A Guide to Building with Brick in the 1920's
WHEN the choice of the material for a home is being considered, the essential qualities that are desirable—permanence and style, strength and beauty—point directly to face brick. Durable as the eternal hills, it is proof against the corrosion of the seasons and the ravages of fire, thus reducing the cost of maintenance and depreciation to a minimum; and, beautiful in its varied colors and textures as the finest fabrics, it offers to the eye an artistic charm that meets the most refined and discriminating taste.
Structurally bricks are the soundest possible material. In the first place, the size and form of brick make them an easy material to handle and adaptable to the master mason's skillful craftsmanship. He builds them one by one into a solid wall fabric strong and durable. Then the brick themselves, hardened and matured in fire, submit to the heaviest pressures and resist both the attacks of flame and the corrosions of time. Brick may well be called an everlasting material because they neither burn nor decay. Their history affords sufficient testimony, and the scene of any conflagration shows the brick walls and chimneys as solemn witnesses of their enduring strength.
From an artistic point of view, brick can make equally strong claims to consideration. An endless variety of color tones and textures are offered for your choice which you may use in uniform shades, or, preferably, in blended shades of the most delicate and charming effects. No other building material can approach face brick in the possibility of color schemes for the wall surface, either within or without,—and the colors last, for they are an integral part of the enduring brick.
But to the artistic effect of the brick texture and color must be added the artistic effects secured by the treatment of the bond and mortar joint. The manner in which the brick are made to overlap in the wall has a decided influence on the result, and the mortar joint, in color, size, and kind is likewise of importance in the final effect. The mortar joint may spoil or make the beauty of your wall.
The great improvement that has taken place in the manufacture of brick in recent years has been a large factor in increasing the popularity of this material. Years ago good brickwork was supposed to call for bricks of absolutely uniform shape with perfect, sharp edges and laid in the wall with a mortar joint that appeared only as a hair line on the surface. This extreme mechanical perfection resulted in a wall that was entirely flat and wholly without any life or interest, and it was but natural that when brick was suggested as a material for a home people thought of ugly factories and warehouses and were not enthusiastic about it.
This is all changed now, due to the greater intelligence with which brick is used, and there is today no other material that combines so well the qualities of dignity and beauty. The wide range of colors and textures now available gives the architect and builder an opportunity to provide homes of great charm.
Solid brick construction is most enduring and is steadily growing in favor owing to the low cost of upkeep which in a few years offers sufficient saving to offset the extra cost at the start. In cases where people want the exterior appearance of a brick house but cannot afford the cost of solid masonry a good form of construction is brick veneer over wood studding. The bricks are tied to the boarding, either with metal strips laid in the joints and attached to the wall or by nails driven in above the brick so that they are bedded in the mortar joint. Brick veneer, of course, makes it difficult to have the advantage of the many attractive bonds that are possible in solid brick construction but the advantages of color, texture and mortar joint are present which make the exterior appearance, to all intents and purposes, the same as solid brick.
There are many architectural styles eminently suitable for brick construction, in fact many of the most pleasing architectural forms have been developed around the use of brick. There is the simple colonial style which is increased in dignity by the permanence of brick, and in interest through its color. Then there are the many variations of English houses which range from the formal Georgian type, similar to our colonial, through the Tudor and Elizabethan forms with stone trim and attractive gables, to the picturesque type based on the English cottage. To increase the picturesque effect in these latter types brick is frequently used in combination with other materials such as half timber treatment, the panels between timbers being filled in with brick laid in patterns or with stucco.
Brick may satisfactorily be used in either a simple or an elaborate architectural scheme; there are practically no limitations and it is certain that, whatever style is chosen, the exterior effect in brick is more striking than when other materials are used, because of the wonderful glowing color a brick wall possesses. As the years go by the brick wall improves in appearance; it takes on new beauty which, combined with the color of vines and shrubs, presents a true picture of "home" at all seasons of the year.
The economic merits of the face brick house are striking. From the very nature of the material and its construction you save on upkeep or maintenance, on depreciation, on insurance rates, on fuel, and even on doctor's bills. Bricks do not decay, they require no paint, their depreciation is practically nil, they make a tight wall that saves fuel, and a sanitary one that prevents vermin.
When it comes to sentimental reasons, your sense of satisfaction in having a substantial and attractive house, of justifiable pride and self-respect in possessing a home of distinction which your friends and neighbors admire, is a sort of imponderable value really worth more than money.
The building of a home is the most important undertaking in your life, not only because it is the center and symbol of the family, but because from the practical money point of view, it involves a considerable investment. You don't build a home every year or every decade. It must, therefore, satisfy you in every way; you must build right, for when the house is built, it is too late to change if you are dissatisfied. Your only wisdom, therefore, in building a home is to make it a valuable permanent investment, thoroughly satisfactory to yourself and to others who, if circumstances require, may take it off your hands to your advantage. The choice of brick will be an important factor in achieving this result.
Source: "Home Builders Plan Book" 1921