Concrete Bricks vs. Clay Bricks: Which is Better for Durability?

Written By:

This image shows a textured wall surface composed of a mix of exposed brick and plaster The brick portion features rows of reddish-orange bricks some of which are partially crumbling or damaged creating an aged and weathered appearance The plaster area has a rough uneven texture with visible cracks and discoloration giving the overall wall a distressed vintage aesthetic The contrast between the brick and plaster creates an interesting visual texture and a sense of the walls history

Clay Brick vs. Concrete Block

When compared to other forms of construction, the durability and resistance of masonry structures is seldom questioned. Masonry systems have stood the test of time, and rightfully earned a reputation for resilience against the elements. Considering even man-made perils, such as fire, masonry still consistently outperforms all other constructions; resisting against outright destruction which is characteristic of wood frame buildings, and outlasting the warping and ultimate collapse of steel-skeleton structures. Notwithstanding these irrefutable benefits, a masonry structure’s environmental and mechanical resistance will naturally vary and depend on the construction method and the materials employed.

Clay Brick

Undoubtedly one of the most fundamental and durable building materials ever invented, clay bricks have been used in construction for thousands of years. The method of construction and materials have been perfected over centuries, and the durability of clay brick is dependent on the following five factors:

1. The quality of the raw/fabrication material;
2. The manufacturing process and firing condition;
3. The resultant properties of the hardened brick;
4. The conditions to which the bricks were exposed since construction; and
5. The rate of maintenance and repair.

The naturally-occurring raw material known as raw clay consists of a complex mixture of minerals in varying proportions. Production begins with selection of the clay materials and ends with the firing of the clay units; with mixing, molding and drying occurring in between. Optimal proportions of sand, clay and water along with the drying and firing temperature are integral to the quality of the hardened brick.

The clay’s composition and the manufacturing process significantly affect the dimension and distribution of the brick’s pores which has a significant impact on its durability. Consequently, treatments to enhance durability after construction is reduced to acting on external conditions – as changing the brick’s composition post-production is not possible. Preventing the invasion of water in to the brick’s mass, controlling moisture and managing the brick’s salt content are the main methods of managing the brick’s exposure to harmful conditions and increasing its durability.


Unlike clay brickwork, concrete block masonry is a relatively recent development which started being used as a building material The image shows a close-up view of the corner of a concrete masonry wall The wall is constructed using gray concrete blocks which have a rough textured surface The blocks are stacked in an overlapping pattern creating a sturdy and durable structure The corner of the wall is visible showcasing the precise alignment and interlocking design of the concrete blocks The overall image highlights the strength and solidity of the masonry constructionin the mid-19th century. Concrete block walls provide sound structural resistance along with thermal and acoustic insulation all while accommodating for fast and easy installations – facilitated by the block’s precise unit measurements and modular characteristics.

Concrete blocks are composed of Portland cement, aggregates and water with production being highly automated in large industrial plants. The mix of materials is placed in a metallic mold, vibrated in to shape, and cured at an average temperature of 70°C for up to 18 hours. The durability of concrete block masonry is less dependant on externalities, and more on design and construction errors. While concrete can fall susceptible to things like efflorescence (the migration of salts from the interior to the surface material of the masonry) the effects are mainly aesthetic, and without compromise to structural integrity. Furthermore, pathologies can be prevented by deploying low-absorption blocks with high compressive strength and rebar protection.

While both concrete blocks and clay bricks can serve similar functions, skilled masons understand the inherent strengths and weaknesses which influence the conditions in which they are deployed.

Source: Ghiassi, Bahman, and Lourenc̦o Paulo B. Long-Term Performance and Durability of Masonry Structures: Degradation Mechanisms, Health Monitoring and Service Life Design. Woodhead Publishing, 2019.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. What are the key differences between clay bricks and concrete blocks?
    • Clay bricks are traditional building materials used for thousands of years, made from natural clay and fired in kilns. They offer excellent durability, aesthetic appeal, and moisture control. Concrete blocks are modern alternatives made from cement, aggregates, and water, known for their structural strength, thermal and acoustic insulation, and ease of installation.
  2. How does the manufacturing process affect the durability of clay bricks and concrete blocks?
    • The durability of clay bricks depends on the quality of clay, the firing temperature, and the manufacturing process, which influences their porosity and strength. For concrete blocks, the mix of materials and the curing process are crucial, impacting their compressive strength and resistance to environmental factors.
  3. Can clay bricks and concrete blocks be used interchangeably in construction?
    • While both can be used for building structures, the choice depends on specific project requirements such as load-bearing capacity, insulation needs, and aesthetic preferences. Clay bricks are preferred for their visual appeal and longevity, whereas concrete blocks are favored for structural projects requiring uniformity and quick installation.
  4. What maintenance strategies enhance the durability of clay bricks?
    • Maintaining clay bricks involves managing moisture through proper sealing, controlling salt content to prevent efflorescence, and regular inspections to assess any degradation. These steps help in prolonging the life and appearance of clay brick structures.
  5. How can construction errors affect the longevity of concrete block structures?
    • Construction errors like improper mixing ratios, inadequate curing, and poor installation techniques can lead to issues such as efflorescence and reduced structural integrity. Ensuring quality control during the construction process and using blocks with appropriate absorption and strength characteristics are vital.
  6. What are some common pathologies in concrete blocks and how can they be prevented?
    • Pathologies in concrete blocks often include efflorescence and moisture-related issues which are mainly aesthetic but can sometimes affect structural integrity. Using low-absorption blocks, ensuring proper rebar protection, and employing adequate waterproofing measures can prevent these problems
Share the Post:

Related Posts

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website