Author: Batchelder and Collins

Batchelder & Collins is a proud leader in masonry, hardscapes, and natural stone veneer in Norfolk and Williamsburg, Virginia. Get in touch.

Different Types of Retaining Walls and Their Purposes

The inside of your home is beautiful. It says “you” in every way and in every room. What about the yard around your house? Are you tired of looking at poorly designed yards without a hint of beauty? Retaining walls can attract attention to specific features in your yard and offer practical and aesthetic benefits to your landscaping.

Showcase beautiful stonework throughout your yard and prevent erosion at the same time. Need materials for a new retaining wall? Contact Batchelder & Collins for the answer to your masonry needs.

The Purpose of a Retaining Wall


A retaining wall is a structure designed to hold back soil or withstand land pressure. It is a structure that is designed to retain the shape of a landscape, hence its name. Lateral earth pressure that requires a retaining wall could be from backfill, soil pressure, soil erosion, liquid pressure, and even sand. Any sort of granular materials behind the retaining structure can cause this pressure.

When Did We Start Seeing Retaining Walls

The first retaining walls appeared as far back in history as ancient Egypt. At the time, they were an important part of Egyptian civil engineering, used to harness the power of the Nile to irrigate farming valleys and prevent soil erosion. Gabion-style retaining walls were the prominent form at the time, made from reeds that grew along the riverbanks. They would divert the flowing waters of the Nile into reservoirs and fields to improve farming conditions.

The interesting thing about retaining walls is that despite significant advancements in geotechnical engineering, construction methods, and building materials, retaining wall design and use have not changed much. They are still used to hold back land, create space, divert water, and prevent soil erosion.

What Are the Most Common Types of Retaining Walls?


There are four basic types of retaining wall systems:

  • Gravity retaining walls
  • Anchored retaining walls
  • Cantilevered retaining walls
  • Sheet pile retaining walls

Each has its own applications in landscaping and engineering. The type of retaining wall required for specific jobs depends on the material retention needed on site, the type of gravity to counteract, overturning and bending moments, shear forces, and the general conditions surrounding the wall.

Gravity Retaining Wall

Gravity retaining walls use their weight to resist lateral earth pressure. These types of walls are typically massive. This is because they require a great deal of gravity load to counteract the soil behind them. They must account for bearing, sliding, and overturning forces and may be constructed from a variety of materials, from precast concrete to concrete blocks to stone or masonry. They are suitable for heights of up to 10 feet.

Anchored Retaining Wall

Anchored retaining walls are used in areas of limited space where a thin wall is needed. They are especially suited for retaining loose soil over rocks. They can be built to great wall heights because of their means of construction, which utilizes deep wires or cable rods driven horizontally into the earth with the ends filled with poured concrete to provide the requisite anchoring. These anchors, also called tiebacks, serve to counteract sliding pressure and overturning.

Cantilevered Retaining Wall

Cantilevered retaining walls are composed of two elements: a stem and a base slab, both of which are constructed from precast concrete, prestress concrete, or reinforced concrete wall, which when the back is submerged under the retained material, form an L-shaped structure. These are the most common type of retaining walls in existence. They can be constructed on-site (cast-in-place) or precast offsite.

The base slab consists of a heel, which is situated beneath the backfill, and the toe, which supports the rest of the wall. These walls must consider various types of gravity, including bearing, sliding, and overturning pressure. They can be built to a height of 33 feet effectively.

Sheet Pile Retaining Walls

Sheet pile retaining walls are a form of pile wall that uses sheet instead of concrete. Most pile walls are constructed by driving reinforced concrete piles in a row deep enough to counter any forces attempting to push them over, then fronted with steel sheets. They can be temporary or permanent and offer high rigidity for retention of lateral pressure to extreme depths while avoiding any risk to surrounding structures.

Sheet pile retaining walls use the same principle as concrete pile walls but use steel sheets driven into a slope or excavated to a required depth. They cannot withstand the same pressure that concrete pile walls can and are only economical to a height of 20 feet.

Different Types of Retaining Walls

A Gabion Retaining Wall

Though the types above are the most common retaining walls, many other types exist. These include gabion, counterfort or buttressed, MSE, crib, and hybrid walls.

Gabion Retaining Walls

Gabion retaining walls are built of rectangular wire mesh boxes filled with rock or other materials, then stacked in “cells.” They are most commonly used to stabilize steep slopes and can often be seen along the sides of highways holding back cliffsides to prevent landslides or falling rocks.

Counterfort or Buttressed Retaining Walls

Counterfort retaining walls, also called buttressed retaining walls, are a form of reinforced retaining wall which begins with a cantilever structure that is then supported with monolithic counterforts diagonally against the front of the wall and base slab to provide extra strength against gravity. These walls are generally built to heights between 25 and 40 feet.

Mechanically Stabilized Earth Walls (MSE Walls)

MSE retaining walls are among the most economical types of retaining wall and make use of metallic strips or plastic mesh run through granular material to create reinforced soil. This reinforced soil provides extra stability for the concrete block, panel, or temporary earth wall that holds the rear gravity in place.

Crib Retaining Walls

Crib walls are a type of gravity wall constructed of boxes of pre-cast concrete or timber, which then interlock together. These boxes can be filled with granular materials like crushed stone to allow for powerful reinforcement with strong drainage potential to allow liquid to pass through. They are often used for gardens and planter areas. They are not, however, recommended for supporting structures or slopes.

Hybrid Systems

Hybrid systems combine two or more of these. The important thing to remember about hybrid system retaining walls is that they use both reinforcement and mass for stability. Hybrid walls are also sometimes called composite retaining wall systems.

What Are the Most Common Retaining Wall Materials?

two construction workers building a concrete retaining wall

The most common retaining walls include brick, concrete, stone, and wood. Some modern walls use a geosynthetic material called geogrids to stabilize and create reinforced soil.

Concrete Retaining Walls

Concrete is used in a wide variety of applications for retaining walls. They can be made of concrete pillars, poured-on-site solid walls, pre-fabricated walls brought in from elsewhere, or, most commonly in residential areas, concrete blocks.

The advantage of concrete block is that it can be used to create curves and present a variety of architectural styles from Spanish to midcentury architecture. It is only useful, however, for walls under four feet in height because the lack of footings can create issues with wall strength.

Poured concrete walls are stronger than block walls and can rise higher. Like block, poured walls offer various design options, but the skill required to create one properly is specialized. If they are not adequately supported, they can crack, bulge, or wave. They are popular in modern landscaping projects.

Wood Retaining Walls

Wood retaining walls are created using easily-accessible, renewable materials and carry the advantage of having simple construction compared to other types of walls. Wood does not have quite the rigidity and strength of some other materials, so it is only recommended for walls with a maximum four-foot height. It can, however, be used in almost any style of architecture and it easily blends into the natural landscape.

Wood walls can last for twenty years or longer when properly installed and treated with the proper preservatives and waterproofing, but wood does not tend to last as long as other materials. Wood can rot if not maintained, and it may need to be re-treated regularly to maintain its structural integrity.

Stone Retaining Walls

Stone is a time-honored and practical material for building retaining walls. It has many advantages: it is all-natural and eco-friendly and can be used to create any appearance or fit into any architectural style. The solid core of a stone wall can be created to support a structure of almost any height or thickness requirement.

Stone, however, can be tricky and often requires an experienced contractor or landscape architect to design properly. Stone walls can be had in stone veneer or dry / builder stone. Dry stone is a natural solution when dealing with grade changes, but it is difficult to control water flow. Water that builds up inside the wall can destroy its integrity. Thus, it must be designed to allow for drainage. It is popular among country, colonial, and English garden-style landscaping.

Brick Retaining Walls

Brick is another time-honored material used in building, which dates back almost as far as human civilization. It is strong, durable, and long-lasting. However, it creates a solid structure with no room for drainage, so drains must be built into the wall with special care and consideration to preserve the wall’s structural integrity.

Brick is labor intensive and often requires an experienced mason or landscaper to lay correctly. It can, however, result in a durable structure that will last for many decades and can complement any style of landscaping or architecture.

How Are Retaining Walls Different from a Fence?

Fences and retaining walls can be decorative, but their practical intent is completely different. Landscapers and property owners use fences to screen areas. They are not intended to hold back land against landslides, shifting soil, or other practical retention purposes.

The way a fence is built is quite different than a retaining wall since it serves a completely different purpose. One good way to think about it is that a retaining wall is a solid structure designed to hold something back or control the shape of landscaping. A fence is normally designed to cordon off an area to keep someone or something out.

Ready to Redesign Your Yard?

If you are ready to redesign your yard and take its look and form to the next level, Batchelder & Collins is prepared to help. We offer a wide range of landscaping and masonry services, from hardscapes and veneer to vents, doors, and even architectural services. We offer an extensive selection of options including brick, stone, concrete, cement, and blocks. For more information, call us at 757-625-2506 or use our online form today to request an estimate.

Step by Step Guide to Brick Steps Repair

If your home or business has brick front steps leading to it, those steps may be starting to deteriorate, crack, and crumble. These damaged brick stairs are unappealing to see and they harm more than just your property’s curb appeal. Damaged bricks can cause structural instability and become dangerous to climb or descend.

Read on to see what you can do to repair brick steps. Then learn how Batchelder & Collins can help you by providing the replacement bricks or mortar needed to complete your masonry, brick repair, or refurbishment project.

Can Brick Steps Be Repaired?

The answer depends on the extent of the damage to the structure of the brick steps. If the bricks are unrepairable, they are usually replaceable. The first thing to determine is whether your bricks are the problem: Are they loose, cracked, or spalling bricks? Are you missing some bricks? Missing or loose bricks can be replaced with new bricks.

If the issue is not broken bricks, is the problem with the mortar joints? Do you have cracking, loose, or crumbling mortar? If so, it must be removed and replaced with new mortar, a process known as repointing. Understanding the issue will determine the steps you need to take to repair your broken or otherwise damaged steps.

How Do My Brick Steps Become Damaged?

stone stairs submerged in water


Brick steps can become damaged in many ways. Repeated pressure and use can simply wear down any structure. However, the most likely reason your steps have become damaged is water and weather.

Water can soak your old bricks and trickle inside the structure through tiny hairline cracks. Then, when the weather grows cold, the water can freeze inside. Freezing causes the liquid to expand, putting pressure on the bricks and old mortar, which pushes out the brick structure, allowing the cycle to repeat.

The Hampton Roads area is no stranger to consistent moisture in the summer and brutal cold spells in the winter. Such variable weather conditions will impact your bricks’ integrity over time.

Repointing Your Brick Steps

Repointing brick steps is the most direct method of repairing a damaged exterior brick wall, brick steps, or other brickwork, as long as the bricks are intact. When you repoint brick, you repair mortar that has become loose and crumbling by replacing it with new mortar mix. Here are the steps for DIY brick repointing.

  • Cut Out Mortar Joints

The first step is removing all loose masonry joints using a grinder. You need to remove old mortar to a depth of three-quarters of an inch. Begin with the horizontal mortar, then the vertical. This creates a pocket that helps guide your work.

A masonry grinder with a vacuum attachment and a HEPA filter shop vac are recommended because the process creates a great deal of dust. An angle grinder and regular shop vac will work if you do not have the recommended tools. Just be sure to wear a respirator mask.

  • Mix Mortar

Drill mixing mortar in a bucket

Next, you will need to mix fresh mortar. Be sure you are using the correct kind of mortar. Type S mortar is much harder and intended for rigid structural use. In contrast, Type N is more flexible to account for the regular pressure of people climbing and descending stairs, as well as handling future freeze/thaw cycles. Do not be taken in by additives claiming to make your mortar stronger. Properly mixed mortar should not need an additive to become solid and stable.

When mixing new mortar, make it wetter than normal so that it squeezes through the grout bag easier. Go little by little as you add water. Remember that you can always add more water, but you cannot take water away once it has been added.

  • Use a Grout Bag

Your grout bag is like a large pastry bag for icing a cake. It will make the process of placing the mortar into the joint much easier. Fill the bag about halfway, then twist it closed at the open end.

  • Place Into Joint

Use your mortar bag to pipe the mortar into the new joints and pockets you have created, much like writing on or decorating a cake. Use a pointing tool or brick trowel between brick courses to press the mortar into the joints. Next, use a flat jointer tool to press additional mortar in as needed until the joints are full.

When you have filled the joints with new mortar mix, use a wire brush to lightly brush off the excess mortar to clean the exterior brick.

  • Slick the Joint

Finally, run your flat jointer across the mortar. This will slick the joint to ensure that it remains waterproofed and sealed. When you use this technique, you do not have to use additional sealant. This is important because using sealant on horizontal surfaces causes water to sit on top of the material. In cold temperatures, the water can freeze solid, causing exceptionally slick surfaces that can lead to serious injury from slip-and-fall accidents.

Replacing a Loose or Missing Brick

If you have loose or missing bricks, they need to be replaced. The first step in replacing a damaged brick is to chisel away at the existing mortar. Removing the existing mortar opens up the area and allows you to work the loose brick free gradually. In the case of a missing brick, chisel away at the old mortar until the area is clean. Use a wire brush, shop vac, and water from your garden hose to keep the area clean continuously so that you have a clear view of your progress.

When the old mortar is gone, mix up a new batch, then use a brick trowel to apply it in half-inch layers to the space. Then apply a thin layer of fresh mortar to the replacement brick. Finally, gently and carefully work the replacement brick into the opening. Use your trowel to pack mortar into the spaces until it is flush.

Use your garden hose to wet the area thoroughly, then let the mortar dry entirely, which can take up to a week. Put no pressure on the brick until the mortar is completely dry. Soak the area periodically to help it maintain adhesion.

What Tools Will You Need to Repair Brick Steps?

Homeowners looking to undertake their own brick repair home improvement projects will need the right tools for the job. These include:

  • Safety glasses
  • A trowel
  • A tuckpointing tool
  • A chisel
  • Mortar mix
  • Replacement bricks

We Have the Bricks You Need to Replace, Repair, or Rebuild Your Steps

If you need help with brick walls, brick steps, stucco, or other masonry or hardscaping needs for your old house or business, Batchelder & Collins is here to provide professional masonry supplies. Give us a call at 757-625-2506, or use our online contact form to place an order or schedule an appointment today.

Thin Brick Paving: What You Need to Know

Have your concrete patio and the walkway to your front door seen better days? Would you like to have a fresh, new look that adds appeal to your property as well as value? Residents of coastal Virginia, where the weather is sometimes harsh and unpredictable, have found that real brick adds lasting good looks to homes and businesses.

Thin brick pavers are a smart choice to rejuvenate an aging patio surface or resurface the path to your home’s entry. They require little maintenance and are strong enough to stand up to the wear and tear of foot traffic. They are also cost-effective and provide an attractive alternative to asphalt, gravel, or poured concrete.

If you are looking for a trusted source for all masonry supplies in the Norfolk area, Batchelder & Collins, Inc. has you covered. We have helped homeowners across Hampton Roads, enhance the appearance and value of their property, whether they’re working with a contractor or thinking about a DIY project.

What is a Thin Brick Paver?

Brick, whether thin or thick, is a clay product available in a variety of colors and finishes. When building a brick wall, you often use bricks with holes through the center to provide more stability. Brick pavers have no such holes. They are solid, which makes them stronger, and are designed to lay flat on the ground.

Thin brick pavers, on the other hand, are thinner than standard brick pavers and are designed to lay on top of another surface. Additional names you might hear for thin brick pavers include thin-cut brick, brick tile, or brick veneer. No matter the type of paver you need, our in-store experts will provide guidance so you can make the best purchase.

4 Reasons You Should Choose Thin Brick as Your Paver

The prime advantages of thin brick are its durability and low-maintenance qualities, but the range of styles, shapes, and colors and the diversity of suitable applications for thin brick make it highly desirable for both interior and exterior use. Installation is relatively simple, and, in many cases, requires no specialized tools.

It is Easy to Install Over Other Surfaces

Because brick veneer is lightweight and bonds easily to other surfaces, it is easy to transform a dated surface with brick veneer. Thin brick pavers can be set in a sand base, installed over existing concrete, or laid on well-prepared, tamped soil to create a garden patio.

Thin brick can also be laid in interesting patterns, including herringbone designs, and different brick colors and blends are often combined for dramatic effect. Because of its versatility, thin brick has many interior applications as well, such as updating a kitchen backsplash or fireplace.

The Look and Feel of Brick — For a Fraction of the Cost!

Brick is considered an upscale building material, and traditional brick can be expensive. With thin brick veneer, it’s possible to achieve the look and feel of elegance and tradition at a reasonable cost.

DIY Friendly

While installing a brick floor requires patience, an eye for detail, and painstaking measurement, it is entirely within the capabilities of dedicated do-it-yourselfers. It can be a rewarding and cost-efficient way to transform the appearance of your home and add value to your investment at the same time.

Low Maintenance and Durable

Once installed, you can expect trouble-free enjoyment for years to come from your brick patio or walkway. Brick will not buckle or warp from moisture or excessive rain, and it does not fade or require refinishing due to sun or seasonal temperature variations. It is not easily stained and is not subject to the rot and decay of other building materials.

Are There Any Disadvantages to Using Thin Bricks?

Thin bricks are a great alternative to regular bricks as long as they are properly installed. They are great for updating the look of an old, uneven patio, making the cracks in an old sidewalk disappear, and for adding a new look to garden paths and walls.

Thin brick is not usually the best choice for a driveway, because it might not withstand the weight of heavy vehicles and constant use. Full-size bricks for driveway use would be a better choice, but professional installation is advisable.

Installing Your Thin Brick Pavers

Step 1: Grab All Your Materials

You will need some common tools and equipment before you begin. Also, it’s easier to work with a helper, so draft a partner or best friend to help.

Here’s what you need, in addition to the required brick pavers for the area you plan to cover:

  • A 16-foot tape measure, at the minimum
  • Chalk
  • Broom
  • Landscape fabric
  • Polyurethane construction adhesive
  • Masonry sand and/or polymeric sand
  • Plate compactor
  • Level
  • Tile saw
  • Garden hose
  • Personal safety equipment

Step 2: Prepare Your Surface

Cut any grass around the concrete you wish to cover. Be sure to remove any dust or debris. Your surface should be clean and dry before you begin.

Step 3: Mark the Perimeter for Your Edge Pavers

Carefully measure and mark the perimeter with chalk lines that show the exact location of edge bricks — mark interior and exterior lines so you know exactly where to place the bricks. The edge bricks should be about one inch thicker than the thin bricks you plan to use.

Step 4: Spread Your Adhesive and Place Edge Pavers

Use polyurethane construction adhesive to set the edge bricks, making any cuts necessary to place them as closely together as possible.

Step 5: Lay Your Bricks

Once the edge bricks are set, you’re ready to prepare the center section. Spread landscape fabric over the surface area, and then evenly coat the entire surface with about one inch of sand. Check with a two or four-foot level and adjust as needed. Make sure the thin bricks will be the same height as the edge bricks when they’re installed.

Step 6: Set the Pavers

man using a mallet to set brick pavers

Following the pattern you have chosen, carefully place your clay bricks onto the prepared sand surface. Cut bricks as necessary with a tile saw to fill the entire space. Then, use a plate compacter to stabilize the interior bricks in both directions.

Step 7: Fill the Spaces Between Bricks

Sweep polymeric sand into the spaces between the bricks; then sweep the surface clean and spray gently with water to harden the sand and secure your patio installation.

Virginia’s Most Trusted Carrier of Thin Bricks

Bricks are a wonderful option for leveling an uneven patio or repairing a cracked sidewalk. But, there are many choices, sometimes feeling like too many. What’s the difference between pavers and thin bricks? Is there a price difference? Are there paving bricks to complement your home’s existing appearance? We have all the answers to your questions!

Batchelder & Collins, with a history of serving local customers for nearly 150 years, and locations in both Norfolk and Williamsburg, can walk you through everything you need to know to get the perfect design for your property. Contact our store via phone or our website.

Contact us now to get the information and answers you need.

How To Repair Brick Wall Damage

Bricks might seem like they will last forever, but there are many ways a brick wall can deteriorate. Extreme temperatures, freeze/thaw cycles, exposure to precipitation, or even a shift in your foundation can cause damage to your home’s brickwork. Sometimes this damage can turn from a quick and easy fix into a structural fiasco that requires extensive remediation if left unrepaired.

Brick walls can suffer problems ranging from cracks to areas of deterioration in the mortar joints and on the brick itself. Some problems are more severe than others. While a crack in your brick wall does not always lead to weather or structural damage, it does ruin the aesthetic. Deterioration from spalling can lead to more damage over time and, eventually, could result in needing to replace your brick wall. Need more bricks or supplies to patch up your home and restore your aesthetic? Contact Batchelder & Collins at 757-625-2506!

Can Brick Walls Be Repaired?

Generally speaking, brick walls are easy to repair. Most cracks in brick walls are cosmetic and fixable. These cracks occur due to exposure to extreme temperatures and sudden exposure to hot or cold. Cosmetic cracks are not a big problem when they first appear, but they can become a problem if left unaddressed.

Structural cracks, which run deep and threaten the structure’s integrity, are a serious problem. Structural cracks often appear after an earthquake or over time from poor structural design. Like cosmetic cracks, structural cracks get worse over time.

A Summary of the Brick Wall Repair Process

Repairs vary depending on where the crack is as well as the cause of the crack. However, a summarized version of the step-by-step procedure for repairing old brick is below:

  1. Remove the cracked mortar from the wall. On horizontal joints, use a raking bar to remove mortar to a depth of 2 centimeters. On vertical joints, use a chisel and hammer.
  2. Get rid of excess mortar. Remove the remaining loose mortar with a wire brush.
  3. Spray the old mortar with water. Do this because a dry brick wall absorbs too much water.
  4. Patch with mortar. Fill the loose joints with new mortar. Use a jointer brush. Don’t leave voids!
  5. Point the wall. Use the pointer to flatten the mortar in the joint.

What If the Brick is Crumbling?

What if the brick wall is crumbling instead of cracking? Can it be repaired? The quick answer to this question is yes; you can repair a crumbling brick wall. When the brick is crumbling, we call this spalling. Two events can cause spalled brick:

  1. Someone replaced old mortar with new mortar. Mortar must be softer than brick. Compared to modern walls, historic brick walls were built with a softer type of brick and softer mortar mix made from lime. Modern walls are made from much harder bricks, while most mortar is made from the relatively hard Portland mortar mix. Sometimes, you’ll find spalling on a historic brick wall because someone repaired the wall with a harder, modern mortar mix.
  2. Moisture became trapped in the brick. If someone sealed the brick, this might have trapped moisture. Freeze/thaw cycles will cause the moisture in the brick to eventually expand within the brick, causing the face of the brick to pop off.

If your brick wall is crumbling or spalling, call a professional to solve this problem.

What Causes Cracks in Brick Walls?

Cracks develop in brick foundations for many reasons. Knowing the causes can help you avoid these problems in your walls and may help you identify problems in their early stages.


Climate and weather play a big role in the lifespan of a brick wall. Brick and mortar are both porous, and brick can absorb water from precipitation. When freeze/thaw cycles occur, water damage can compromise the brick and mortar’s structure by washing away the sediment that gives the brick its structural integrity. This is a problem in all types of walls, but for anything load-bearing, this can be devastating.

Some homeowners respond to these issues by sealing their bricks to prevent moisture absorption. While this may sound sensible on its front, standard sealant will lock in moisture, exacerbating the wall’s problems. Using brick sealant when treating your load-bearing brick wall, brick chimney, or other brick structure is essential for preventing damage.

Corrosion of Building Supplies

Building supplies don’t last forever. Bricks can become weathered over time, requiring repair mortar and other treatments. Tuckpointing or repointing helps brick walls by restoring grout in bed joints or vertical joints. In addition, bricks aren’t the only building materials that degrade — everything needs repair or replacement eventually, including gutters. Faulty gutters can cause water to overflow onto brick, leading to more moisture absorption than would otherwise occur.


Soils react to moisture when absorbed and dried, but some soil types are far more reactive than others. Clay soil, for example, significantly expands when exposed to moisture. This can cause the foundation to settle, move and crack.

What Types of Damage to a Brick Wall Can Be Repaired?

Whether you can repair a brick wall depends on the type of cracks in the wall.

Location of Brick Damage

You can find brick cracks inside the house, outside the house, and on the foundation walls. Interior wall cracks appear on plasterboard, exterior cracks appear on brick walls outside your house, and foundation cracks are found around the home’s foundation.

Cracks that are not easily reachable and are purely cosmetic may not be worth repairing. However, you must repair some types of cracks (like some cracks in the home’s foundation, for example) to restore structural stability.

Type of Crack in the Brick Wall

crack in a brick wall

You can determine the type of crack your house is experiencing by the direction of the crack. For example, horizontal cracks are caused by the deterioration of building materials and by foundation settlement. These cracks are relatively common and appear in older homes.

Vertical cracks are typical in warm climates and are caused by the expansion of the materials.

Brick veneer cracks are stair-step-shaped cracks that appear between and around bricks. These cracks are a sign of serious structural damage. They need immediate attention from a professional.

Depth of the Crack in the Brick

Structural cracks run deep and are a serious problem, while cosmetic cracks are surface-level. That said, cosmetic cracks may allow moisture into the brick wall, which can cause water damage over time. You may need to repair cosmetic cracks because they can lead to larger structural cracks over time.

How Do I Fix a Damaged Brick Wall?

If you’re wondering how to repair a brick wall, these tips can help.

Safety First

Working with masonry can be dangerous for a variety of reasons. Stone dust can lodge deep in the lungs and cause damage, while bricks themselves are very heavy and can cause back problems over time. Finally, bricks high on the wall may be difficult to reach safely. Working with a professional to get the work done is the best way to ensure safety. However, the step-by-step procedure is below if you decide to do the work yourself.

Apply Mortar

To start, remove any old mortar between the brick, and remove the broken pieces of brick itself. Use a grout saw on small joints and a cold chisel on larger joints. If you’re removing several pieces of brick, start at the top and work your way to lower bricks as you go. Clean out the spaces left by the brick with a wire brush, then wash away the remaining bits.

Mix the mortar according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then apply the mortar with a trowel like you’re buttering bread. Apply about an inch of mortar to the sides and bottom of the opening.

Insert Brick

Insert the brick into the opening and tap the brick into place with the end of your trowel or mallet. Push the brick into the opening until it is flush with the rest of the wall. Remove excess mortar with the side of the trowel, and insert mortar into voids with the trowel.

Cure the Brick

Spray the brick with a mist of water periodically for about three days to help the wall cure properly.

What Tools Will I Need to Fix a Brick Wall?

bricks reinforced with rebar

To repair a brick wall, you’ll need the following tools:

  • Stiff bristle brush
  • Pointing trowel
  • Brick trowel
  • Garden hose
  • Cold chisel
  • Carbide-tipped grout saw
  • Engineer’s hammer
  • Mallet
  • 5-in-1 painter’s tool

Need New Bricks to Keep Your Home Aesthetically and Structurally Sound?

To repair a brick wall, or perform your next brick wall home improvement, get quality tools from a reputable supplier. Batchelder & Collins sells materials that homeowners, contractors, and masons trust. Whether you’re performing a DIY project or you’re a professional with expertise in chimney repair, foundation repair, or another trade, we sell quality materials that can help. Call 757-625-2506 to get started with your project today.

Brick Masonry History

You encounter bricks every single day. They are everywhere, from brick houses and brick buildings to paved walkways and even some streets. You pass by them all the time and never give them a second thought. Bricks are a popular building material both for sturdiness and decorative value. Have you ever wondered when we first started using bricks and why?

Bricks have a long legacy going back more than 10,000 years. Check out some interesting facts and trivia about the history of bricks and brickmaking and learn why you should choose Batchelder & Collins bricks in your own home construction and remodeling projects.

How Old Is the Oldest Brick?

The earliest bricks discovered date to around 7,000 BCE and were found in what is now modern-day southern Turkey near the ancient Biblical city of Jericho. The first bricks were mud bricks, meaning they were most likely made from mud clay mixed with straw, shaped by hand, and sundried in the open air.

While these are the oldest bricks discovered, the history of brickmaking may go back even earlier. Ancient writings indicate that the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and other early cultures used bricks, with sun-dried bricks being some of the earliest forms.

Turkey and the Middle East

Besides Turkey, bricks dating from 7000 to 3500 BCE have been discovered across the Middle East, particularly in the Tigris region, the Persian Gulf, Pakistan, and South Asia. These were universally air-dried mudbricks.


Bricks in China date back to at least 4400 BCE. They were discovered in the Chengtoushan region, and rather than the air-dried bricks from the Middle East, this type of brick was baked in a brick kiln at over 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit. These early examples of fired bricks were more commonly used as flooring than as a building material.


During the middle ages, workers kneaded clay by hand, placed it in wooden molds, and wiped away the clay. The molds were left to dry, and the bricks were pulled from the frame. This handmade form of brickmaking with molds lasted until the late 19th century.

By the 11th and 12th centuries, Europeans rediscovered the art of bricklaying and commonly erected brick structures. These structures began in Rome and spread to other countries, including England, France, and Germany. By the Renaissance, brick buildings were common throughout Europe. Many significant Renaissance structures, like brick gothic cathedrals, arose.

During the Industrial Revolution era of Great Britain in the 1760s, brick manufacturing used red clay, whose color came from iron oxide within the dirt. These raw materials produced the bright red bricks so familiar today. This made bricks aesthetically preferable to stone as a building material, as buildings made from red bricks were easier to see in the dense fog, thus aiding travelers in inclement weather conditions.

By the early-mid 20th century, brickmaking took a quantum leap forward. New brick-making machines enabled the mass production of bricks, making brick structures easier to produce. Today in places like Poland and the Netherlands, brick homes are wildly popular, and Dutch brick is its own architectural style.

North America

home made out of traditional adobe

Native Americans in the Southwest used clay, mud, and straw to create clay bricks called adobe, which translates to mudbrick. These clay logs would be sun-dried and then stacked to build brick walls. Adobe brick buildings do not resemble the brick homes of today because the Native Americans, after stacking their building blocks, did not use mortar to fill gaps but covered the walls with additional mud, so the walls looked smooth. These structures probably looked similar to their contemporary Turkish designs.

Fired bricks as we know them today, made from molds and baked in kilns, probably came to the United States around the 1600s with English colonists. We know that brick buildings in the United States went up around 1611, but the building boom of the 19th century made brick the dominant building material it is today.

Boston is famed for its iconic and historic brick rowhouses and brownstones. Even some of the world’s most famed skyscrapers used brickwork. In fact, New York’s Empire State Building is comprised of 10 million clay bricks.

Types of Bricks Used Throughout History

Types of bricks are classified mainly by the brickmaking process as opposed to the raw materials used, though raw materials are used in conjunction with the creation process to rate the quality of bricks from First to Fourth Class. Modern bricks use various materials, from clay to fly ash to silicates. Brickmaking processes have changed and evolved through history, primarily to produce stronger, more efficient bricks.

Sun-Dried Brick

Sun-dried bricks are also called unfired bricks or mudbricks. They are the earliest forms of bricks and were made where climates were hot and dry enough to “cook” the brick naturally once it was formed. These types of bricks only thrive in arid environments as exposure to water will rapidly deteriorate them. Before the invention of wooden molds, they would have been formed by hand.

Fired Brick

Fired brick, also called fire brick, is generally made from sand, iron oxide, clay, lime, and magnesia. It is among the longest-lasting forms of brick. The Romans pioneered mobile kilns, which allowed remote worksites to arise and make bricks viable for creating everything from public works projects to remote military fortifications.

Molded Brick

Molded brick initially used wooden forms called molds or moulds, which were filled by hand and packed. These later gave way during the Industrial Revolution to steel molds that used hydraulic presses to create extra-strong bricks that could be fired at up to 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pressed Brick

Pressed brick, or dry-pressed brick, uses thicker materials, allowing for very sharp edges when the brick is pressed and shaped. These types of bricks are prized for their aesthetic value and regular appearance.

What are the Different Processes for Brick Making?

Many different processes exist for brickmaking. The three most common in the modern era are molding, extruding, and dry pressing.


Originally, molding was done by hand as clay and mud were poured into a wooden mold, then the excess materials were removed. When the brick dried, it was removed from the mold, and another was made. Today, brick molding is done via mass production using high pressure, high heat, and steel molds to create bricks of exceptional strength and durability.


Brickmakers produce extruded bricks by forcing clay through a die. This forms holes and makes wire-cut faces. The result is a lighter-weight brick that is less expensive to use than a dry-pressed brick and easier to finish with cement renders and other facing materials.


Dry-pressing is like molding but uses a thicker clay mix to create highly accurate and regular-shaped bricks. Since dry-pressing uses a greater force and the burn time takes longer, making dry-pressed bricks is much more expensive than other methods. Clay is dried in a drum-drier, crushed, and ground to powder, then placed into a toggle press where the pressure forms it into a finished brick.

Brick Building in Ancient Times

As discussed earlier, hand-formed bricks saw use in the ancient Middle East, Egypt, and even as far west as the adobe structures of ancient North American civilizations. Europeans used bricks as far back as the Roman Empire. The Romans used fired bricks to build everything from arches and cultural centers to vaults and forts.

Romans also pioneered the use of mobile kilns, allowing them to spread brickmaking worldwide. Even today, the remains of ancient Roman forts built with fired brick can be found as far off as France, England, and Ireland. It is a testimony to the sturdiness and utility of bricks as a building material.

Unfortunately, when the Roman Empire fell, the production of brick went with it and retreated to the Byzantine Empire and Italy until it was rediscovered around the 12th century. After that, it spread once more throughout the civilized world and rapidly became a dominant building material in everything from houses to gothic brick cathedrals. The first brick-making machines arrived on the scene in the 1800s, making mass production of bricks viable.

The Industrialization Period’s Impact on Brick Production

When brick-making machines were invented during the Industrial Revolution, brick production changed fundamentally. Brickmaking was now faster and more efficient than ever. This made bricks less expensive to produce, increasing their popularity.

The discovery of red clay bricks was another marked shift in using bricks as a building material. While originally used to allow travelers to see buildings in thick fog and inclement weather and to prevent collisions, its aesthetic value saw it become the dominant form of brick even as the process moved brickmaking to the New World.

Today brickyards can be found in almost every city worldwide, and brick is one of the most popular materials for building the world over. It is highly affordable, easy to come by, and strong enough to last hundreds of years, especially in the Hampton Roads area which is susceptible to tropical storms and hurricanes.

What Are the Different Types of Structural Brick Bonds?

“Bond” is an important term in the science of bricklaying. It refers to the patterned arrangement of brick or stone that makes up a wall. Most people, for example, have a familiar image of “staggered” bricks forming a wall. This is a type of bond form.

Structural brick bonds are a means by which bricks are patterned to bear heavy loads rather than in a decorative pattern. These bond patterns use bricks as “headers” and “stretchers.” Stretchers are laid lengthwise, while headers are smaller squared bricks laid endwise. Some of the most common forms of structural brick bonds include running, Flemish, and common bonds.

Running Bond

The running bond is among the most common forms of bricklaying structure and is the typical “staggered” image that most people think of when they think about brick walls. It is an easy-to-lay type of bond and is also sometimes called stretcher bond. It is suitable for walls of half-brick thickness are required.

Flemish Bond

Flemish bond walls have a similar staggered look to running bond walls but use alternating headers and stretchers in each row. Headers are centered on stretchers in the rows above and below, and each alternate row starts with a header in a corner. This creates a sort of “long-short-long” look for each row of bricks, with each row offset from the ones below and above.

Common Bond

Common bond walls have a unique look that combines four or five rows of stretchers using a running bond structure with a single row of headers. It creates a robust network with an attractive and classic aesthetic. Some historic buildings and foundations make use of this bond for both its sturdiness and its appearance. Common bond walls are also known as American bonds.

Other Forms of Bond

Other forms of structural bonds include English, Header, and Herringbone. English Bond is a common form of brick bond that uses the alternating header and stretcher row. Each header is centered over the stretchers below it. Every row is then vertically aligned. Quoin closers, or bricks cut lengthwise in half, are used at each corner.

Header bonds are built using the short faces of the bricks. They are otherwise similar to running bond walls, but because of how the bricks are laid, they tend to be thicker and require more bricks to create.

Herringbone bonds are non-structural bonds. They are distinctly decorative and are not suitable for creating load-bearing structures. This type of decorative bond forms a diagonal, offset herringbone weave that creates a distinctive pattern with the appearance of sideways V-shapes.

What Are the Advantages of Using Brick?

Bricks offer many advantages over other forms of building material. There is a reason they have been so popular since the ancient world, and they keep getting better over time. Clay bricks today are readily available and affordable but are also highly tested under harsh conditions to ensure they will last for a long time. Bricks are low-maintenance, thermal insulating, exceptionally sturdy, and aesthetically beautiful, and they are made from green, all-natural materials.


Anyone who has ever had to deal with carpenter ants or termites can appreciate the low maintenance of brick. Bricks do not get waterlogged, so they do not require sealing. They do not disintegrate or rot like wood or crumble like concrete. Some buildings built of brick over 2,000 years ago during the Roman Empire still stand and are in use today in Italy. Brick is a permanent building material that only needs occasional cleaning to maintain its looks.

Thermal Insulation

Brick is also an insulator. It has outstanding thermal mass or can store and slowly release heat. Brick homes tend to stay cooler in the hottest part of the summer day and to keep the heat that they radiate into the house during the winter months, staying warmer inside. Brick structures are ideal for almost any climate due to this unique property to store and release heat and insulate a structure. In short: bricks are energy-efficient and may even save you a few bucks on your utility bills.

Exceptional Durability

Bricks can withstand a wide range of environmental conditions. They are non-combustible; after all, they are fired to thousands of degrees Fahrenheit to create them. The brick will not burn. Brick also resists water penetration and can stand against strong wind. Brick walls help to minimize mold growth, insect infestation, and wood rot. Brick walls can protect against debris blown about in strong winds and offer a high degree of protection to the people and contents within the structure.

Aesthetic Beauty

Bricks are beautiful to view. No matter what type of design style you prefer, from a grand Victorian home to Gothic spires to ultramodern contemporary designs, brick can handle the job. It is a versatile material that can be erected in many different forms and styles to create a unique look. While deep red brick is the most popular, yellow and white brick can offer unique accents. Bricklayers are artisans who can create stunning designs of incredible beauty.

All-Natural, Green Building

In today’s world, arguably the best reason to choose brick is that it is an affordable, inexpensive, entirely green material. By “green,” of course, we mean ecologically friendly. Brick is made from all-natural materials and has a low carbon footprint. The creation of brick is a sustainable process, and its long-lasting nature makes it attractive for a wide variety of applications, from load-bearing walls to lovely walkways, flooring, decorative hearths, and more.

Brick, as mentioned, is energy efficient due to its thermal properties and sturdy enough to stand the test of time. Creation produces minimal waste, which can be recycled into more bricks. Since brick is inert, it never leeches volatile organic chemicals into the environment. It is a fantastic way to feel good about doing your part for the environment.

Building a House and Considering Brick?

newly built brick home

If you want to use brick to build your structure, Batchelder & Collins is ready to provide the necessary supplies. We have been building in the Hampton Roads area since 1868 with a wide range of affordable, green building materials that stand the test of time.

Brick is far better than siding. It lasts much longer and requires less maintenance. Unlike siding, it will not fall away from the home and will not require repairs and patching. Unlike wood, brick will not rot, get waterlogged, grow mold, or be prone to pest infestation. It does not need to be sealed and treated. Unlike vinyl, brick does not get discolored and fade or wash out with age. It does not warp or need to be replaced in large sections.

Brick is strong, solid, classic, and available in several colors. It can mix with other materials and still look amazing. The right bricklayer can even apply special mortar colors and techniques to give you a unique look that is all your own.

A House of Bricks Holds History and Strength

Brick is the very definition of a time-honored building material. Its sheer longevity, insulation properties, and gorgeous appearance make it an outstanding choice and one of the oldest eco-friendly building materials available. For more information about using brick for your next project or to place an order, contact Batchelder & Collins at (757) 625-2506 or use our contact form to get in touch with us today.

How to Drill Into Brick: A Guide

Many historic homes in Norfolk and Williamsburg, Virginia have brick walls in the interior or exterior. While brick is a strong material that can withstand harsh weather, trying to mount objects into the surface can be a daunting process. You would love to have decorations on the wall, hanging shelves, or exterior lighting and outlets without causing damage or having the objects fall.

Also, there are many different types of brick and orientations to how bricks are stacked that you are worried about picking the right mounting method. One method may be right for one type of brick but not a different one. If you cause brick or mortar damage, you may end up paying for costly repairs.

Drilling into brick requires the right tools and know-how to do it correctly. At Batchelder & Collins, we provide brick, blocks, and other masonry products to both residential and commercial customers. Our products can help you complete indoor and outdoor projects with ease. In business for over 150 years, we understand what it takes to mount decorations on brick products. Continue reading this guide so you know how to drill into brick and what tools you need. If you require interior or exterior bricks for your project, we can supply them.

Safety First! What Precautions Should You Take Into Account?

Working with any type of power tool requires taking the necessary precautions to keep yourself and your surroundings safe from harm. Drilling incorrectly may cause bits of the brick or mortar to fly back into the eyes or face. You may also cause hand injuries if you are not securing the drill bit correctly.  Here are several safety precautions to take before you begin the task.

Wear Protective Gear

Protective gear is designed to protect your body that can be harmed by blocking tool components, loud tool noises, and any particles that can get into the eyes, nose, or mouth. Protective gear may consist of a respirator to deal with dust that can irritate the lungs or sinuses when breathed in, as well as gloves to protect the hands from getting scraped when moving across the brick. You should also wear earmuffs and safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying debris and your ears from loud noises.

No Baggy Clothing

Other protective gear may include tight clothing. Baggy clothes can get in the way when you are trying to place the drill bit into the tool or when operating the drill. The clothing may catch as the drill bit spins. You should also avoid wearing bracelets, necklaces, or having your hair loose around the power tools. Make sure clothing is tight and nothing hangs close to the drilling area or power tools.

Use a Drill Stand

A drill stand is a device that helps steady the drill tool when in operation. The drill fits into the stand to prevent it from slipping. It also helps to create a straight hole without it going sideways. The drill stand is ideal for giving extra support to your hand, especially if you are drilling into walls or overhead

Drill Pilot Holes

A pilot hole is a hole made using a smaller bit or nail size. The hole is designed as a guide for the larger drill bit. The pilot hole also helps to loosen hard materials, such as brick or wood. When you use the larger drill, it can move into the hole more easily. You will not have to apply as much pressure to push the larger bit into the materials.

What Are the Best Tools to Drill Into Brick?

Before you purchase drill bits for your power tool, you need to understand that they are not all the same. While there are different drill bit sizes, there are also different types of drill bits. Masonry drill bits are used for bricks, concretes, and other masonry materials. The bits are different from both wood and metal drill bits. Here are the drills to use for masonry projects.

Hammer Drill

A hammer drill has a mechanism that causes a vibration. This mechanism causes the drill bit to move in a hammering or chipping motion as it uses the vibrations and the spinning of the bit to make the hole. The drill may come cordless or has a cord to hook up to an outlet. Hammer drills are used to make large holes.

Rotary Hammer Drill

A rotary hammer drill performs similar functions as a hammer drill. It can be used to make large holes in masonry and bricks. The main difference between a rotary hammer drill and a standard hammer drill is the mechanism. The mechanism in this drill causes the bit to go back and forth in a hammering motion while the drill bit is spinning. The bit is driven forward using pistons and air pressure.

Regular Drill

A regular drill has a drill bit in a chuck that rotates the bit. Unlike rotary hammer drills and regular hammer drills, you have to manually apply pressure to the tool to push the drill bit down into the hole. Regular drills can be used to make medium and small holes in softer materials, yet can also work for masonry. You can find cordless drills and corded drills.

Does Orientation of the Brick Matter When Drilling?

Brick orientation is how the handyman laid the brick to make the wall. There are six orientation methods.

The brick may be laid flat with its widest side down and length side facing forward (stretcher), which is the traditional method. It may lay on its side with the narrowest width down and the length side facing outward (shiner).

You may place brick with the thickness (top/bottom) side outward and the length side down (header) or the height side down (rowlock). The last two methods are called sailor and soldier. The brick is stood up as the length side is facing outward (soldier) or the width side is facing outward (sailor).

Brick orientation does not matter when doing your home improvement project. You should instead focus on the brick type and where you want to drill the bit into along the brick for the fasteners. These are the types of brick that you may have in your Norfolk or Williamsburg, Virginia home:

  • Burnt Clay Bricks: Burnt clay bricks are used for walls, pillars, columns, and foundations. They are the most widely used and have added strength when using mortar and plaster with these materials.
  • Concrete Bricks: Concrete bricks are bricks made from concrete materials and another type that is commonly used in construction. They are commonly made on-site with the use of molds.
  • Sun-Dried Clay Bricks: Sun-dried clay bricks are made from various materials such as straw, water, clay, sand, manure, soil, or a combination of these materials. These are fragile bricks that are normally used for temporary structures.
  • Fire Bricks: Fire bricks are commonly found in fire pits, brick grills, or chimneys. They can withstand extreme heat of up to 3,000 degrees as well as colder temperatures.

Where to Drill

Now that you have the protective gear, drills, and bits to use, you may wonder about whether you should drill into the brick or the mortar. Drilling into brick is different from drilling into the mortar.

Bricks can normally support a lot of weight due to their solid and hard surfaces. Mortar can support lighter mounted objects, and the holes are a lot easier to repair with more mortar than when you are trying to patch holes in brick. Here are some factors to take into consideration on where to place the drilled holes.

Age of the Brick

Old bricks will have weaker surfaces. They may crumble, crack, or flake when making bigger holes. Knowing the age of the brick will allow you to figure out if it can withstand the drilling process and act as the necessary support for mounted decorations.

Type of Brick

Burnt clay bricks and concrete bricks are ideal materials that can handle the drilling process. Sun-dried bricks are the weakest materials and are not suitable for drilling or concrete anchors. For fire bricks, you could drill into the materials, but keep in mind that larger holes will compromise the temperature resistance of the brick.

Type of Anchor Used

Concrete screws, self-tapping brick anchors, plastic wall anchors, and expansion-style anchors can be used to mount objects onto bricks. The depth of the anchor will depend on the weight of the mounted object and the required support. Also, some anchors may damage fragile or old types of brick, such as expansion anchors, according to Bob Vila.

How Much Weight It Will Hold

Weight of the mounted object plays a huge factor on where to drill. A picture frame will be lighter than a television. Consider the weight of the object and the age of the brick to determine where to drill.

Size of the Hole

Keep in mind that you want as much brick material as possible to remain around the anchor to provide support. If you drill out too much material to make large holes or multiple holes, you begin to compromise the integrity of the brick. This problem can lead to cracking or spalling.

How Deep to Drill

Never drill too deep into the brick. You can cause the brick to have less integrity to support the anchor or screw. You may also get the drill bit stuck inside, which will require you to dig it out before inserting the anchor. Drilling deep holes also risks the chance of deviating from a straight line, making it difficult for the anchor to go or provide adequate support.

Before drilling, you want to measure the wall’s width and the length of the anchor. You also want to make sure there will be nothing in the way of the drill bit, such as wires or pipes.

Time For You to Begin Drilling

With all your measurements taken care of, you can now place on your proper safety gear. Next, you can begin drilling into the brick. Here are the steps to perform for this task.

Mark the Spot

Mark the spot along the brick if the brick is new or in good shape, or if the object to be mounted is heavy. Mark the spot on the mortar for deep holes or if the brick is in poor condition. You can use a pencil or marker to make the mark.

Select the Depth and Mark the Drill

Some products will come with measurements on how deep to make the hole. If you do not have manual instructions about mounting depth, then measure the hole based on the length of the anchor and make the hole slightly deeper than it. Many drills have a drill depth attachment that you can set. If your drill does not have this attachment, you can wrap masking tape around the drill bit to guide it on when to stop.

Line it Up Perfectly

Place the tip of the power drill up to the marker line to line it up. Using the drill stand can also help keep the drill steady and level for the job.

Make the Pilot Hole

Begin by placing the drill at low speed. You want to use a low amount of pressure to break the surface of the brick. Then increase the speed and pressure when going deeper. You want to move the drill back and forth until reaching the desired depth.

Drill the Hole

Use a can of compressed air to clear out debris in the pilot hole. Next, you want to use your larger drill bit for the final hole. Align the drill bit to the hole opening. You will not need a lot of pressure as you want to move the drill back and forth until you have the right size and depth for the hole.

Alright, So You Cracked the Brick? Let’s Fix It

Sometimes the inevitable happens and the brickwork cracks or the drill bit breaks off inside the hole. In that case, you need to remove the drill bit and fix the hole or crack. To fill in the crack, you can use putty or concrete sealer.

You want to follow the mixing instructions based on the putty or sealer brand. Next, clean the surface of the brick to remove dust and dirt. Then wet the bricks and wait until they dry. Then use your trowel and force the putty or sealer into the hole or crack. Once the mortar or sealer sets, remove the excess by brushing it off.

If you need to remove the bit before fixing the hole, there are several different tools you can use.


You can clamp a pair of pliers onto the part of the bit that is up from the hole. Squeeze the handles together until they lock and pull the bit out.

Screw Extractor

A screw extractor is like s screwdriver that allows you to use a regular drill and a manual tool to remove the bit. Make a divot into the center of the bit using a hammer and a center punch. Then insert the drill and use it to make a hole. Place the manual screw extractor tool into the newly created hole and turn it to loosen the broken bit from the brick. Remove the bit from the hole.

Prevent Future Breaks

To prevent any more bits from breaking, you want to lubricate the bit using cutting oil. Apply the cutting oil to the tip of the bit. The cutting oil will also prevent overheating.

Need More Bricks? We Got You Covered

In addition to mounting objects into your exterior or interior brick walls, you may want to make some brick DIY hardscape projects on your property. Here at Batchelder & Collins, we provide bricks and other masonry products for your projects. Call us today at (757) 625-2506 or use our contact form to place a masonry order.

How to Update Your Kitchen’s Brick Backsplash

Much like automobiles, hairstyles, and clothing, home decor has cyclical trends. Styles, materials, colors, and finishes that are trendy one year may appear dated and dowdy a few years later. Although kitchens are typically designed to provide years of service, kitchen design elements — like brick backsplashes — can benefit from occasional freshening and updating.

If your kitchen is not the inviting space it once was, or if you have just moved into a new-to-you home that needs some TLC and an exciting new look, Batchelder & Collins offers some ideas that will help revive an aging brick backsplash.

A real brick wall in the kitchen might be charming. It might also feel too heavy for your contemporary lifestyle, too dark for your taste, or a bit too traditional for your modern family home. No matter your reasons for change, particularly if you think a major kitchen renovation is in order, here are some ideas to consider.

First, consider working with what you have rather than starting over. A brick kitchen backsplash can become the focal point of a new kitchen plan. Alternatively, incorporate modern elements into your kitchen redo and add brick panels in other areas as accents. Keep an existing brick wall, but change its character with paint or add accents of tiles, glass, or natural stone. Display art or cookbooks on open shelves or paint the brick a neutral color to add charm and fresh appeal to a breakfast nook.

Complement real brick with a lightweight brick veneer backsplash in the remodeled kitchen, or add to the appeal of an existing red brick backsplash with contrasting glass tiles or a trendy ceramic tile mural over a sink or as part of the kitchen backsplash.

Your options are nearly unlimited!

What Is a Kitchen Backsplash

A kitchen backsplash is the vertical wall space at the rear of a kitchen base cabinet or work surface. Typically, modern American kitchens are designed with base cabinets and countertops, with shelves or cabinets above. The backsplash is the vertical wall at the back of those lower cabinets or the space between the lower and upper cabinets.

The kitchen backsplash is functional and meant to prevent damage to the wall from food preparation and cooking. The backsplash material should be durable and easy to clean. Having a backsplash will prevent damage to the wall from water or other liquid spills, grease splatters, and food particles.

Kitchen backsplashes may rise only a few inches above the counter, or they might cover the entire wall space from the top of the counter to the bottom of the wall cabinets. A backsplash can be highly decorative, or as simple as a coat of washable enamel paint. Creative backsplashes will add color and personality to your kitchen.

Many different materials can be used for a kitchen backsplash. The seven most common backsplash materials include ceramic and porcelain, glass, metals, natural stone, manufactured stone veneer, faux metals or thermoplastics, and matching countertop materials. Each material has pros and cons, and the cost varies with the material and the complexity of the pattern and the design. Weigh all the factors, especially the ease of cleaning and maintaining your chosen backsplash material, as you shop for materials for your kitchen remodel. Smooth, matte finishes will stand up better for long-term use than textured, rough surfaces.

Ceramic or Porcelain Tile

Tile is a popular backsplash material for many reasons. Available in a wide range of styles, colors, and sizes, ceramic and porcelain tiles are durable, easy to clean, and cost-effective. Tile backsplashes must be grouted, however, and grout can stain or crack. So, tile backsplashes may require periodic maintenance and updating.


Like tile, a backsplash using brick veneer, or thin face brick, has been a traditional choice for decades. It is good-looking, sturdy, and will retain its appeal for decades of use, with minimal care required. Like tile, real and faux brick is available in many colors and styles, from red brick to modern gray or beige. Multi-colored, mixed brick is a modern look, and brick, stone, or tile can be smooth, weathered, or textured. As a manufactured stone product, brick is fireproof, thin, cost-effective, and versatile. It is appropriate for architectural and decorative styles from cottage chic to formal. A solid brick backsplash is rare in today’s new construction, and a professional masonry contractor would be needed to install such a wall, but it is not an impossible task.


Using glass tiles is an exciting trend in contemporary kitchen design, and they are extremely stylish and effective for modern kitchens with sleek contemporary appliances. Glass tiles are available in sizes that range from small mosaic sheets to large squares and rectangles. Hexagonal and stylized, free-form designs are sometimes used for special effects. Glass tiles are sometimes used simply as accent strips for marble, stone, or ceramic tile backsplashes, but large sheets of glass or mirror can be used to create a distinctively modern vibe.


Stamped metal backsplashes — much like the familiar stamped tin ceiling tiles — are now in vogue for kitchen backsplash use. They can be easily installed by homeowners and are available in a wide variety of patterns and finishes, from painted white tiles to aged copper, burnished brass or pewter, or even shiny stainless. They add drama and convenience to kitchens of many different styles.

Matching the Countertops

Finally, you can simply match your kitchen backsplash to the countertops. Matching the countertop material is a particularly effective option when there are no upper cabinets. Simply order a four-to-six-inch strip of tile, marble, granite, butcherblock, quartz, or synthetic counter material, to be installed along the back wall over the countertop. It is a simple, practical, and cost-effective way to finish your kitchen counters and will adequately protect the walls from most stains and damage.

What Are the Different Types of Brick Backsplashes Available?

Real Brick

Little is more traditional for home design brick. Using real brick in kitchens dates to earlier times when cooking was done on wood stoves. However, traditional brick is heavy, hard to install, and required that the wall be specially prepared to bear the weight of the brick. Today, thin brick or brick veneer is more common as a backsplash material. However, if you already have a real brick backsplash in your kitchen, you can update the look in various ways that are more in keeping with modern design and decor. Painted brick can transform the look of an older kitchen, and can easily be accomplished as a DIY project.

Faux Brick

Today, it is entirely possible to reproduce the traditional look of real brick by using other materials that simulate the character and warmth, along with the rustic or traditional appearance of real bricks. Duplicate the look in other materials, from stamped wallpaper-like sheet goods to expensive porcelain tiles that replicate the look of individual bricks. Obtain the look you desire in various ways, depending on your budget and your design aesthetic.

What Types of Kitchens Look Good With Brick Backsplashes?

Rustic or Farmhouse Kitchens

Exposed brick in a kitchen calls to mind an old-fashioned “keeping room” or a rustic Craftsman-style setting. Brick backsplashes complement other features such as brick fireplaces, walls and floors, beamed ceilings, multi-paned windows, Dutch doors, and traditional floor plans. If that is the kind of kitchen you dream of having, a red-brick backsplash would enhance either simple wood cabinetry, or contrast nicely with painted cabinets and worktables.

Contemporary Kitchens

Smooth, flat bricks in a herringbone or modern pattern offer a unique way to add spice to a clean-lined modern kitchen filled with easy-care appliances in black, white, or stainless. Painted brick might be just the thing to add flair to a Euro-style kitchen, perhaps a space with modern, retro-style enamel-finish appliances in brilliant color. Wrought iron or copper accents can pull the design together. Browse design magazines or search online sites for new ideas for your kitchen remodel project.

Industrial Kitchens

Brick provides a homey contrast in a kitchen that is primarily a “no-nonsense” workspace. Use light, glass, stainless steel, and solid colors, and keep the design simple. A natural brick backsplash can be a sophisticated touch that adds charm and historic appeal, but painted brick walls and backsplashes are also reminders that simple, durable materials can be adapted for practical use.

French-Style Kitchens

Large kitchens evoke traditional provincial design, and are perfectly suited for the addition of brick backsplashes, open shelving, a mix of marble baking counters, copper cookware, unmatched cabinetry, colorful hand-painted pots filled with edible herbs, checked tablecloths, and glowing candles.

Tuscan Kitchens

Unleash your personal design preferences and use a traditional mix of baskets and found objects to express your individuality in a Tuscan design that draws on the foods, flavors, and favorite designs of Italy and the Mediterranean regions. It’s a classic look for kitchens that are filled with comfortable materials, colorful hues, laughter, cooking, and lots of family and friends.

What Are Some Ways to Update the Brick Backsplash in Your Kitchen?

Backsplash ideas run the gamut from purely functional to wildly artistic. The wall space between upper and lower kitchen cabinets can be starkly simple or filled with color and unique design, as well as practical storage solutions.

When thinking about how to make your kitchen a standout space, think beyond the confines of its current floor plan or footprint. Cabinets can be relocated to create a new configuration. Add additional work counters by installing an island or peninsula that will double as an eating bar, and then add open shelving or a freestanding antique cabinet to serve as the focal point.

Brick an entire wall to add continental elegance to your breakfast nook, and make a large range the star of the kitchen by creating an arched alcove to house the modern appliance.

Fill Up the Wall Space

A brick wall can be the backdrop for your entire kitchen, or a decorative feature in a dining space or a sitting area adjacent to the workspace. Let the brick be a stand-alone feature. Think about installing brick from floor to ceiling in a portion of the kitchen. Conversely, surround the windows with brick trim, and add a window seat with comfortable pillows in bright fabrics. Hang modern art on a brick wall as a counterpoint to the timeworn appeal of the traditional brick.

Create a Unique Layout

Crosshatch, herringbone, or chevron patterns will lend a whole new look to a portion of the kitchen. Use special designs sparingly, however. They are best when used in a single area — behind a cooktop, for instance, or to highlight a baking center or bar counter. If you use brick throughout for your kitchen backsplashes, it is best to go easy on the fancy patterns and let the rest fade into the background. It’s also easier if you use brick tiles or thin bricks, and use a professional to install your unique patterns.

Add a Rustic Fixture

Use rustic brick, with a single wooden shelf to hold cooking accessories, as the focal point for a large range and vent hood that is surrounded by other materials. Draw attention to the “hearth” by painting surrounding cabinets a dark shade of charcoal or even shiny black. Also, consider making a bold statement with an arched hood enclosure and slim cabinets on either side.

Whitewash the Bricks

Modernize old brick walls and existing brick backsplashes by cleaning and whitewashing the brick for a contemporary, updated look. Sometimes, that is all that is needed to turn an aging kitchen into a truly stunning modern space. The best part? Painting or whitewashing an existing brick wall or backsplash is not usually a job that requires a professional, and whitewashed brick is not only stunning, but it is also an economical way to update your kitchen.

Do You Need to Hire Somebody to Update Your Kitchen’s Backsplash?

Revitalizing an existing brick wall in your kitchen does not have to be a job strictly for professionals. Save that existing brick wall in your kitchen, or revitalize a kitchen to better suit your current lifestyle by installing a modern thin brick backsplash. Batchelder & Collins has prepared a four-step guide that provides all the information you’ll need.

The Materials You Need for the Home of Your Dreams

At Batchelder & Collins, we stock all the materials you will need to complete your project. We serve homeowners in the Norfolk and Williamsburg areas of Virginia, and we have built our reputation on service, trust, and customer satisfaction. Contact us with any questions you have about updating or revitalizing your kitchen’s brick walls and backsplashes.

Brick Shapes and Sizes Guide

Bricks are some of the most common materials you see each day. They are versatile and come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. While all of these brick choices are great, it can be confusing if you are trying to decide on the right type of brick for the job you are planning.

Choosing the right brick is not only important for the aesthetic aspect of your project, but also for cost and functionality. Choosing the wrong brick for your fireplace, for example, could result in expensive damage in brick replacement as well as damage to other parts of your home.

At Batchelder & Collins, we can keep your project on track by guiding you in the selection of the perfect brick for your project’s needs. Our experts will help you to choose the right brick, for the right job, for the right price.

An Introduction to Bricks: What Are Common Clay Bricks?

Bricks come in many shapes and sizes. By far, the most versatile and popular brick is the common clay brick. These brick types are made from clay or shale. They are typically used in homes and commercial buildings. They come in a range of colors, sizes, shapes, and textures.

Why Are Common Clay Bricks So Popular? 

Common clay bricks are popular because of their versatility. They are also long-lasting, durable, and fireproof. Bricks are affordable and their size and weight make them convenient to use. A good bricklayer can construct a decent-sized brick wall in a day’s work.

Clay bricks can be used in many different types of common structures including homes, commercial buildings, retaining walls, and columns. You can also use them for simpler projects like constructing an outdoor grill station or making a mailbox stand.

What Materials Are in Common Clay Bricks

For centuries, bricks have been made by mixing clay and water. These days sand is included as well as other minerals to help strengthen the brick. Once the materials are mixed, the bricks are hardened by a heat source. In the past, the bricks were sun-dried, but now we use an oven or kiln to produce very high heat resulting in a strong and durable brick.  

Once the brick is ready, a mortar is used to form brick bonds that join the bricks together. The mortar helps strengthen the bond between the bricks and weatherproof them for a secure structure.

What Colors of Common Clay Bricks Can I Buy? 

Brick colors are dependent on the amount of the different materials contained in the brick. Here are some of the most common clay brick colors:

  • Red: This is the classic brick color that you see most commonly. When clay is heated, it takes on a darker, red tone. The more you heat it, the darker the red becomes. Hence, the classic brick-red color.
  • Brown: Bricks that contain more lime in their composition can have a brown or beige look to them. Just make sure there is not too much lime added. It can weaken the brick.
  • Pink: Higher amounts of iron in clay will result in brick with a pinkish hue. Some people choose this type of brick for a more striking appearance in their brickwork.

When choosing the brick color that is right for your project, be sure to discuss the possibilities with a Batchelder & Collins expert.

How To Select the Right Brick for Your Project

With so many types of bricks out there in different sizes and colors, it might seem overwhelming to choose the right building material for your project. One thing you should do is understand the brick dimension and the quality of the materials in the brick.

You should also understand that not all bricks are made alike. Actually, bricks are classified according to their quality. First-class bricks are deep red, free from flaws like cracks, and have a uniform texture. Second-class bricks will have small cracks or distortions that are evident. Third-class bricks are under-burnt, soft, and light-colored. Fourth-class bricks are over-burnt and noticeably distorted in size and shape.

For most projects, you will be using first-class bricks. Second-class bricks are typically used for hidden projects, and third-class bricks are used for temporary structures.

Another type of brick is a facing brick. While facing bricks do not have the strength of bricks used for structures, they are so named because they are meant to be used as facing so they can be seen. Typically, facing bricks are pleasing to the eye and come in different shapes, textures, and colors.

How Are Brick Dimensions Measured? 

Brick dimensions are measured in depth, height, and length. As an example, the standard brick dimensions of a brick in the United States have a depth of 3 5/8 inches, a height of 2 1/4 inches, and a length of 7 5/8 inches. When measuring a brick, you have to distinguish between specified, actual, and nominal dimensions.

Specified dimensions are the anticipated dimensions of the brick before it is used. Actual dimensions are the actual sizes or dimensions of the brick once it is manufactured. Nominal dimensions or nominal size include the brick measurement and the mortar’s expected thickness.

In addition to dimensions, bricks can be laid out in six different ways:

  • Header: the brick is laid flat with the short side facing you
  • Stretcher: the brick is laid flat with the long side facing you
  • Soldier: the brick is standing on its end with the short side facing you
  • Sailor: the brick is standing on its end with the long side facing you
  • Rowlock: the brick is turned on its side with the short side facing you
  • Shiner: the brick is turned on its side with the long side facing you

Most commonly, brick dimensions are based on the brick in the stretcher position.

graph detailing different brick shapes

How Do Mortar Joints Affect Brick Dimensions

Mortar joints are the spaces between the bricks that are filled with mortar. Depending on the mortar style and width of the mortar that is used, the dimensions of the brick can change.

The typical mortar joint size is 3/8 of an inch, with 1/2 an inch also being common. The mortar joint size has to be added to the brick dimension when planning the nominal dimensions of the brick.

What Are Some Standard Brick Sizes?

Different countries have different brick sizes, so sometimes it depends on where you are located. It can also depend on the area where you buy and the manufacturer from which you buy. That being said, there are some standard sizes.

A standard modular brick measures 3 5/8 inches by 2 1/4 inches, by 7 5/8 inches. The term modular refers to bricks of a standard and predictable size whose measurements with mortar fit into multiples of four inches. This makes it easier for a builder to estimate how many bricks are needed for the job.

Non-modular bricks are good for unconventional brick laying where you might need some oddly sized bricks. Because the sizes of non-modular bricks are not conventional, it may be more difficult to fit them into a pattern.

different dimensions of bricks graph

How Do I Select the Right Brick Size for My Project? 

With so many different bricks and sizes, selecting the right size of brick for your project may seem overwhelming. Let’s take a closer look at some different types of bricks to help make your selection a little easier.

Modular Bricks

For most residential projects, modular bricks are the best way to go. Modular bricks offer you predictable modular brick sizes and shapes that are meant to fit together easily into a module.

Modular bricks are measured with the mortar in mind and configured to fit in multiples of four inches. This means it will be easy to fit all types of modular bricks together for any project you are considering.

Oversized Bricks

Oversized bricks, also known as engineer bricks, have a higher compression strength, durability, and water absorption than other bricks. They are good for residential foundations or for commercial projects that use a high volume of bricks.

Since the bricks are oversized, they offer more area per brick. More area means less mortar and fewer joints that need to be raked.

Queen Bricks

Bigger than modular bricks, queen bricks are commonly used in commercial projects. They are non-modular and have larger square cores that allow the mortar to flow through them. Similar to an oversized brick, fewer queen bricks are needed to complete a job.

Closure Bricks

A closure brick is typically used to finish edges and corners. They have more hollow spaces so the mortar can sink into the brick.

Roman Bricks

For a more aesthetic look, you might try Roman bricks. So named because they are originally from Rome, these bricks are slender and flat, leaving an attractive finish. Their smooth appearance is pleasing to the eye, but they sacrifice little in strength.

Norman Bricks

This brick, with its name taken from the Normans you’ve read about in history books, is similar to a Roman Brick. They are slender, smooth, and pleasing to the eye. Unlike Roman bricks, Norman bricks allow mortar to flow through them.

Utility Bricks

Utility bricks are similar to but slightly larger than modular bricks. They are useful if you need to match bricks to windows or door frames.

Monarch Bricks

Monarch bricks are also known as meridian bricks. They offer larger dimensions than a standard brick. They also have larger, squared-off cores giving them good durability and making them easier for masons to use.

Double Monarch Bricks

Double monarch bricks, also known as double meridian bricks, have the same characteristics as monarch bricks, except they are twice the height. Double monarch bricks are sometimes characterized as hollow bricks.

What Are Other Types of Brick

Batchelder & Collins offers four types of bricks to homeowners in Hampton Roads and the surrounding areas. There are common clay bricks, common clay and concrete paving bricks, fire bricks, and thin bricks.

Common Clay Bricks

Common clay bricks are standard bricks made from clay or shale. They come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and textures. Common clay bricks are typically used to build homes, commercial buildings, and columns.

Common Clay and Concrete Paving Bricks

Common clay and concrete paving bricks are different from traditional bricks. They are solid bricks that do not contain holes. Typically they are used for porches, patios, walkways, and driveways.

Also known as pavers, they are built to last. They can withstand extreme temperatures, snow, rain, and foot traffic.

Fire Brick (Also Known As Refractory Brick)

If you are building something that has to stand up to extreme heat, like a fireplace or chimney, standard bricks just will not do. You need fire bricks, also known as refractory bricks. Fire bricks are composed of a special type of clay known as fireclay. They not only have fire resistance but also can withstand heat up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit and are perfect for applications that require high heat tolerance.

Thin Brick

Sometimes, a full standard brick is just too much. There are times when you simply want the right look. That is a good time for thin brick.

Thin brick, also known as brick veneer, is great for when you need a striking visual appearance for a wall or backsplash. The bricks are cut thin, so you get a great brick look without the weight.

Fulfill Your Home and Backyard Dreams with Our Quality Bricks

Batchelder & Collins has been serving the Hamptons Roads and surrounding communities since 1838. We can help you fulfill your home and backyard dreams with our quality bricks.

For all your brick and masonry needs, call us at 757-625-2506 or contact us online. Our experts are standing by to guide you in finding the right bricks for your construction projects. We will take you through the process from brick choice to completion of the project. Count on us for quality bricks that will be right for all your projects!

We Have Happy Customers

  • 5 star review

    "Very helpful staff. Helped me in deciding how many and of which bricks to get. Very quick in and out process they have set up."
    - Victor Pochop
  • 5 star review

    "I love this place.they always have what I need and all the staff is so very helpful ! Keep up the good work."
    - Debra Lewis
  • 5 star review

    "Visited to buy tools for my son's new job as a mason apprentice... Great staff, very helpful. Thank you. "
    - Victoria Leezer
  • 5 star review

    "What an amazing place. I brought in a brick that was from my 10yr old house... they matched it pretty well. They have 2 yards full of brick and stone."
    - Jacqueline Koch
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