Although there has been evidence of kiln fired bricks since 4400 BC, new opportunities with technology and a resurgence in popularity of having exposed brick has led to a variety of brick types over the last few decades. Today, two types in particular—thin brick and extruded brick—are often utilized by designers and architects.
What is Thin Brick?
Just as it sounds, thin bricks—also known as brick veneers—are bricks that are made thinner than standard bricks. The thinness of the bricks allows an individual to get the look of brick without the weight.
Because it is thinner and lighter, thin bricks can be used in places that would otherwise require extensive construction and insulation, or it can be added after-the-fact as an aesthetic choice. In particular, thin bricks can be easily installed onto existing walls. This use gives thin bricks the moniker “brick veneer” because it covers the existing load-bearing wall aesthetically rather than being part of the structural integrity of the wall. Because it isn’t load bearing, thin bricks can be added to walls, flooring, backsplashes, ceilings, etc. at any point in the building’s lifecycle.
Although some thin bricks are made by cutting full bricks, most are manufactured to be thinner than standard brick. Typically made of clay and shale—although some are made of cement, fiberglass and other materials—some thin bricks are made more porous than others, particularly for wall and ceiling applications; in the case in which a brick may be more porous, they are only suitable for indoor use. Less porous, thin bricks that are rated for outdoor use may be used as a building facade or walkway.
What is Extruded Brick?
While other methods of brick manufacturing exist today, extruded bricks are the most common type of structural brick. Unlike moulded or handmade brick, extruded bricks are made when low-moisture clay is pushed through a die while under immense pressure, creating a brick shape. Because it is made using a die, the bricks that are created through this process are regular in size and shape to others made in the same machine.
Extruded brick can either be stiff extrusion, which contains 10-15 percent water, or soft extrusion, 20-25 percent water.
Often, the main use of extruded brick is structural. It may be left exposed or covered over. Because the main use is structural, a characteristic of extruded brick are the holes that run through the center. These holes do not negate the structural integrity of the brick, but they do help lighten the brick and quickens the drying process.
Extruded Brick Versus Thin Brick
Extruded bricks are the least expensive type of brick on the market today. However, while the bricks themselves are less expensive, they aren’t necessarily the right choice if they are going to be used cosmetically: because they’re heavier and structural, they require more specialized installation than thin bricks. Thin bricks, although more expensive initially, can be installed easily, especially on walls, backsplashes or flooring.
Both extruded and thin bricks are kiln-fired after drying, and can have different finishes, including a range of colors. Because thin bricks are often used as a veneer, and therefore are aesthetic in nature rather than structural, manufacturers of thin bricks offer a much wider variety of finishes and colors.