Treatments > Architectural Conservation Assessment > The Process of Architectural Investigation >

Architectural Evidence: Studying the Fabric of the Historic Building

• Masonry Briefs


• Examples of bonding patterns
• Examples of "flash" and "range" in brick.
• Sand struck, water struck
• Stone in RI...local, import...some examples


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 hydraulic?

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.