Brick Types and Properties: A Comprehensive Guide

Brick Types and Properties: A Comprehensive Guide

Bricks are a fundamental building material used in various construction projects. They come in different types, sizes, and shapes, each with its own unique properties and advantages. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the world of bricks, exploring their types, properties, and the factors to consider when choosing the right brick for your project. Whether you're a homeowner or a construction professional, this guide will provide you with valuable insights into the fascinating world of bricks.


1. Introduction to Bricks

Bricks are one of the most widely-used building materials in the construction industry. They offer numerous advantages, including durability, cost-effectiveness, and aesthetic appeal. Bricks can be categorized into different types based on their composition, size, and shape. The two primary categories are bricks and blocks, with bricks being smaller and more aesthetically pleasing, while blocks are larger and made of concrete.

2. Understanding Brick Properties

Brick types and properties vary depending on their manufacturing process and the type of clay used. The physical, mechanical, thermal, and durability properties of bricks play a crucial role in their performance and appearance. Let's explore the vital properties that define the quality of bricks:

2.1 Strength

Strength is a critical property of bricks, especially when they are used for load-bearing walls. Clay bricks should have a minimum compressive strength of 9N/mm² for buildings up to two storeys high, and 13N/mm² for taller structures. It is essential to avoid using bricks with a crushing strength below 3.5N/mm². To test the strength of a brick, you can drop it from a height of approximately one meter. If it does not break upon impact, it meets the required strength criteria.

2.2 Colour

Bricks are commonly known for their red color, but modern manufacturing techniques allow for bricks of various colors to be produced. The color of a brick is influenced by factors such as the type of clay used, mineral pigments, engobes, and the firing process. Oxidizing, which involves the use of a high level of oxygen during firing, is primarily used for creating red bricks. Different clay minerals, such as iron oxide and manganese oxide, contribute to the color variations in bricks.

2.3 Durability

Bricks are renowned for their durability, with some types lasting for centuries. The durability of a brick depends on its type and the environmental conditions it is exposed to. Engineering bricks, for example, are designed to withstand constant frosty or damp conditions and are often used in foundations and infrastructures. It is crucial to choose the right type of brick based on the specific weather conditions of your project location.

2.4 Absorption

Brick absorption refers to the quantity of water a brick can absorb as a percentage of its total weight. It is an important property to consider, as excessive water absorption can lead to structural issues. Ordinary building bricks should have an absorption rate between 12% and 20%, while engineering bricks should have a lower absorption rate of around 12%. Bricks with high water absorption can also affect the bond between bricks and mortar, leading to potential moisture-related problems.

2.5 Size

Brick sizes vary across different regions, with the UK standard brick size being 215mm x 102.5mm x 65mm. However, an allowance of 10mm is applied to accommodate mortar joints, resulting in a size of 225mm x 112.5mm x 75mm. Standard brick sizes facilitate the planning and estimation of construction projects. The size of bricks should be carefully considered to ensure they are neither too small nor too large, as this can impact project cost and efficiency.

2.6 Form and Shape

Bricks are typically rectangular, with well-defined edges and an even surface. However, there are specially-designed bricks available in the market that serve specific purposes. Perforated bricks have holes created during the molding process to enhance drying and burning. Cavity or hollow bricks are lighter and quicker to work with, making them suitable for certain applications. Other brick types include plinth, splay or cant bricks, coping bricks, bullnose bricks, and gutter bricks, each serving a distinct function.

3. Exploring Brick Types

Brick types can vary based on manufacturing techniques and the intended use. Understanding different brick types will help you make an informed decision when selecting the right brick for your project. Let's explore the three general categories of bricks:

3.1 Engineering Bricks

Engineering bricks are known for their low water absorption and high compressive strength. They are primarily chosen for their physical attributes rather than their appearance. Engineering bricks are further classified into Class A and Class B, with Class A having higher strength and lower water absorption than Class B. These bricks are often used in structural applications where strength and durability are paramount.

3.2 Facing Bricks

Facing bricks are the most common type of bricks used in construction. They are predominantly used for external walls, where both aesthetic qualities and resistance to water, fire, and damage are important. Facing bricks can be further classified as soft mud (stock) bricks or extruded (wire-cut) bricks. Soft mud bricks have a rugged texture, while extruded bricks have a smoother and more uniform shape.

3.3 Common Bricks

Common bricks are made from basic brick clay and are used in a wide range of structural and internal areas. They have a rugged texture similar to facing bricks but lack the uniformity of shape. Common bricks are primarily red in color, like facing bricks, and offer water and fire resistance.

4. Choosing the Right Brick for Your Project

When selecting a brick for your project, several factors need to be considered. These factors include the intended use, environmental conditions, aesthetic preferences, and budget constraints. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Identify the specific requirements of your project, such as load-bearing capacity, weather resistance, and insulation needs.
  • Consider the aesthetic aspects of the brick, including color, texture, and shape.
  • Choose a brick that meets the required strength and durability criteria for your project.
  • Take into account the environmental conditions of the project location, such as temperature and moisture levels.
  • Evaluate the cost-effectiveness of different brick options, considering factors such as material cost, installation process, and long-term maintenance.

5. Where to Find Bricks

If you're looking for a specific facing brick or engineering brick in different colors or sizes, Ultra Building Supplies offers a free Brick Matching service. They have a wide range of bricks for sale from over 20 different manufacturers, including Midland Brick and Vandersanden. Whether you're a homeowner or a trade professional, they can provide you with the right bricks for your project. Trade customers can also sign up for a trade account, with credit options available.


Bricks are versatile, durable, and aesthetically pleasing building materials that offer numerous advantages in construction projects. Understanding the different types and properties of bricks allows you to make an informed decision when selecting the right brick for your project. Consider factors such as strength, color, durability, absorption, size, and shape to ensure the optimal choice. With the right bricks in hand, you can create structures that stand the test of time while adding beauty to the built environment.