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Concrete Block vs Brick: Differences & Use Cases


Reading time: 5 minutes


Concrete blocks

Concrete blocks are made from different raw materials to bricks, so they have different structures as well as a very different look. Concrete blocks come in many colours and sizes and are made from stone or crushed sand aggregate, and can be either hollow or solid, whereas bricks are usually a more standard size and can be made from sand, lime and concrete materials.

As well as being arguably more water resistant than brick, particularly when the substrate is waterproofed, concrete blocks also have a higher compressive strength than clay bricks. Bricks usually weigh in at around 2.3 kg each, and they are smaller, whereas standard concrete blocks can weigh around 20 kg - however, this covers a larger area which can make them more cost effective. 


Advantages of concrete blocks

Concrete blocks are lighter than bricks, per square metre, making them easy to work with whilst still offering great stability, strength and durability. They also offer good fire resistance properties, great thermal insulation and excellent sound insulation. They are often considered more water resistant than bricks. The dry density of concrete blocks lowers the deal load on buildings, and their compressive strength is higher, which makes them great for modern structures.


Concrete vs brick blocks are usually stronger - concrete generally offers 3500 PSI compared to 3000 PSI for standard clay bricks. Their strength makes them ideal for large structures and foundations.


Available in a wide choice of sizes, they are ideal for different construction projects as they have a uniform shape and size. They are easy to paint and they can cost less than traditional bricks, as less mortar is needed, to help keep project budgets on track - making them a cost-effective alternative.


Disadvantages of concrete blocks

Overall, each concrete block is significantly larger and heavier than a brick, which means more labour will be needed for handling and installing them. This can also make them a challenge to transport and store. Due to their bulky size, which is great for certain projects, it is difficult to achieve the same aesthetic, intricate design or detail that you can with bricks.


Many people dislike the look of concrete blocks, and others don’t like that it’s more difficult to hang heavy objects on the walls after they are built. It is thought that the maintenance cost could be higher, and their lifespan is considered to be up to 100 years - which is significantly less than a brick-built structure.


As well as a possible risk from moisture, which can expand concrete blocks leading to cracks, some installers consider them more complex as you may need to embed conduits and other fittings before or during the build.


When would you use blocks instead of brick?

Concrete blocks are commonly used for commercial buildings, because of their durability, relatively low cost and their ease to decorate. They are also generally stronger, although slightly less suitable than brick for load-bearing walls because of their different structure. 


They suit large projects, tall buildings, modern builds, retaining walls and foundations, where a strong block is needed and where traditional aesthetics aren’t a large feature. They also offer better insulation and fireproofing, so are ideal for buildings such as schools, multiple occupancy homes and offices. They are more functional than attractive, and generally cost less.


Building Brick Types

Bricks come in a wide range of types and colours, and can be used for many different projects - from landscaping and garages, to block paving and building homes


There are three main types of traditional brick, including:


  • Engineering bricks - recognised by their smooth finish and holes that run from the top through to the bottom. Commonly used for tunnels and sewers

  • Common bricks - made using a cement and aggregate mix, and often have a non-uniform appearance. Ideal for internal walls or areas which aren’t on view

  • Facing bricks - made from fired clay and mortar for reinforcement, and bonded with cement, sand and water. These look more attractive and are popular for house building and landscape gardening


Advantages of brick

Historians have said that bricks have been used for home building since 7000 BC, and are a trusted and long-standing building material which will stand the test of time. They can also create an attractive internal feature in a property. Their look is classic, and they can be arranged in various designs, details and colour options to give a home - or outdoor feature - a unique feel. 


As well as being naturally strong and durable, bricks tend to be resistant to abrasion and are a popular pre-requisite for home buyers as they enhance the visual appeal and classic look of a building. 


Bricks are also relatively eco friendly and sustainable, as they’re made using natural materials, and offer naturally good thermal advantages. They have a higher thermal density, which allows them to absorb more heat than concrete blocks, which can be an advantage in the summer months. In fact, bricks offer such good longevity and aesthetics that reclaimed bricks are a popular way to reuse materials whilst offering a uniquely attractive feature that’s full of character.


Disadvantages of brick

Bricks usually have a higher cost than concrete blocks, and they aren’t usually as strong. They can be prone to chips and cracks, which is a big disadvantage for facing bricks. Bricks do absorb moisture, which can lead to damage, and they do need some maintenance including re-pointing eventually when the mortar starts to deteriorate. Individual bricks are harder to cut, and labour costs tend to be higher.


Bricks are heavier than concrete blocks, in equivalent area size, and it takes specially skilled labour to lay them correctly. You’ll also need more mortar to lay bricks, as they are smaller than concrete blocks.


When to use brick instead of concrete

Usually, a project will favour bricks over blocks mainly because of how they look. Most extensions on classic properties would use bricks, to match the existing home, unless they are being used for non-facing walls. Bricks are easy to work with and can be formed into almost any shape.


Construction projects with intricate detailing, customised feature walls or traditional architectural designs would choose bricks for better visual appeal. They are also more flexible, in both size and durability, and are timeless in how they look. 

Don’t forget, if you’re wondering how many bricks you’ll need for your project, use our handy brick calculator. For further advice on building materials and construction, visit the Travis Perkins Trade News and Advice hub for tips, inspiration and the latest safety and building regulations explained.


Concrete Block vs Brick: FAQs

What are the disadvantages of concrete blocks?

When looking at concrete vs brick, there are some downsides to concrete blocks. They are extremely bulky and difficult to move and store. Traditionally, they don’t look as attractive as bricks or other modern construction methods, and their porous structure means they absorb water easily. This could lead to water damage, or damp problems later on, if they aren’t maintained.


What are the advantages of concrete blocks over bricks?

Concrete blocks have plenty of advantages, as they are strong, they come in a huge variety of sizes and shapes and can be used for lots of different construction projects. They are versatile, durable and relatively inexpensive for certain projects. They form a more lightweight yet solid structure, and can be stacked easily without the risk of collapsing.


Do concrete blocks absorb water?

Water is more easily absorbed by concrete blocks vs brick. Concrete blocks are porous and can take on water from the soil or the environment, which can create dampness. The biggest concern is if extreme weather conditions cause any absorbed water to freeze and expand, leading to cracking and instability.


Why are blocks used instead of bricks?

Concrete blocks are favoured for their fire resistance properties, easy installation and better compressive strength than bricks. They may also help with cost saving on large projects, rather than using brick. As well as being versatile, concrete blocks are easier to paint, giving a more diverse choice of finish.


Which is better, concrete blocks or bricks?

Concrete block vs brick very much depends on the individual project, and what you want to achieve. Solid concrete blocks may offer better sound and insulation and fire resistance, but they are big and bulky. Bricks tend to be more durable in the long-run and look more attractive. Although concrete blocks are usually slightly cheaper than bricks, the installation costs tend to be similar.


Disclaimer: The information contained on this page is intended as an overall introduction and is not intended as project-specific advice from a qualified professional. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.