Man wearing black gloves carving special shaped brick in factory
Hands carefully chiselling special shaped brick

Facing brick and special brick terminology

There are a number of different names that describe different parts of a facing brick:

Diagram showing the bed face, frog and perforations of bricks

Stretcher - The longer face of a brick showing in the surface of a wall

Header - The end face of a standard brick

Bed Face - The top and bottom face of a brick

Arris - Any straight edge of a brick formed by the junction of its faces

Frog - An indentation in the top bed face of a moulded or pressed brick

Perforation - Holes through extruded bricks from the top bed to the bottom bed


The following diagram illustrates common terms used to describe the different parts of special bricks:

Diagram showing the radius, splay, upstand, angle and return of special shaped bricks

Radius - (Bullnose Bricks) The size of the rounded corner which forms the profile

Splay - (Plinth & Cant Bricks) The angled slope which forms the profile

Upstand - (Plinth Bricks) The vertical face at the bottom of the stretcher before the angled splay

Leg length - (Angle & Squint Bricks) The length of the stretcher faces either side of the angle

Angle - (Angle & Squint Bricks) The angle of turn between the two different faces of the special

Return - (Any 90 Degree corner special) Used to take a special detail around a 90 degree corner


Bricks are traditionally laid ‘on bed’ (see below) but for design reasons, architects will change the orientation of how the bricks are laid. Laying the brick ‘on edge’ is commonly used to create a cost effective capping to a boundary wall. Bricks used ‘on end’ or in a soldier orientation are often introduced by designers in a single course to provide a contrast to the surrounding brickwork elevation.

Brick on bed - The most common orientation for bricks to be laid

Soldier course - Normally used as a decorative detail, to make brick features stand out

Brick on edge - Normally used to form a capping detail on top of walls


Although special shapes are designed in groups to suit different design applications, certain special shapes can be used in different orientations to suit other requirements. For instance, the AN.5 single cant is very versatile and can be used in all three orientations – on bed to create a splayed external corner, on edge to provide a capping detail and on end as a sill detail for example. Similarly, plinth stretchers and headers are commonly used around the base of the building, but when inverted they can create decorative corbel and eaves details.


Collection of red and blue special shaped bricks

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