People can’t believe a wavy brick wall uses fewer bricks than a straight one, but it’s true
If you were to draw a straight line and a wavy line from point A to point B, there would be no question which one used more ink. After all, “The shortest distance between two points (on a flat surface) is a straight line” has been baked into our brains since elementary school math class. Logically, a wavy line uses more ink because it covers more distance, right? Right.
So if that’s true, how is it possible that a brick wall built in a wavy pattern could use fewer bricks than a straight one built between the exact same two points?
Not only is it possible, it’s actually true, despite people’s disbelief over the fact.
A post on X from @InternetHOF shows the claim that “corrugated brick fences” sometimes seen in England use fewer bricks than a straight wall, with the caption, “I don’t believe this is true.”
It does seem illogical from a pure geometry-on-paper standpoint, but what makes it true is how the structural integrity of brick walls works.
There are all kinds of nitty-gritty calculations a structural engineer could get into to explain, but thankfully, internet hero (and strangely popular X account) Greg came to everyone’s rescue with an explanation that neatly fit into a single post on X.
“They’re called crinkle crankles,” wrote Greg. “A single leaf wall over that distance would need brick piers approx every 1.5-2m if it was a retaining wall it would need to be at least 9” wide (2 bricks). The crinkle crankle has more strength due to it’s curved nature so can be 4” wide or a single leaf of bricks.
“For the maths if we can assume they’re true semi-circles then each semi circle would be 1/2piD or 1.57D whereas a double leaf wall would be 2D for the same length D.
“Therefore using 21.5% less bricks than a double leaf wall hope that clears things up.”
In even simpler terms, a long, straight brick wall only a single brick wide would not be able to stand without some kind of buttresses every couple of meters, which would actually take more bricks to build. Otherwise, it would need to be thicker, which would also increase the number of bricks needed. The curve of the crinkle crankle (best name ever) provides stability all on its own, so the wall doesn’t need structured supports.
First of all, what a cool piece of human ingenuity that people actually figured this out hundreds of years ago. And second of all, why are there not more crinkle crankle walls everywhere? So much more fun and whimsical. And apparently, a better use of resources.
But before you go building your own crinkle crankle wall to make your house look super cool, make sure you’ve got the geometry correct. There are actual specifications for making a structurally sound serpentine wall, and if you don’t do it correctly, you may find yourself with a pile of bricks and no wall, curvy or straight.
If you want to see some cool crinkle crankle walls in the U.S., head to the University of Virginia. Thomas Jefferson himself added them to the design of the Charlottesville, Virginia, campus.
More crinkle crankles everywhere, please.
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