Studying historic brickwork can provide
important information about methods of production and construction.
For example, the color, size, shape and texture of brick reveals
whether it was hand molded and traditionally fired in a clamp
with hardwoods, or whether it was machine molded and fired in
a kiln using modern fuels.
Similarly, the principal component part
of masonry mortar, the lime or cement, reveals whether it was
produced in a traditional or modern manner. Certain questions
need to be asked during investigation. Is the mortar made with
a natural or a Portland cement? If a natural cement, did it come
from an oyster shell or a limestone source? Is it hydrated or
As a construction unit, brick and mortar
further reveal something about the time, place and human variables
of construction, such as the type of bond, special brick shapes,
decorative uses of glazed or rubbed brick, coatings and finishes,
and different joints, striking and tooling. Does the bond conform
with neighboring or regional buildings of the same period? Does
the pattern of "make up" bricks in a Flemish Bond indicate
the number of different bricklayers? What is the method of attaching
wood trim to the masonry?
The same types of questions related to
production and construction characteristics can be applied to
all types of masonry work, including stone, concrete, terra cotta,
adobe and coquina construction. A complete survey undertaken during
"surface mapping" can outline the materials and construction
practices for the various periods of a structure, distinguishing
the original work as well as the additions, alterations, and replacements.