-inch mortar joints.

If you decide to mix several kinds of brick in a pattern, make sure the lengths and widths of all the bricks are exactly the same. Otherwise, they must be cut to fit.

Depending on how the bricks were made, surface texture may be rough or smooth (the smoothest ones may be too slippery for paving). Hand-molded bricks have both a rough texture and slightly irregular shape. Bricks can also be tumbled for an old look or have rounded edges (sometimes eferred to as a paver).

Bricks' porosity (density) also varies according to the manufacturer. Porous bricks absorb moisture much more readily than dense ones, making them prone to staining. If they're used around a pool or for an entertaining area, you may want to seal them once a year with a clear sealer. The supplier can tell you whether or not a brick is porous.

In cold-winter climates, some brick is more apt to deteriorate from freezing and thawing; use SW (severe weathering) grade brick in these regions.

Deciding on a design

Countless patterns can be created when designing with brick, and each one elicits a different reaction.

In small spaces, a simple pattern enlarges the feel, but a complicated one gives the area special emphasis.

A simple running-bond pattern (rows of bricks running in one direction with ends aligning in alternate rows) can be flowing or monotonous, depending on the scale of the area. Running lengthwise, it gives a feeling of depth; side to side gives the illusion of width. Set diagonally, it can direct the eye toward a point of interest.

A herringbone pattern (shown at left) provides a sense of formality, while basket weave (right) is more causal. A circular pattern (shown on page 49) creates a sense of flow and motion in the garden.

If you wnt to unify an area, use a simple pattern. But to break up the monotomy of a large driveway or path, you can combine (in moderation) several patterns or intersperse a few different colors of brick in the basic one.

Patterns can also direct traffic or mark boundaries. If set with the flow of travel, running-bond or herringbone patterns can lead walkers along a path. Changing a pattern midway can halt or slow traffic, or attract attention. Introducing a new pattern provides a transition from one area of the garden to the next.

To temper the intensity of strongly colored brick, combine it with other paving materials, such as cobbles or flagstone.

Mortar or mortarless?

Whether you lay bricks in a rigid or flexible setting depends on the look you want and whether you plan to install them yourself (see below).

Brick set in sand or rock fines (a mix of grain sizes) is casual-looking and less uniform, with more textural variations. This method appears to diminish the size of large spaces. It also allows percolation, which is important when installing a patio over tree roots. Bricks can move around and may have to be reset, but repairs are easier than with grouted bricks. Rock fines are usually superior to sand because of their ability to compact and bind well.

When set in mortar and grouted, brick has cleaner lines, which can give a design a formal or contemporary look. The surface is easier to clean and better for walking in high heels (if joints are wider than 1/4 inch).

The grout is a very important part of the overall design. Browns soften or blend with the design, whereas lighter colors like blues, greens, and grays may emphasize it.

Should you install brick yourself?

If you're a novice, stick with simple patterns and shapes or you'll quickly get in over your head. The more complicated the pattern and shape of the area, the more cuts will be needed during installation and the more difficult the job will be.

The easiest installation is brick set in sand or rock fines. The base must be even, well packed, and have good drainage. Don't skimp on the depth of the base; it should be 2 to 4 inches thick. Brick set in mortar must be laid on a concrete base.

Take time to learn how to do the job properly. For help, consult Basic Masonry Illustrated (Sunset Publishing Corporation, Menlo Park, Calif., 1981; $7.95) or call the Brick Institute in your area (look in the yellow pages under Associations).

Where to find brick

Building supply companies that specialize in masonry materials like brick and natural stone offer the most complete range of colors and styles. Look in the yellow pages under Brick or Building Materials. Cost ranges from about 25 cents to $1.50.

You may want to shop around, since suppliers in the same region may stock different types of brick. Small companies often carry only the standard colors and sizes.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Aug 1, 1991
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