18th Nov 2022 -

Clay bricks have been an essential building component for thousands of years, remaining a popular choice today for both private and public buildings. Strong, attractive, and long-lasting, clay bricks are sold in a range of types and colours. In this guide from Building Materials Nationwide, we’ll explore the benefits offered by clay bricks, look at the three main types of clay bricks sold in the UK, and answer some popular questions.

What Are Clay Bricks?

Clay bricks are an essential building tool across the domestic and commercial sectors, and have been used for a huge variety of buildings across history. Originally used in the production of dried mud bricks, today, clay bricks remain the dominant method to build houses in the UK, due to their strength, durability, and aesthetic beauty. 

facing bricks

How Are Clay Bricks Made?

Clay bricks are made from a combination of clay with water and aggregates, which can be sand or a variety of other options. This mixture will be pressed into a brick mould, and heated within a kiln to a temperature of around 1000℃. While clay bricks have been made through a variety of methods over the several millennia they have been in use, today they are produced on an industrial scale within factories, machine-graded to ensure consistent size and strength.

What Are the Benefits of Clay Bricks

There are a few key reasons that clay bricks have persisted across history and remain a crucial building material to this day:

  • Durability: Clay brick structures can offer hundreds of years of performance with minimal maintenance, as demonstrated by the many historic brick structures still standing.
  • Strength: Clay bricks can be used for load-bearing structures without the need for additional materials.
  • Thermal and Acoustic Insulation: Clay bricks offer solid thermal performance within a building, which will reduce heating bills over time. They also offer acoustic insulation, dampening sounds from crossing through brick walls.
  • Environmental Benefits: Clay bricks are made from readily available elements, and can be crushed and returned to the earth. They can also be recycled due to their lifespan, saving energy and money.
  • Fire Performance: Clay bricks are non-combustible, and will neither start fires or aid their spread.
  • Attractive Look: Clay bricks have a great look, that improves with age. They work well in most architectural styles and can be simply installed without decoration.

Clay Bricks vs Concrete Bricks

Concrete bricks, sometimes called concrete blocks, are comparable building materials, though usually coming in a larger size. Concrete bricks possess a few advantages over clay bricks, with stronger water resistance and higher compressive strength. Certain concrete options will also offer excellent insulation. 

Clay bricks will have a much higher lifespan compared to concrete, though concrete is likely to last for around 100 years. When looking to build with concrete bricks it’s also important to bear in mind that visually concrete is seen as less attractive than clay bricks, and may need to be decorated or faced with a different material, while clay bricks can be simply installed.

What Types of Clay Brick Are Available in the UK?

By using different types of clay and different aggregates, a selection of clay bricks can be produced, with three main types available in the UK; Common bricks, facing bricks, and engineering bricks.

  • Common Bricks: Common clay bricks will possess a uniform size and strength, but will have an inconsistent and potentially unattractive look. They are designed for all non-visible uses within a building and can be rendered as an internal wall.
  • Facing Bricks: Clay-facing bricks are utilised for visible uses and will be available in a range of attractive colours. They retain the strength needed for structural and load-bearing uses.
  • Engineering Bricks: Clay engineering bricks are designed for high strength and water resistance, used within strength-based constructions and for those that will be in contact with water such as sewers. Engineering bricks are sold in class  A or class B, with A the superior of the two.
  • Air Bricks: These will be standard clay bricks made with holes across them, designed to allow the passage of air. Air bricks will be used in locations such as houses with suspended ground floors to lower the risk of dampness. Sometimes these are called extruded bricks.

What Colours of Clay Brick Are Available?

Clay bricks can be produced in a range of colours, determined by the clay and aggregates used. The famous red brick, for instance, is due to iron oxide in clay. Manganese oxide within clay can help create a brown brick. Clays with higher levels of lime can be used to produce yellow bricks. Blue bricks, often engineering bricks, are heated at a high temperature to achieve that colour. Black bricks are produced through the addition of black clay oxide as a dye within the mixing process.

Where Are Clay Bricks Used?

Clay bricks are popularly used in the construction of houses and smaller commercial buildings, and are also used for building standalone walls and paving. Engineering bricks are used for underground damp areas such as sewer tunnels. Bricks can also be used to create an attractive exterior around a different building material, such as concrete. While the tallest buildings tend to be constructed from steel and concrete, bricks have historically been used to make castles, cathedrals, and towers, many of which remain standing today.

Two bricklayers building a brick wall with trowel and red bricks.

What Size Are Clay Bricks?

While they can be produced in different sizes, the standard dimensions for a clay brick will be 215mm x 102.5mm x 65mm. These will be installed with a recommended 10mm of mortar between each brick.

How Long Do Clay Bricks Last?

Clay bricks boast stellar longevity compared to other building materials, offering centuries of performance. A study from Leeds Metropolitan University found that clay bricks have a potential of 650 years of performance in solid walls. Even when a building is no longer needed, the clay bricks in its walls can often be recycled and used again.

What do Clay Bricks Cost?

The cost of clay bricks will vary depending on the type you are using. At Building Materials Nationwide we sell a large range of bricks, including common bricksfacing bricks, and engineering bricks. While prices are subject to change, our Edenhall Buxton Common Brick currently costs about £183 before VAT for 396 bricks (46p per brick). In terms of facing bricks, we offer the Wienerberger Ewhurst Sienna Red Brick for around £340 before VAT for 400 bricks. 

Quality Clay Bricks For Sale Across the UK

Building Materials Nationwide stocks a wide range of clay bricks, with common bricksfacing bricks, and engineering bricks available. We work with independent contractors and large firms alike, offering a comprehensive range of building products, sold at competitive prices and delivered across the UK. For customers within the industry, we offer trade accounts, giving access to our full product range, our lightning-fast delivery options, and the services of a dedicated account manager.

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