A Complete Guide to the Different Types of Bricks

October 29th 2019

A Complete Guide to the Different Types of Bricks

Choosing the right brick for your home or extension is a big decision, bricks aren't easily changed. Some bricks are manufactured specifically for their strength capabilities, while others are designed for visual appeal. Plus, there's more shapes, styles and sizes on the market than ever before (over 3,000), so it's easy to see why selecting a brick is a daunting task.

Below, we'll go through the different types of bricks, typical materials, and common variations you might come across when planning your next masonry project.

What are the Different Types of Bricks?

There are several varieties of bricks available - each providing a varying level of technical performance, and aesthetic appeal. Therefore, it's important to understand when you might use one brick over another. Below are the most common types of bricks:

Special Shaped Bricks

As the name suggests, special shaped bricks have an irregular design and are commonly used for specific purposes (e.g. building a curved wall and non-right angle corner) or to achieve certain architectural styles (e.g. highlighting particular areas of brickwork).

Special shaped bricks integrate seamlessly with traditional brickwork and can reduce the time spent on construction. For instance, bonding bricks are used to fill gaps that would otherwise involve cutting a standard-sized brick.

They are also commonly used in capping walls, creating plinth courses and indentations in piers to finish off or add extra design features to brickwork.

Engineering Bricks

Engineering bricks are dense and durable with high compressive strength capabilities and low water absorption. Due to their excellent load-bearing capacity, they are typically used in projects where appearance isn't paramount, but water, frost or strength is an issue, such as groundworks, sewers, manholes, damp-proof courses, and retaining walls.

Engineering bricks are typically red or blue due to the chemical composition and manufacturing process (fired in a kiln under extremely high temperatures - around 1200 degrees). They can vary in appearance though, as they are not made for their aesthetic properties. There are two classifications (Class A and B), both of which have different technical attributes. For example, Class A engineering bricks have a compressive strength rating of 125N/mm2 and water absorption of less than 4.5%, while Class B engineering bricks can achieve compressive strength in excess of 75N/mm2 and have water absorption of less than 7%.

Facing Bricks

Essentially, any brick placed on the outside of a home or building is classified as a facing brick. Unlike engineering bricks, facing bricks are designed to be seen and are chosen for their aesthetic appeal rather than performance qualities.

Facing bricks are what most people will mean when they think of 'house bricks'. They come in many different styles, colours, and textures to achieve the desired look and feel. While facing bricks are traditionally made out of clay, there are now also ranges of concrete bricks with different colours and textures too.

Common Bricks

Common bricks are any type of brick that is discounted or reduced for one or more of various reasons. For instance, some bricks are accidentally altered during the production process, which can result in slight colour variations, these are known as 'off-shades'. Other times, there can be structural defects to some bricks, meaning they aren't suitable for certain structures and are therefore sold cheaply.

However, it's worth mentioning that cheap bricks often come in limited supply as there will only be a small number affected at a time. You will need to make sure that you plan accordingly and obtain enough bricks to complete your project as you won't be able to order more if you're short.

What Are Bricks Made From?

Bricks can also be categorised by the type of material that is used during the manufacturing process - either clay or concrete.

Clay bricks are one of the oldest and most commonly used construction materials. They are manufactured from wet clay, which is pressed into moulds (or extruded and wirecut), and then fired in a kiln. Clay bricks are very durable, versatile, and have inherent water-resistant properties, making them a top choice for many home improvement projects (masonry walls, facades, gardens, etc.). While clay bricks were initially handmade, they are now mass-produced and are therefore an extremely affordable building material. Genuine clay bricks will stand the test of time and can often last for hundreds of years.

On the other hand, you can also find concrete bricks which are artificially made by combining cement with small to medium-sized aggregates such as sand, crushed rock, and gravel. While they share a similar purpose to clay bricks (e.g. used for facades), there is one key benefit that makes them a popular choice - design flexibility. Concrete bricks can be manufactured in a variety of different colours by adding in natural or synthetic pigments during the production process allowing you to achieve specific design aesthetics. However, the colour can fade over time, and concrete bricks are naturally more porous, so they need to be adequately sealed to prevent water penetration.

What Sizes to Bricks Come in?

The most common brick size you'll come across in the UK is the standard 215mm (L) x 102.5mm (W) and 65mm (H). These bricks are usually laid with a 10mm mortar joint. However older properties can also have imperial bricks at 73mm or 68mm high bricks, and even 50mm and 80mm.

It's always important to check the size of any brick when matching, as often bricks come in multiple sizes to satisfy the demand for both new builds and extensions to properties.

Standard Brick Variations

Not all bricks are created equal. While there are many shapes (e.g. special-shaped bricks), sizes, and types of materials used (concrete vs. clay) you can also have different variations of the same brick. For instance, bricks can come with a solid, frogged, or perforated composition.

Solid bricks (also called dry-pressed) are your traditional type of brick made with rectilinear dimensions. They are made by pressing clay into individual moulds to achieve the desired size. Due to their composition, solid bricks can be quite heavy to work with and transport. They are required if you want to cap a wall with the same brick, so there is a solid surface all around.

You might also notice that some solid bricks come with a small indent on the underside. These are called frogged bricks. The indent, or depression, is filled with mortar which distributes weight evenly across the masonry structure, resulting in a stronger bond between bricks. Frogged bricks should always be laid upwards (indent facing up), otherwise the frog will not be completely filled with mortar and it can compromise the overall strength of your structure.

Finally, you have perforated bricks, which is where a continuous column of clay is forced through a mould and cut into sections with wires. Perforated bricks have core holes passing through them (exceeding 25% of brick volume) which enables mortar to lock the bricks together when laid. Perforated bricks are much lighter than solid or frogged bricks and use less clay during the manufacturing process, making them affordable and easier to handle/transport overall.

What Bricks Should You Use?

There's a lot to consider when choosing the right brick for your project, but with the help of industry experts, you can find the perfect brick for your project with ease.

Get in touch with us today and we'll guide you through the entire process. Our brick selection service is completely free and guaranteed to save you both time and money.