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< prev - next > Construction Clay bricks KnO 100076_Assessing the technical problems of brick production (Printable PDF)
These notes should help identify
brickmakers’ technical problems. The
problems need to be identified correctly
for a solution to be found; not always
easy when faced with a faulty brick or
batch of bricks. So, the notes try to
highlight the main problems, the
reasons for them, and possible
solutions. We'll consider the final
product, the fired brick, and trace faults
back to their cause1. In reality small-
scale brickmakers often face many
problems, such as marketing, business
management, record keeping, and fuel
scarcity. Quality control is only one
aspect of running a successful
enterprise. In fact, the main problem is
Figure 2: A pile of fired bricks, Alto Mayo, Peru. To
be noted are the cracks and deficiencies in the
bricks. Photo: Practical Action / Theo Schilderman.
seldom technical. For example, it's no good upgrading the output of a brickworks, causing
extra work and expense, if customers aren't prepared to pay more for improved quality.
Nevertheless, it is worth knowing where problems originate and how they might be solved,
particularly for brickworks suffering heavy losses or unable to meet the standard their market
Field testing
Specific defects are illustrated in the tables. However,
there are some simple tests which can be done in the
field. Firstly, when you handle a brick, see if it's soft.
Can you pick off the edges? Can you scratch the
surface with your fingernail? If so, the brick is
probably underfired - one of the most common
problems. Now, break a brick in half. Was it easy? Is
there a 'core' of different colour material? If the brick
breaks easily or has a core like this, then it's
underfired. What about the cross section? Are there
lumps or stones, internal cracks or holes? If so, the
soil probably wasn't mixed well enough.
Figure 1: Brick moulding,
Zimbabwe. Photo: Practical Action /
Theo Schilderman.
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