Our guide to bricks
Posted by: Rex Nye
Published: - Last Updated:
Clay bricks remain the building material of choice for external walls throughout England and Wales, offering a durable and attractive option at a reasonable cost. What’s more, they’re low-maintenance and their appearance improves with age.
When it comes to picking a brick for a project, the choice can be overwhelming. There are literally thousands of types of brick, each with their own colour, texture and shape (not to mention price), which gives customers plenty to consider when planning a build.
To help you choose the right brick for your project, we’ve put together this handy guide.
While bricks have been around for centuries, the process of making them with machines has only been common for the last hundred or so years. There are a few different manufacturing processes, each producing a slightly different type of brick.
Wire-cut bricks are extruded from a column of clay, which produces a brick with a smooth finish. Stock bricks are shaped in sand-coated moulds which leave a textured finish, and waterstruck bricks are similar but don’t include sand, resulting in a smoother face.
In general, wire-cut bricks should be the cheapest of the three, and make the most sense when ordering in large quantities.
Although handmade bricks are roughly four times the cost of machine-made ones, they allow customers to tailor their appearance to suit individual needs. If you’ve got the budget and you’re looking for an irregular size of brick or a particular colour or texture that you can’t find on the shelf, handmade bricks provide a good solution.
Every year, around 40 million bricks are reclaimed from old buildings to be sold again, but this only accounts for 1% of annual brick sales, which gives you an idea of how many are produced each year!
There are a number of reclamation yards around the country that stock previously used bricks, although you will probably need to be content with a more limited choice than if you buy new.
However, if you have the budget to pay 50p or more per brick then your choice will immediately widen.
Second-hand bricks can be a good way to save money, but depending on the size and specifications of the project you might find it difficult to get your hands on enough to complete the job.
This refers to bricks that don’t fit the standard shape, and are often used for details such as cills and wall cappings. Though some common sizes are more readily available, generally they need to be made to order which involves waiting times and higher prices than standard bricks.
Another option is to use a brick-bonding service. These make bricks to size by cutting and gluing standard bricks together, which is not just faster, it’s also cheaper. Ideal for projects that use second-hand bricks.
See our range of brick specials here.
There are two technical specifications for bricks that it’s important to know. The first is frost rating, which relates to the brick’s resistance to frost, and includes three categories: F (high), M (medium), and O (poor).
A brick with poor frost resistance is particularly vulnerable to spalling, where the face begins to crumble. Considering our delightful English weather, we’d never advise using O-rated bricks in situations where they will be exposed to the elements, but neither should you need to use F-rated bricks, unless the building is in a severe frost area such as the Lake District. M-rated bricks should be acceptable for the great majority of applications other than exposed areas such as chimneys.
The other brick specification is salt rating, which is divided into two categories, L (low) and N (normal). This isn’t as critical as frost rating, but if you’re building in very wet areas then it’s best to avoid N-rated bricks as these require sulphate-resistant cement.
Here at NYEs, we offer a custom matching service to help you find the right brick for your project. Just bring us a sample or request a visit to your site and our very own brick detective, Duncan Tidy, will hit the bricks in search of your ideal match.
To provide customers with matching bricks for future extensions, we also over-order when supplying local housing developments. And if we don’t carry the type of brick you need, we’ll use our network of contacts to try to meet your requirements.