Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
What are interlocking bricks, and is it worth using them for construction? Is it safe to use them, or do they come with potential disadvantages or structural limitations?
Interlocking bricks can be a good solution for residential buildings in hot climate areas prone to earthquakes. They are also suitable for driveways. Interlocking bricks can help you cut costs by as much as 35%. However, they do not work for buildings over two stories in height.
In this article, I will discuss what interlocking bricks are, their advantages and disadvantages, and whether they are good for construction industry use.
Interlocking Bricks Explained
Interlocking bricks are created by mixing sand, soil, and cement. This mixture is then compressed in an interlocking brick machine that produces bricks with an interlocking pattern. After this is done, the bricks are cured for seven days. This can often come with reduced costs compared to creating standard new bricks.
Interlocking bricks do not use cement to bind together like normal bricks used in conventional masonry structures. Instead, a projection sticks out on one side of a brick, designed to fit into a depression on the brick next to it. On the other side of the brick, there is a depression designed to receive the projection of the brick on its other side.
Advantages of Interlocking Bricks
You might want to use interlocking brick for several reasons. Let’s first go over the pros of interlocking bricks:
- They are cheaper to make. Since interlocking bricks are made with sand and soil in addition to cement, they come with lower costs than regular bricks made entirely with cement. In fact, interlocking bricks can cost as much as 35% less than regular bricks. Interlocking bricks can have as little as 10% cement, with the remaining mixture consisting of sand and soil.
- Interlocking bricks are more resistant to earthquakes. The reason for this is simple: Regular bricks rely on mortar for their support system. When the mortar fails, the entire wall or building will fail. However, interlocking bricks have their own support system that does not rely on the mortar. They support each other effectively.
- They are recommended by some governments. Interlocking bricks are recommended by some governments in areas where earthquakes are common. If you are trying to build a building in an area prone to earthquakes, interlocking bricks might be a better choice.
- They provide better insulation in hot areas. Also, interlocking bricks are great for hot areas. Since they are compressed, there is more mass, and the bricks keep the interior of the building cooler.
- They are environmentally friendly. Using interlocking brick can help preserve the environment. Not only will you be using less concrete and mortar, but residents of buildings will not need to use air conditioning as much due to the cooler internal temperatures.
- They address the labor shortage. Not only does it cost less to create interlocking brick, but less effort and fewer workers are also needed. For example, compared to conventional bricks, there is no need to check the water level.
- It is quicker. If you want to create a building quickly, using interlocking brick will help you do so. You won’t have to cure the bricks as long (you only have to cure them for seven days compared to 2 days).
- They are durable and need less maintenance. Interlocking bricks are strong and durable. They also require less maintenance than traditional brick.
- They are easier to recover. If you decide to dismantle the structure later, it is easier to recover the bricks without damaging them if you used interlocking bricks. However, if you used mortar, this will be more difficult.
Disadvantages of Interlocking Bricks
However, using interlocking brick also comes with disadvantages. Here are some of the cons involved in the usage of interlocking brick:
- Wear and tear. Unlike regular bricks, interlocking bricks are not usually plastered over. On the one hand, this can save you some money and time upfront and result in more visible wear and tear. The reason plastering is not used is because interlocking bricks are made with exterior designs already.
- Less resistant to extreme weather. Since plastering is not used, interlocking bricks are less resistant to extreme weather conditions, including heavy rain. In fact, they are more likely to leak and get water damage compared to regular bricks.
- Less resistant to infestation. For the same reason, interlocking bricks are less resistant to insect infestation. Plastering is an important buffer that protects against insect infestation.
- Not for tall buildings. Interlocking bricks are not safe for tall buildings. In fact, they are only good for the first three stories of a building. That is why interlocking bricks are usually reserved for residential buildings and are not used to construct commercial buildings.
- Not very popular. Interlocking bricks are not very common. Conventional bricks have remained unchanged for a long time. According to most people’s reasoning, if it is not broken, why fix it?
Are Interlocking Bricks Safe?
Is it safe to use interlocking brick? It depends. As mentioned, using them for more than three stories is unsafe. Even using them for a third story is pushing it. Ideally, interlocking bricks should not be used for structures with more than two stories.
On the other hand, if you are building a small structure in an area prone to earthquakes, using interlocking bricks is actually safer due to their ability to dissipate energy and seismic load.
Interlocking Bricks for Driveways
Until now, we have discussed using interlocking brick for vertical structures. However, interlocking bricks are more commonly used for horizontal surfaces, such as driveways and other locations where brick paver installations are commonly used.
There are several benefits of using interlocking bricks to pave your driveway. They are more stylish and look better, with more beautiful and varied designs. It is easy to repair or replace brick pavers, and you won’t have to worry about the structure’s integrity like you would if you were building a vertical structure.
Using interlocking brick with beautiful designs for your driveway can help you improve your house’s curb appeal, potentially increasing the value of your property.
Is It Worth Using Interlocking Brick?
If you want to build a structure as quickly and cheaply as possible, it is worth using interlocking brick. This is especially true if you are building a residential building in an area prone to earthquakes.
On the other hand, if you are building a commercial building or trying to create a more resistant structure to extreme weather and insect infestation, you should not be using interlocking bricks.
At the end of the day, whether interlocking bricks are a good building material for your project depends on your needs and goals. If you need to save money to build a residential building in an area where earthquakes are common, they could be a good choice.
Conversely, if you live in a more moderate or colder climate where earthquakes are uncommon or rare, fired bricks used in conventional wall construction will probably be your best option. While they cost a bit more, they provide better resistance to rain and protection from the elements.
- Practical Action: What are Interlocking Bricks?
- Online Civil Forum: Benefits of Interlocking Bricks
- Business Guide Ottawa: WHY YOU SHOULD USE INTERLOCK PAVING BRICKS
- Civil Tech: What Is Interlocking Bricks? How It’s Useful For Residential Building Construction?
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