Brick is the most popular building material used worldwide. You might not be familiar with the types of bricks used today, but that’s why we’re here. Conventional bricks, along with clay bricks, have changed over the past 100 years, and even new types of bricks have emerged.
Although bricks have changed in masonry construction, they serve the same purposes. Everything from a brick sidewalk or a rectangular building unit, you’ll find bricks on just about anything that requires support.
Here, we’ll show you the differences between first-class bricks, second-class bricks, concrete bricks, and those that have a smooth surface. We’ll also look at how good bricks made with raw materials can make a difference when compared with calcium silicate bricks used to build homes, for example.
It’s not uncommon to find many types of bricks at the same construction site, and there’s a good reason why. With the contemporary home design, one home can feature many different types of bricks.
Adding to their popularity and usefulness, there are other bricks and brick veneers available for DIY experts. With bricks, it seems there is something for everyone.
The History of Bricks
Before we explore the different types of bricks, let’s look at their history and learn more about them.
According to historical records, the earliest bricks were first made in 7,000 BC. To date, the molded bricks remain the oldest discovered bricks ever recorded. It is believed the molded bricks consisted of raw materials like mud clay and were shaped into bricks and then dried in the open air.
The first brick wall house in North America was built in 1665. After that, mortar brick building designs developed and would become the standard.
Beginning in the 1850s, concrete bricks were manufactured and made with clay, sand, and shale. The clay was gathered from underneath large, natural water resources. Solid brick masonry construction was common as it provided the most strength and protection.
Today, the US is home to 38 brick manufacturers. And nationwide, North Carolina is the
In masonry construction, bricks are classified into four distinct types of bricks.
1. First Class Bricks
First-class bricks are the highest quality bricks compared to other common bricks. They are molded by table-molding and burnt in large kilns.
The bricks have sharp edges and smooth surfaces and are the best bricks used in masonry construction.
2. Second Class Bricks
Second-class bricks are considered good-quality brick. They are molded by a ground-molding process and burnt in kilns. The bricks are rectangular but do not have smooth surfaces or sharp edges.
3. Third Class Bricks
Third-class bricks are unburnt bricks. They”re poor quality bricks and used in masonry construction for temporary structures. The bricks are not suitable for rainy areas. Their surfaces are rough and have unfair edges.
4. Fourth Class Bricks
Fourth class bricks are very poor quality bricks and also not used in masonry construction. They are crushed and used as aggregates for concrete. The bricks are over-burnt, which is why they’re brittle and fragile.
Fourth class bricks are used for temporary structures and as paving bricks.
Types Of Bricks In The US
Here, we’ll look at the major types of bricks used today by building experts. Although sub-categories exist, we’ll review first class bricks ranging from fire bricks, calcium silicate bricks, engineering bricks, to third-class bricks.
We’ll also learn more about burnt bricks, ash bricks, fly ash bricks, refractory bricks, paving bricks, second class bricks, and even fourth class bricks.
The standard brick length is eight inches long. All types of bricks in the US have the same dimensions and are 3 5/8 inches wide and 2.25 inches high.
Burnt Clay Bricks
Burnt clay bricks are the most common type of brick used in construction. When you see a construction site with bricks, there’s a good chance the bricks are burnt clay.
As a dry pressed brick, it is made by pressing wet clay into molds, then drying and firing in kilns. The bricks are red and offer greater fire resistance.
The dry pressed bricks are available in four classes, with first class offering the best quality and most strength. When used in walls, they require plastering or rendering with mortar.
The bricks protect against moisture, insects, and erosion.
Sun Dried Clay Bricks
Sun dried bricks and unburnt bricks are popular alternatives to burnt clay bricks because they are easy to make. The bricks are also known as mud bricks or adobe bricks. They are the oldest type of brick and made by forming clay and sundry.
The bricks contain sand, clay, straw, and water. Although they’re useful for outdoor purposes, unlike other bricks, they are considered poor quality bricks.
Although they’re not durable compared to conventional bricks, the unburnt bricks look great on rustic designs. The bricks are known to reduce indoor temperatures, however, they’re used for outdoor and landscaping structures. They are not preferred for structural walls or interior walls in residential buildings.
Concrete bricks are common building materials used in construction. They are similar to concrete blocks but made with a mixture of powdered Portland cement, water, sand, and gravel.
They can still be considered CMUs or concrete masonry units, but this refers to traditional CMU and not brick units in masonry construction. When using this term, it’s best if you say concrete bricks. A concrete brick can be hollow, which is good for providing insulation against heat as the air serves as an insulator.
Here are the types of bricks used today in masonry construction:
Engineering bricks are used by structural engineers. They are strong and load-bearing, making them perfect for interior structures. They provide extra strength for temporary structures and retaining walls.
The bricks offer fire resistance protection, absorb chemicals, and safeguard against insects. They are ideal for basements, cellars, and homes
Sand Lime Bricks
Sand lime bricks are calcium silicate bricks made with sand and lime. They offer compressive strength and work for load-bearing walls. The bricks are used in construction and masonry works.
The bricks are heated and compacted, making them stronger than normal bricks.
Fly Ash Bricks
Fly ash clay bricks are manufactured by coal-fired power plants. The fly ash clay brick is made of waste materials, that come from the combustion of coal in thermal power plants.
Ash brick is made from fertile land or topsoil. Fly ash bricks are preferred over clay bricks for this reason. The bricks are also eco-friendly. Due to their strength and durability, fly ash bricks are used in construction for both load-bearing and non-load-bearing walls.
Ash brick is fire resistant and provides thermal insulation.
Concrete brick is a combination of cement and aggregate, usually, sand, formed in molds and cured. Mineral colors are added so the brick look like clay. Concrete bricks are used in internal brickwork, but are being used in exteriors to provide a modern or urban aesthetic.
Fire bricks are refractory bricks and are named as such for their fire resistance features. The bricks are made with clay containing silica and alumina. The bricks can withstand temperatures up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
The most common bricks used for pizza ovens and chimneys are fire bricks.
Bullnose bricks are a facing brick made with one or two rounded edgings. The bricks are laid at the edges of walkways, planters, and the top of fencing walls to provide a softer and appealing finish. Bullnose bricks have smooth surfaces and are considered a good quality brick.
A capping brick is used to cap the exposed top of a wall.
Perforated bricks are used in masonry construction for lightweight and multi-framed structures. The perforations may be circular, square, rectangular, or any other regular shape in cross-section.
A modular brick has a set of nominal, specified, and actual dimensions. Modular bricks have two or three holes through their center and no raised edges. These types of bricks are used for the construction of homes and buildings.
Arch bricks are made of smaller elements like bonded bricks in mortar. These types of bricks are used to transfer a load sideways and downwards, away from the key stone at the center to the jambs of the walls below.
Coping bricks have a special shape designed to cap exposed wall tops.
Burnt bricks are bricks that are formed in molds and laid out to dry and then stacked to form a kiln. These types of bricks are burned to harden, making them more durable. When the fire has died, the burnt bricks are taken from the kiln and used in masonry construction.
Fired bricks are made with fire clay. These types of bricks offer resistance against high temperatures and are used in kilns, lining furnaces, fireplaces, and fireboxes.
Cellular or Cavity Bricks
Cellular concrete bricks are made with a lightweight mortar with recycled polystyrene aggregate instead of sandy materials. The bricks are harder to penetrate, which helps prevent moisture accumulation.
Roman bricks are longer, thinner bricks than those used in most masonry construction projects. These types of bricks offer a unique aesthetic, but their supplies are limited. Roman bricks are also known as “long format bricks.”
Unburnt bricks, otherwise known as sun-dried bricks, are less durable and used for temporary structures. Not only are the sun-dried bricks not as strong as most types of bricks used in masonry construction, but they’re also less water and fire resistant. More importantly, the bricks are not suitable for permanent structures.
Unburnt bricks are considered third class bricks or fourth class bricks. You won’t find them in regions that have heavy rainfall.
Hollow bricks are used in partition walls, boundary fences, large structures. They are also used in high pollution construction areas. Hollow bricks reinforce masonry walls, while reducing mortar use.
Alternatives To Bricks
Bricks can be used for walls, wall coverings, patios, and more. Because of this vast amount of uses for bricks, there are also many alternatives, depending on what you were planning on using the bricks for.
For example, you can always use wood as a replacement for almost any other building material. But glass is not as strong nor as versatile and it can only be a proper replacement in some cases.
Paneling should not be underestimated. It should be seen as an affordable wall option, not a cheap wall option. Though the two are synonymous there is a big difference in the way the two are perceived.
Paneling can look just like the real thing and the price per square foot is surprisingly affordable. You can get paneling that looks just like brick too. You can get it in any color so it looks like painted brick.
Stone is probably one of the most obvious substitutions for brick because of the similar textures and strength. The biggest difference is that stone has a more natural like while brick looks more industrial.
Stone is an old favorite that is becoming less popular purely because it is difficult to work with and because it is pricey. But you can fake stone looks the same way you can fake brick looks, which can be fun and affordable.
Limewash is another alternative that is usually done on real brick but it can be used on a multitude of materials and it can make the material look more brick-like. This type of wall, limewash, is similar to whitewash only it’s used on brick.
It’s made primarily of limestone and water, with other ingredients added depending on the company or contractor making it. This is a great, natural way to cover anything without the need for chemicals.
CMUs are concrete masonry units that are blocks made of concrete and used to create large buildings such as skyscrapers. They have many other uses as well such as basements and cellars, more uncommon for upper floors.
When painted a brick red, these look just like large bricks. You can get smaller CMUs if you like the size of bricks and paint them. They are often quite a bit cheaper than bricks so that’s a good reason to choose them.
Plaster is an age-old technique that is made of lime or gypsum, water, and sand. It’s a simple technique that takes a lot of practice to get perfect. But when you do master it then the sky is the limit. Or perhaps the ceiling!
Plaster can be transformed into absolutely anything, replicating anything you can imagine and can be turned into such a steady structure too. Consider plaster the next time you have something to build.
Cob is a rare material used thousands of years ago. It is fireproof, weather-resistant, and eco-friendly, so it’s no wonder people are so interested in this unique building material. But what is it made of?
Cob is a natural building material made from dirt, water, straw, and lime. This formula can be adjusted but this covers most cob that you’ll see across the world. Read more about cob on our article about the material.
Pavers are a great alternative to brick primarily if you were going to use that brick to build a patio or walkway. This is because these are two of the most popular type of patio materials and they both work so well.
Pavers are slightly more common because of the sheer amount of options. Brick has far fewer options as far as designs styles go but it is as trusty as they come, not even needing mortar when used for walkways.
Concrete is another solid choice, literally! It can be poured for floors, walls, patios, and more. Although you need to know what you’re doing before you start, concrete is definitely a good substitute for brick.
In some ways, it’s easier to use because it can be poured and left to dry. Whereas brick takes a long time to build and it is done brick by brick, just like the saying, brick by brick! Takes a while to get it done!
Tile can’t be used in the ways that brick is used. However, it can be used to cover tile board on a partition, which can be used as a substitute for brick walls. Tile is popular in bathrooms and kitchens.
When used outside it’s important that you use outdoor tile. This can be used to create a patio just as brick can but it is less tolerable to impact damage so be careful when using it outdoors in large areas.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ
What is the cheapest brick?
Extruded bricks, made through a mold, are the cheapest and one of the most common types of bricks used today. Like other types of bricks, sand molded and handmade bricks cost more.
Which Brick Is The Best?
Burnt clay bricks are considered first class bricks and the best among all types of bricks used today. The high quality bricks have standard shapes, smooth surfaces, and are known for their durability and strength.
Which Is Best Blocks Or Bricks?
Among the types of brick used today, concrete blocks are more durable and can carry heavy loads compared to all types of bricks. Hollow concrete blocks provide high insulation because of the cavity within.
You’ll find blocks and bricks at a construction site because they are both useful.
What Is An Extruded Brick?
An extruded brick is a brick with holes. The bricks are manufactured with holes to ensure they are fired evenly. The holes act as a method for decreasing weight, which can be beneficial for bricklayers.
The bricks come in a wide range of styles including smooth, drag faced, rolled texture, sand faced, or glazed. The bricks have perforations or core holes, which require less energy for drying and firing and are also lighter and easier to handle.
How Many Faces Does A Brick Have?
A brick has six faces. As a cube-shaped element, brick also has 12 edges.
What Are Bricks Made Of?
Clay is the main brick material, while other materials are sand and lime, concrete, and fly ash. Although the types of bricks used for homes today are made of clay, but other bricks styles are available.
Types Of Bricks Conclusion
The types of bricks used today have many positive qualities. To understand how good bricks are, first, consider their materials. Clay-bearing earth bricks are environmentally friendly and low maintenance.
Depending on their qualities, some bricks are more expensive than other types of bricks. If you decide to build a brick house with hollow bricks, for example, you might not spend as much, but your home won’t be as insulated.
Most types of brick used today have smooth surfaces. Meanwhile, common bricks are difficult to paint, so once you commit to brick, there’s no turning back. If you don’t want red, but you want brick, try sand lime bricks. They come in a soft gray color and look like the color of cement.
And if you want to do it right, go with a first class brick when selecting building materials. A good quality brick, and especially for interior walls where smooth surfaces are a priority, will last longer and help you sell your home when you’re ready to move.