Brick is the oldest human manufactured flooring material, and its use dates back thousands of years. Historically it has often been employed as an alternative to stone and was commonly used in the construction of houses and manors that did not require the protective qualities of real stone. With the rise of cities, it surged in popularity, due largely to the fact that it was a relatively durable, inexpensive, and fireproof building material.
Because of its storied history brick flooring often has a familiar feeling that causes it to be associated with simple spaces. It shares many of the visual and textural qualities of natural stone, and so lends itself to use in rustic and primitive settings.
Over time the surface of a brick floor will weather which will enhance these characteristics, causing the material to look even more classic and antiqued. This can give the floor a unique sense of personality which can help to define an environment.
However not all brick flooring has to trend towards rustic styles. Many contemporary designs feature this material laid with clean, precise lines, and coupled with wood, glass, or steel to create surprisingly stylish installations. Bricks can also be polished, sealed, or dressed with linseed oil to give them a glistening shine.
Types of Brick Flooring
(Standard thickness 1 ¼” – 1 3/8”) Flooring bricks are called pavers and are thinner than construction grade materials. They are generally used because they do not raise the level of the floor, and they place a significantly lower weight load on the subfloor.
Pavers are fired at a much higher temperature than construction grade bricks in a process called “overburning” which causes them to become impervious to moisture and makes the surface of the material resistant to wear.
(Standard size: 7 5/8” x 3 5/8” x 2 ¼” thick) These are the standard thick bricks that you will see used in the construction of buildings. Their size means that they raise the level of the floor while also placing a lot of weight on the subfloor.
These materials are relatively durable and resistant to stains and wear; however, they may be susceptible to damage from water if not sealed. Over time engineered brick flooring will begin to erode, and pits will appear on the surface of your installation.
Recycled Brick Flooring
Many people like the look of old, weathered brick, as it can lend a sense of history and charm to a space. Rather than waiting years for a new flooring installation to weather, you can get the charm instantly by installing reclaimed brick flooring taken from old houses and residences. This process is also eco-friendly as it does not require the manufacture of new materials, however, it can be expensive.
Hand Made Bricks
There are companies that specialize in the production of handmade bricks, created and fired individually. The appeal of these materials is that each brick represents a unique work of human craft, with its own individual characteristics and personality. While this is the most expensive brick flooring option it can result in an impressive installation.
Brick Flooring Characteristics
The color of a brick depends on the source of the clay used, how it is mixed, and how long it is fired for. Standard brick flooring ranges from light tan colors, through deep ruby reds, and on into charcoal hues. However, bricks can also be dyed green, blue, black, or can be speckled with several multicolors.
The surface of brick flooring can be smooth and somewhat polished, rough and mottled, ribbed, or slightly ridged depending on the texture that you want in an area.
While most pavers are impervious to water some engineered brick or second-hand brick floors may need to be sealed in moist environments. For outdoor flooring, you also want to make sure that you use frost proof bricks.
Benefits of Brick Flooring
Brick is a relatively good insulator, and while it takes a long time to heat up, it can retain that heat very well. That is why brick floors are often paired with under floor heating systems. It is also warmer to the touch than ceramic or natural stone flooring.
Brick is one of the hardest and most durable flooring materials available. It requires little to no maintenance, and an installation can last for years.
Unless it is polished and or sealed with oil, brick is very slip resistant, and will not pose a slipping hazard even when wet.
Brick flooring is relatively economical and is less expensive than natural stone alternatives.
Drawbacks of Brick Flooring
The hardness of the material means that items dropped on it are more likely to shatter. It will also be more painful when someone falls on a brick floor than it would on a softer surface. This can be a concern if there are children or elderly people living in the space. It may also be uncomfortable to stand on for long periods of time.
The durability of brick means that you will not have to replace your floor for many years. However, if you do want to remove a brick floor it can be an expensive, costly, and time-consuming process. In some cases, a brick floor may be a suitable subfloor for an underlayment, allowing for a new floor to be installed on top of it.
The heaviness of brick means that it can only be installed on the ground floor. Often it will require a cement subfloor in order to bear its weight. If installing over a floating wooden subfloor then the structure will need to be reinforced in order to support the weight.