One of the questions Old Mill Brick gets asked a lot is if our bricks are real and how they are different from a cement cast brick tile. To answer the first question: Yes, Old Mill Brick thin bricks are made from real, fire-kiln clay bricks. To make it thin, we slice off the edge to make a 1/2 inch thin brick. The rest of the brick is tossed back into the process and recycled into a new brick. This results in a high quality product that is indistinguishable from an actual brick wall or floor once installed. 

In contrast, cement cast bricks are made from cement and then painted or dyed to replicate the color variations of a traditional brick.  This makes for a lower quality finish that doesn’t look like real brick and can chip over time, especially when used on floors. Z-Brick is an example of a popular concrete brick alternative. 

Here are some additional key differences that you should know about before making a decision on thin brick vs cement cast brick tile. 

Official Definition

To better understand the difference, let us first go over the official definitions of the two products:

Concrete Brick – A concrete masonry unit made from Portland cement, water, and suitable aggregates, with or without the inclusion of other materials. (Reference ASTM Standard C55 Standard Specification for Concrete Brick)

Clay Brick Definition – A solid masonry unit made of clay or shale formed or extruded into a rectangular prism with plastic and then fired at high temperatures (up to 2000°F) in a kiln oven. Clay or shale brick is a ceramic product. (Reference ASTM StandardC 216 Standard Specification for Facing Brick - Solid Masonry Units Made from Clay or Shale)

Strength Comparison

Brickwebb Clay Brick units are 2 ½ to 3 times stronger than concrete or cast brick:

Clay Brick – average compressive strengths typically range from 8,000 to 10,000 psi.

Concrete Brick – average compressive strengths typically range from 3,000 to 4,000 psi.

This is important to note if you are installing your brick on floors or exteriors. Real thin brick will hold up a lot better than a concrete brick in the long run.

Moisture Absorption

The rate at which a product absorbs water in natural state is known as the Initial Rate of Absorption (IRA). Clay brick absorbs approximately 15-35 grams of moisture per minute per 30 square inches. In contrast, concrete brick absorbs between 40 and 80 grams per minute per 30 square inches.

In simple terms, this means that concrete or cast brick absorbs approximately 2-3 times more moisture in the same amount of time as clay thin brick. Therefore, thin brick resists moisture better. This is important to note if you are installing brick on the exterior of a home. Thin bricks are far better suited for a moist climate or places with freeze-thaw cycles. If you examine the walls of clay brick and concrete brick buildings after heavy rains you will note concrete brick walls can stay damp for days after a rain. More moisture penetration makes brick extra vulnerable to freeze/thaw cycles. Therefore, concrete brick deteriorates much faster and is more likely to crack or break than clay thin brick.

Other Alternatives

In recent years, there have been a number of other brick alternatives that have popped up in the market. There is brick wallpaper, foam brick panels, DIY brick painting, and more. While these options may be cheaper, they are unlikely to stand up to the test of time. For the best results that will last for years to come, we recommend using real fire-kiln bricks whenever possible. Check out our available products online here or click here to learn about Brickwebb. 

Order a sample today to feel and see the difference for yourself.