Brickwork Arch Design can be a very complicated area of the visual feeling of your building. There are many types of brickwork arches that are used in the construction of brickwork faced buildings. The introduction of an arch in your building will require many different considerations when in the design stage. The most important element will be the structural integrity of the arch and its importance as a support. The use arches to span openings can be traced back many 1000`s of years, but it is thought the Romans were the first to adopt the structural capabilities of an arch in building design.

A brickwork arch commonly comprises individual bricks bonded in mortar. The method works by transferring the load both; sideways and downwards. There are basically two ways brickwork arches are constructed in brickwork…

  • Segnental Arch
  • Rough Arch

Rough Arch

Rough arches are constructed using standard bricks, this method is not acceptable when building the arch and can lead to performance issues in the future. The use of standard bricks will create the formation of very large mortar joints towards the Extrados of the arch. For a detailed description of the parts of an arch, please click here. You can see from the image below that using standard bricks in your arch is a very poor choice. One of things that bricklayers strive for is keeping constant joints between each brick, this is referred to as Brickwork Gauge. This should always be considered in your brickwork arch design.

This type of method can be used where there is no real structural considerations and would be often rendered and hidden from view.

Brickwork Arch Design using standard bricks

Rough Arch

Segmental Arch

This method is by far the more preferred method when considering your brickwork arch design and requires each of the bricks to be tapered towards the Intrados of the arches radius. These segments are referred to as “Voussoirs”. Using these types of segments will not allow them to fall out. In a rough arch, it is the mortar joints that are tapered and they solely rely on the mortar to key them together. As you can see from the image below, the use of Voussoirs in the arch is much more ascetically pleasing and has a greater structural integrity.

Tapered Arch Bricks

Tapered Arch


The Tapered or Voussoirs bricks in your segmental arch can be either cut by the Bricklayer on-site or purchased from a Brick Manufacturer. Purchasing pre- made segments will increase the accuracy of your arch and in turn will be a lot easier fro the Bricklayer to achieve consistent results.

There is obviously a cost issue in the initial purchase of the tapered bricks for your brick arch design, this would be off set by the amount of time it would take the Bricklayer to mark and cut each individual brick. I would recommend purchasing the bricks if there are many arches to form on your structure, but often the work would involve the insertion or replacement of one arch. In this case, I would cut the bricks individually, one of the other considerations when buying the tapered bricks is the lead time from design to delivery, this could often be months.