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Brick Types and Their Uses: ‘What Brick To Pick’

Brick laying and manufacturing is an historic industry in the UK, and a big part of what we do at Fairalls. We’re proud to have been manufacturing and distributing bricks for over 100 years. Yet this is still an industry that is being modernised and updated today. This article will give you an insight into the types of bricks available, their purposes, and both their benefits and weaknesses. We’ll also look at the origins of bricks themselves, along with some fun facts to remember for your next pub quiz!

Brick Types

Engineering Bricks

Price Range – £0.50p – £0.93p p/brick. 

Although typically quite recognisable for both their traditional Red, and their Blue-Black colour, along with their smooth touch; Engineering bricks are more known for their physical characteristics, not their appearance. They’re strength is high and has low water absorption.

Engineering bricks are classified as Class A or B, with A being the strongest with a compressive strength of 125N/mm opposed to the 75N/mm of the Class B.

They’re used widely for civil engineering, and applied when strength and water resistance is key, such as ground works, sewerage, and bridges. Check out our range of Engineering Bricks (here)


Stock Bricks

Price Range – £0.70p – £1.25p p/brick

Stock bricks can be defined as ‘hand-made bricks moulded on a stock-board’. But realistically, there’s a lot more to it than that. Being one of the most common brick types in the UK, there are many variations, and several differing manufacturing techniques. Stock bricks, are known to have a rougher, open texture and feature an attractive creased face. In turn, this gives the brickwork a more bespoke look with a range of colours and sizes. If you’re looking for a characterful, cost-effective brick for your next project, check out our range (Here).

The ‘West Hoathly Clamp-Fired Stock bricks’ are commonly used stock bricks, and are produced by traditional clamping methods, with modern firing techniques. The nature of this manufacturing process means that these bricks do not have square-edged arises and are never perfect in their uniformity; making them ideal for projects seeking a characterful look. They are FI rated for durability meaning they’re moderately frost resistant and can be used between DPC and eaves in sheltered areas. It is however not recommended that they are used in exposed applications such as boundary walls and chimneys.

  • Compressive strength – 30N/mm²
  • Less than 15% water absorption
  • Dry brick weight – 2.5kg

London Brick Company (LBC) Bricks

Price Range – £0.85 – £1.04p p/brick

LBC Bricks are a historic and popular brick throughout the country. With 140 years of production, the iconic London Brick, of which Forterra is the sole manufacturer, is used in approximately 23% of the UK’s housing stock. It is made from raw materials that are millions of years old, the excavation of which has changed the landscape, and helped in the construction of some of our most recognisable buildings. Check out our LBC Bricks

This type of brick, as outlined, has been very popular for many years, meaning that its most common use now, is for extensions and brick matching purposes. Its Fletton LBC bricks are not as cost-effective as stock bricks, but are reasonably consistent through the ranges, and can match up nicely with existing bricks, within a range of colour specific bricks. The structural qualities of LBC bricks are that they’re firm in terms of compressive strength N p/mm, but are fragile to lay, and can easily crack if not handled correctly.

Historic Image of LBC workers


Brick Quality

To build a good quality structure, observing quality of materials is important. Here are a few pointers on how to identify good bricks at a site, and what makes an effective brick.

  • Colour: This should be bright and uniform.
  • Surfaces: They should be well burned and having smooth surfaces and sharp edges.
  • Thermal conductivity of bricks should be less and they should be sound proof.
  • They shouldn’t absorb more than 20% by weight when we placed it in water.
  • Striking two bricks together, should produce a ringing sound.
  • Structure of bricks should be homogeneous and uniform.
  • The bricks should not break when we dropped it form 1m height.
  • There should not be any scratch left on the brick when we scratched with finger nail.
  • There should not be any white deposits on brick, when we soaked it in water for 24 hrs.

There are four main levels of ‘Quality’ when it comes to bricks, as listed below:

First Quality: These can be used in all brick facing applications and meets all of the supplier’s regulations and criteria of the specific product.

Second Quality: May have cracks, slight discolouration or size irregularities, but generally effective bricks. Ideal for use in garden walls and non-structural applications.

ATR/Off Shades: ‘As They Rise’; common to have discolouration and colour variation from pack to pack, and size irregularities to be expected.

Rejects: They do not meet any industry regulations, and are commonly used for aggregates manufacturing, due to their brittle nature.


History and Origins of the Brick.

As mentioned at the beginning, bricks have played a huge role in both the origins of Fairalls Builder’s Merchants, and also the construction industry as a whole. Bricks have been in existence around the world for thousands of years, and are still one of the most used building materials globally.

Bricks date back to 7000BC where they were first found in southern Turkey and around Jericho. The first bricks were sun dried mud bricks, follow by fired bricks, which were found to be more resistant to harsher weather conditions, which made them a much more reliable brick for use in permanent buildings. Fired bricks were also useful for absorbing any heat generated throughout the day, then releasing it at night, a characteristic which is considered even today.

The Ancient Egyptians used sun dried mud bricks for building as well, evidence of which can still be seen today at various ruins. Following on from that, The Romans further distinguished the bricks which had been dried by the sun and air and those bricks which were burnt in a kiln. Preferring to make their bricks in the spring, the Romans held on to their bricks for 2 years before they were used or sold, emphasizing the importance of drying while manufacturing.

In the 12th Century, the brick gothic period which was a reduced style of Gothic architecture previously very common in northern Europe was formed. The buildings around this time were mainly built from fired red clay bricks, and mainly found in the Baltic countries like Sweden, Denmark, and Germany.

Bricks have always kept its characteristics simple and it’s purposes clear, and has been developed and will keep developing forwards. With modern machinery, earth moving equipment, and modern tunnel kilns, brick making has become easier and more innovative. Bricks can be made from variety of materials the most common being clay but also calcium silicate and concrete. Also during 2007 the new ‘fly ash’ brick was created using the by-products from coal power plants.


Bricks: Did you know…?

Bricks have ‘frogs’. The indentation in the surface of a brick is called a frog, and debate rages over whether the bricks should be laid frog-up or frog-down.

Red bricks are red because of the iron in them, and higher temperature firings produce darker coloured bricks.

3,873,000,000 individual bricks were used to build the Great Wall of China – in 200-210 BC!

The most common bricks are made from clay and heated at a thousand degrees centigrade. Which is the average temperature of volcanic lava!

Bricks are energy efficient because they hold sunlight throughout the day and release that energy after the sun goes down.

The Great Wall of China, and its 8 Million Bricks


Final Thoughts…

Whatever brickwork you’re looking to do, we hope this has helped spark some ideas, and giving you some valuable insight into the world of bricks. We would also love to help you further by offering our FREE BRICK MATCHING SERVICE, as for those who are extending your property, you are going to want to match the new bricks to the existing. However, your existing bricks will have weathered and developed a patina. Moreover the bricks specified when your home was originally built might not be available now. Please visit one of our heavyside branches (addresses on website), or send some close-up photos to and one of our experienced members of staff will get back to you.