Comparison between conventional/clay bricks and concrete bricks in Nepal

Bricks have become the spirit of Nepalese architecture since the Kirat period. The reason for such extensive use of bricks as a primary building material in Nepal is due to their abundant availability, and the demand has increased dramatically over recent decades with the demand for housing. Over the years, brick-producing methods have been refined and now there are a plethora of options when it comes to building with bricks, from conventional clay bricks to concrete bricks.

The type of brick used in a project not only influences the visual appearance of a building but also dictates how it relates to its surrounding environment. But with the tone, texture, and form to think about, not to mention color, it can be a tough decision with literally thousands of variations to choose from! A good place to start is to consider whether clay bricks or concrete bricks are best for your project. Both have their pros and cons, so we’ve put together a little guide to get you started.

History and Manufacturing of clay and concrete bricks

Clay bricks were amongst the first artificial materials produced by men for building purposes that proved to be easy to produce, resistant, and durable, as attested by the numerous examples that can be seen all around the world that endured centuries of rough climacteric conditions and wars.

The traditional method of brick-making by hand molding and baking in a kiln is still practiced in Nepal. The chief tool is the wooden mold of the required size and good quality clay that is soft, plastic, and free from impurities. The clay is first rolled in sand and then ‘thrown’ skillfully by hand into the mold. The bricks are then sun-dried for 15 to 20 days before burning them in the kiln. As the clay isn’t firmly compacted into the mold by a machine, each brick has a rougher, more intricate creasing pattern on the faces. This means you can achieve a more bespoke, characterful look as each brick is entirely individual with subtle variations in texture and shape.

The history of concrete bricks dates back to the first century in Roman civilization when small blocks of precast concrete were used as the construction material in the region around present-day Naples. However much of the concrete technology was lost after the fall of Roman civilization and it was not until 1894 AD, Portland cement was developed which became a key component of the modern-day concrete brick.

The concrete brick is a mixture of powdered portland cement, aggregate, gravel, and water. The quality of the aggregate or sand is imperative to obtaining a high-end product. The ratios of the ingredients should be mixed perfectly and more sand than gravel should be used to provide a uniform shape and durability. The mixture is then molded using hydraulic pressure, then cured, and finally cubed. Additional mineral chemicals are added to produce a concrete brick resembling clay. This results in a product with high compression and tensile strength and a fine texture finish that will sustain for a hundred years. As the concrete is firmly compacted into the mold by a machine, they have higher dimensional accuracy.

Why Clay Bricks?

Clay bricks take care of themselves once they are formed. Clay Bricks are beautiful, natural, durable, and of stable value and they typically last for thousands of years. They can withstand the test of time effortlessly with monuments constructed in the Licchavi period still standing to this modern day. Other materials like colors fade away with time and need to be reapplied from time to time, but clay bricks can last forever without any degradation in strength, shape, or color. Clay bricks are sustainable and eco-friendly because they are made from natural materials like clay and water and are free from pollutants and allergens. No extra chemicals are added for additive strength or variations in color. That is why they are compatible with the health of human beings. The thermal mass of the clay bricks is high, so they absorb heat during the day and release it at night. It makes the structure cooler or warmer. They are also resistant to fire.

Clay bricks are a dense, heavy, and robust product, due to which they have great noise reduction and insulating capability. If you like a good, peaceful home, then clay bricks can be used on the outer walls of your home to get a good night’s sleep and to insulate you from the car honks on the road and from your dreaded noisy neighbors. Clay bricks are also used on the inner walls of homes to provide structural integrity and for more noise reduction within the house. Clay bricks are so versatile and adaptive that they can not only be used for load-bearing and decorative walls but also for facades, paving, terraces, driveways, open spaces, and almost anywhere for all architectural styles.

Why Concrete bricks?

Concrete brick is manufactured in various colors and patterns. The type of finish is even an option; smooth, sandblasted, stone pattern, etc. The concrete used to produce the bricks can be anything from regular aggregate concrete to various mixtures of lightweight aggregates. They are usually colored with iron oxide pigment at the surface, or the pigment is present throughout the mixture. Concrete blocks can be easily painted exteriorly whereas clay bricks secrete metallic salts that cause paint to peel off.

Going by the perception of First Impression is the last impression, concrete brick is a very effective way to make a strong first impression. Second glances are common reactions when people walk up or drive by a home with a concrete brick. They are popularly used for building walls, fences, and facades while providing an aesthetically pleasing presence. A concrete brick has more benefits than its striking visual qualities. They deaden exterior noise, providing a buffer from traffic noise, airplanes flying overhead, and other various disruptions. Fire protection is another benefit as is reduced maintenance. Concrete bricks will initially shrink after manufacturing due to the loss of moisture but typically have a higher compressive strength than clay bricks. Concrete bricks have more water resistance and don’t absorb water, this makes them almost waterproof and is always beneficial for construction activities.

Along with their durability and water resistance, concrete bricks are often the best choice for certain kinds of applications. When building a wall, you need it to be durable, water-resistant, and have a low thermal mass. The low thermal mass of the concrete bricks means that a concrete brick wall will absorb and release heat more effectively than clay bricks. Concrete bricks are also generally sold in larger blocks, which means buying them may turn out cheaper than a smaller counterpart, especially when you are purchasing your building materials in bulk. 

When concrete bricks are manufactured, the by-product of the thermal power plant i.e. fly ash, which is not eco-friendly, is also dumped into the mixture in lumps, by mixing with cement we can utilize it to some extent making it sustainable development construction methodology. Cement when mixed with fly ash produces high strength and even less weight rather than normal clay bricks. This less weight has the advantage of getting a less dead load on the structure making it more efficient. Since the brick manufacturing industries can procure the fly ash at a very low cost (as the one being a waste product for thermal plants, they sell it for a very minimal price), the overall cost of the brick will also be less. So concrete bricks are cost-effective on one hand, and are nearly waterproof, durable, have lower thermal mass, more soundproof than clay bricks on the other.

Engineered Decorative Bricks at Asian Concreto

At Asian Concreto, we provide machine-made Asian Bricks, which are the perfect choice to build a range of both load-bearing and non-load-bearing walls. Manufactured in a 100% Automated Plant with technology in Germany, their great strength, durability, and consistent dimensional accuracy make them the number one choice in Nepal. Apart from that, the long life cycle of the bricks and the energy efficiency in the manufacturing process lead to very little environmental impact, making it ideal for a cleaner, greener world.

Asian Bricks can also be used as facing bricks due to their precise size, seamless texture, and clean edges, and are available in two colors, red and grey. They can be arranged in various patterns and ways and can be used as decorative bricks to give an aesthetic appeal to the facades.

Asian Bricks are the best in the class A category of bricks in Nepal. The bricks are dried uniformly in automated chambers giving 100% dryness. The water absorption capacity is less than 10% making it nearly waterproof. Almost all the concrete bricks that are produced have great dimensional accuracy making them of almost the same shape and size. Furthermore, the production of these bricks produces zero carbon and dust emissions making them very eco-friendly.

 The normal size of Asian bricks is 230X110X70 in millimeters making it slightly bigger than other local clay bricks which have a size of 230X110X60 in millimeters. The number of Asian bricks required per meter cube is 434 pieces making it cost-effective compared to local clay bricks requiring 496 pieces. Moreover, due to 100% automation in plants of Asian Concreto from manufacturing to distribution, there is little to no damage in Asian bricks making them cost-efficient. The compressive strength of Asian bricks is nearly three times that of clay bricks making them more durable and applicable in both load-bearing and decorative purposes.

Which brick is for me?

The decision to opt for clay bricks or concrete bricks is likely to be influenced by a range of factors, from the age of the property to the surrounding environment. For heritage properties or building projects in conservation areas, clay bricks offer more authenticity, flexibility (as they can be made to non-standard or standard brick sizes), and variety, providing instant character and charm so can be well worth the extra cost.

For more modern developments and contemporary projects, concrete bricks are usually the preferred option as they are significantly cheaper than clay bricks and are more uniform in shape, and offer crisp, clean lines that are difficult to replicate using the handmade method. Concrete bricks are available in a huge range of colors, seamless textures, and finishes and can even be tumbled to replicate the appearance of traditional handmade bricks.

Both handmade and machine-made bricks are equivalent in terms of durability, so it will likely boil down to budget, and the appearance they are trying to create in a commercial building.

The good news is, with such a huge range of options available you’re sure to find the perfect brick for your project. You can even select your mortar color when choosing bricks. There is no reason to suggest that one is preferable to the other, but we’d highly recommend consulting with us if you need further information.