Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Ella. Ella Wonders, “What are bricks made of?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Ella!
We were walking leisurely through the fields of the Wonderopolis farm the other day when we came upon the barn and caught a snippet of three little pigs having the following conversation:
Little Pig #1: Hey! I was thinking about building a house. Any ideas of what I should use?
Little Pig #2: Well, you could use straw. Hee hee
Little Pig #3: Yeah! Yeah! Or sticks. Yeah, use sticks! Ha ha ha!
Little Pig #1: What's so funny? Am I missing something here?
Little Pig #2: Are you serious?
Little Pig #3: Yeah, please tell us you're joking!
Little Pig #1: I don't get it. Would someone please tell me what's so funny?
Little Pig #2: Um…doesn't this conversation remind you of a familiar story?
Little Pig #3: Yeah, you know, with three little pigs and a Big Bad Wolf?
Little Pig #1: You mean that story's true? Yikes! I guess I should use bricks then.
Little Pig #2: Of course, it's true. And, yes, you should definitely use bricks.
Little Pig #3: The hardware store over on Route 7 has them on sale this week…
Little Pig #1: Thanks for the advice! (wanders off)
Little Pig #2: You're welcome. (shakes head)
Little Pig #3: That dude is totally going to be bacon by the end of the week!
We don't know about you, but we hope that Little Pig #1 heeds the advice of the other two little pigs. Building a house of straw or sticks just isn't the smart thing to do when bricks are available!
The first human beings probably used wood and stone to build the first structures. However, using bricks probably wasn't far behind. Scientists know that bricks were made long before written history. And they're still very popular today, thousands upon thousands of years later.
The main ingredient in bricks is clay, which comes from the ground. Clay results from the break-up of rock over time. Weather, chemical reactions, volcanoes, and even glaciers can grind rock into a fine powdery earth called clay over long periods of time.
When it is wet, clay can be shaped easily by hand. Early clay bricks were probably made by shaping the clay into a suitable shape for a building block and then allowing it to dry in the sun.
Today, bricks are mainly made by machines. Clay is pressed into a mold and then baked at over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit until the brick is very hard. Bricks are often made by creating large columns that are subsequently cut into smaller individual bricks. A large brick factory in England can produce as many as 16 million bricks in a single week!
Many bricks are naturally red in color because of the presence of iron in the clay used to make them. Bricks of different colors can be made by adding other substances to the clay before baking them.
So why is brick such a great building material? Not only can it withstand the huffs and puffs of the Big Bad Wolf, but it's also basically maintenance free. Over long periods of time, it doesn't break, rot, or need to be painted. Bricks also will not be eaten by termites or other insects that might otherwise feast on a house made of straw or sticks.
Why is brick so strong? When fired at extremely high temperatures, the clay particles fuse together to form a super-strong bond that makes clay bricks into rocks. Clay bricks are stronger than concrete and many other building materials.
When combined in an interlocking pattern with other bricks and held together by a cement called mortar, bricks make sturdy structures that can survive for hundreds, if not thousands, of years with very little maintenance. For example, the Great Wall of China was built over two thousand years ago with nearly 4 billion bricks!