Affordable Detailing Suggestions
Keep the Masonry Rectangular
Brick and blocks come in rectilinear pieces and are easiest to install in straight walls with 90-degree corners. We can build curves and odd angles, but this is more expensive. If you want to maximize your budget, let the masonry be square and do the odd angles and swooping curves with other materials.
Lay the Masonry Out in Modular Dimensions
Both brick and block come in repeatable, modular units. The wall will look best, weather well and be most economical if you lay the wall out so the doors and windows are spaced at modular dimensions in the wall. This means that the mason can build the infill wall with full length and half-length bricks and blocks. Use nominal dimensions for this layout. For instance, if you are using 8” nominal brick (7-5/8” actual length), you should call for door and window openings that can be divided by 4”. For a simpler approach, you do not have to “course the building” if you do not interrupt the panel of brick with cuts for doors and windows. Using high clerestory windows or a low wainscot of brick avoids this coordination of materials.
Vary the Scale of the Masonry to Bring Your Design to Life
Brick comes in many different sizes. Concrete block can also be manufactured in varying modules. Natural stone can obviously be cut to any size you need. A designer can use this scale shift to create a rich and subtle patchwork of color and texture. A work or warning: Do not use a piece of brick, block or stone that is larger than 12” x 24” or 16” x 16”. Pieces larger than these limits need to be installed with heavy-gauge metal stone anchors and sealant instead of mortar.
Let the Changes in Material Define the Masses of the Building
Try to see your building in three dimensions. Architects who spend too much time looking at flat elevations are often disappointed when they see the finished building “in the round”. If you change materials arbitrarily at an outside corner, it emphasizes the thin quality of the masonry veneer and makes the building look cheap. Carry the masonry around the corner and change to another material where the masses of the building change plane. This will help define your building as a complex, three-dimensional object. Don’t forget to install backer rod and sealant where you change materials. The soft joint allows the different materials to move independently and keeps water out of your building.
Use Earth-toned Colors
Most bricks get their color from the color of the clay used to make the brick. Although there are many shades and textures of brick, most are earth tones. You can order brick which has a ceramic glaze fired onto the face of the brick. This glazed finish can be any color you choose, but they are pricey. Glazed bricks cost about ten times as much as standard bricks. Concrete block is naturally gray but integral colorants can be added to the mix during manufacture to tint the block any of a hundred shades. Adding colorant raises the price of the block by 30 to 50 percent. Most of these integral colorants are earth-toned. The designer can specify a decorative finish on the block—smooth faced, ground faced, split faced, fluted or scored. You can also get block with a shiny, glazed finish on one or two faces. As with brick, glazed finishes are expensive. Stone, obviously, gets its color from the earth. You can, however, change its appearance by changing the texture of the stone. Stone finishes range from smooth, shiny polished surfaces to honed (matte), flamed (lightly textured) and deeply rusticated textures.
Use Expensive Detailing Sparingly
Don’t avoid expensive detailing entirely. Just be judicious about where you use it. An arch over the front door or a deeply shadowed corbel at the top of the chimney might not be as expensive as you might think because they are limited in scope. Both cover a relatively small portion of the building but pack a big decorative punch.
Resource: Rock Mountain Masonry Institute – www.rmmi.org