The recycling emblem painted on a brick wall

According to Forbes, the average cost of building a modest US home is $300,000 or more.

This figure can go up or down depending on the materials used during the construction process. With such a high cost of manufacture, it helps to know how to cut back on expenses. 

One way to save some coin is your choice of brick material used for construction.

This article will compare ecobricks, hollow blocks, and traditional bricks based on their application, strength, and environmental impact. We will also list a few pros and cons of each construction material. 

Best Overall Choice Between Ecobricks, Hollow Blocks, and Normal Bricks

When comparing ecobricks, hollow blocks, and standard bricks, regular bricks are a clear winner when factoring most metrics. Traditional bricks are durable, eco-friendly, and made of natural materials like shale, sand, and clay. They’re also energy-efficient, weatherproof, and low-maintenance. 

Differences Between Bricks 

While they sound pretty similar, there are a few significant differences between ecobricks, hollow blocks, and standard bricks.

Each option is made of a different material that influences the price. These blocks are also used in different ways during the construction process. 

Here are some pros and cons of each option to give you a rough idea of what to expect. 

Brick TypeProsCons
Ecobricks– Cost-effective
– Earthquake-resistant
– Reusable
– Lightweight
– Easy to work with
– Eco-friendly
– Highly flammable
– Labor intensive
– Not durable
– High maintenance cost
Hollow Blocks– Speedy construction
– Relatively cheap
– Eco-friendly
– Easier to finish than some ecobricks
– Durable 
– High maintenance cost
– Low bearing capacity
– Porous in nature
Normal Brick– Energy-efficient
– Low maintenance
– Weatherproof
– Can be creative and colorful  – Highly durable 
– Time-consuming construction
– Not suitable for high seismic zones
– Low tensile strength 

Now that you have an idea of each type’s pros and cons, let’s look at how each are manufactured.

How Ecobricks Are Made

Ecobricks are made through a labor-intensive but straightforward process. The procedure starts with sorting plastic bottles by size. The bottles are filled with enough plastic waste to meet the required density and capped. 

Overhead shot looking down at a group of ecobricks

Here is a step by step process of how to make an ecobrick: 

  • Get bottles of the same size – the first step is to collect numerous plastic bottles of the same size. You can either buy new bottles or recycle old ones, with recycling being the better (and often easier) option.
    When collecting bottles, you want to avoid oddly-shaped or cracked bottles as they will not be strong enough to endure the construction process.
  • Fill bottles with plastic waste – fill these bottles with clean and dried straws, bags, styrofoam, clear plastic, and plastic packaging. These waste materials should be cut into small pieces to be quickly filled in. It’s best to leave some space near the top, so the filler material has room to expand under pressure. 
  • Weigh bottles to achieve the desired density – once the bottles are filled with waste plastic, weigh them to ensure they meet the required density. This is crucial because if the ecobricks are too light, they won’t be as strong as required.

Each bottle type requires a different weight, so you may have to experiment to find the correct weight.

How To Use Ecobricks

Ecobricks are ideal for filling in the spaces between walls and pillars. They can also be used for partition walls, stairs, and roofing. 

The best way to use them is as a replacement to reduce the amount of concrete you put onto slabs. Using them as a load-bearing wall is also possible, but you need to add solid framing to the structure.

Most people prefer making fences with ecobricks as it’s a quick and straightforward way to give your property a feeling of privacy. You can also use ecobricks to make outdoor furniture like benches, tables, and chairs. 

How Hollow Blocks Are Made

The best hollow blocks are made of: 

  • River gravel 
  • Sand 
  • Cement 
  • Water 

You will need special tools and machinery to construct hollow blocks properly. Additionally, there’s a curing time so the blocks can harden and be ready for use. 

The manufacturing process of hollow blocks is pretty simple, but it’s challenging to get a consistent shape and structure every time. The blocks can be made in various sizes and shapes, but they are all hollow in the center. 

A group of hollow blocks stacked on a palette, an alternative to ecobricks

This hollow space is meant to help with the insulation and ventilation of the building. And while these blocks keep the building well-ventilated, the open spaces also make them weaker. 

Here is a step-by-step guide on how hollow blocks are made: 

  • Mixing the ingredients – mix the river gravel, sand, and cement properly. You can use a mechanical mixer or do it by hand. You must ensure the mixture is wet enough to form a dough-like consistency. 
  • Molding the blocks – take this wet mixture and start pressing it into the desired shape. You can use a wooden mold or your hands, but ensure the blocks are of uniform size and thickness.
    Most people use a hydraulic press to get the desired shape and size, but it’s possible to make them without special tools or equipment. You can also make a steel mold if you don’t want to hire a hydraulic press for this project.
  • Drying the blocks – once the blocks are molded, you need to let them cure in the sun. The curing can take anywhere from a few days to a week. And during this time, you need to make sure they don’t dry too fast. They require moisture frequently to cure correctly and the best time to water them is in the morning or evening.

When To Use Hollow Blocks

Hollow blocks can be used for various applications, like walls, partitions, and roofs. They are also lighter than solid bricks, and their weight makes them easier to handle. 

However, the main drawback with hollow blocks is their lack of solidity and strength. As such, you can’t use these blocks for heavy load walls. 

On the plus side, these are the only brick variety that can be used on a slab.

For this purpose, you have to include beams (which can also be precast offsite) along with the hollow blocks. Using beams helps offset the load on these blocks, transferring it onto the load-bearing walls. 

Hollow blocks can be a reliable choice for construction as these are relatively cheaper than traditional bricks and more durable than ecobricks. The idea is to use them with other materials so you can access the ventilation they offer while making up for their lack of solidity. 

How Standard Bricks Are Made

Standard bricks are made of shale, a lightweight rock that splits easily under pressure. The material is left in the sun for two years to break down, then ground into a powder. The powder is then passed through a series of processes to make bricks. 

This process results in a strong, durable, and fire-resistant brick. Regular bricks can be used in various applications, including building load-bearing walls, floors, roofs, and even chimneys.

Here is a step-by-step process of how standard clay bricks are made: 

  1. Quarry machines dig up the shale and break it into smaller pieces – shale is dug up from the quarry and is broken into smaller pieces using a quarry machine that looks like a tractor with a giant claw. It digs up 40 cm (15.75 cm) of this rock and breaks it into small pieces.
  2. Sun-drying the shale – after digging up the shale, it is left in the sun to dry. This process usually takes around two years, but the time can vary depending on the weather conditions. Rain, snow, and humidity can all slow down the weathering process. 
  3. Grinding the shale into a powder – after it’s completely broken down, the dried shale is ground into a powder using a roller mill. The powder is then sifted to remove any large particles. And these pieces are put through the system again until the desired size is achieved.
  4. Blending the powder with water – the powder is mixed with water to create a thick paste. This machine then forces the paste through a rectangular opening to make a slug, a continuous line of gray paste.
  5. Coloring the slug – if you heat the slug at this point, the result is red brick. However, adding sand and an oxide mineral can change the color of the brick after burning.
    The slugs can also be stamped with a logo or design at this point using a roller, and there’s no limit to the number of designs that can be imprinted on the bricks
  6. Cutting and stacking the bricks – the slugs are then cut into brick-sized pieces and stacked to dry. Most manufacturers use the kiln’s heat for this process as it is adjustable depending on the weather conditions.
  7. Curing the bricks – the final step is to bake the bricks. Baking usually takes one and a half days at almost 2000°F (1093°C). The bricks are then tested and measured to ensure the batch meets the required specifications.

When To Use Normal Bricks

Regular bricks are ideal for nearly any construction project as they are durable, fire-resistant, and can be used for various applications. 

You can use them to build foundations, load-bearing walls, partitions, and even chimneys. Standard bricks are also an excellent choice for exterior and interior applications and often come in a variety of colors and styles to match your design needs. 

Red clay bricks are used to construct a wall

Some people even use them to make pizza ovens because the bricks retain heat and create an even cooking surface. Their ability to retain heat is why these bricks are popularly used in building outdoor barbecue grills. 

Bricks can also function as cladding, a finish used to cover buildings’ exteriors. The best part is that regular bricks also possess thermal properties that can help keep the building warm in winter and cool during summer. 

So, Which One Should You Pick? 

Standard bricks are the go-to option for most construction projects. Regular bricks are durable, fire-resistant, and can be used in numerous applications. But, of course, hollow blocks and ecobricks have their specific uses and should not be discounted.

Hollow blocks are an excellent choice for exterior applications as they’re lightweight and can help keep any construction cool during summer. They are also often designed to be moisture-resistant, making them a practical option for bathrooms and kitchens. 

However, the fact that they’re inexpensive makes hollow blocks such a popular choice of material. You can save a few bucks on construction costs as you require less material to achieve the same results. 

Ecobricks are an excellent choice for people looking to be more environmentally friendly. These bricks are made from recycled materials, so you can rest assured you aren’t draining more resources from the Earth.

They’re also durable, inexpensive, and can be used in various applications. 

The only downside with ecobricks is that they tend to be heavier than hollow blocks, so when planning a project, you need to consider that factor. 

Special Considerations When Choosing Bricks

There are a few things to consider when choosing between regular bricks, ecobricks, and hollow blocks. 

  • Climate – If you live in an area with severe weather conditions, you need to use a type of brick that can take a beating and still stand firm. Regular bricks are the best option, but hollow blocks can also be used in some situations. 
  • Construction – The type of construction you are using will also impact your decision. If you’re building many load-bearing walls, you need to use regular bricks. But if you aren’t worried about overhead loads, you can use any of these options. 
  • Design – The style of your house or building will also play a role in deciding what type of brick to use. If you’re going for a traditional boxy design, regular bricks are the best option. But if you want something unique (think Airbnb appeal), then ecobricks could be a great choice. 

Conclusion

Overall, there are various factors to consider when choosing between ecobricks, hollow blocks, and regular bricks. 

While all three materials can be used in various applications, it’s crucial to figure out the kind of construction you’re going for and choose a brick accordingly. So before you settle on an option, take some time to consider your building and the kind of ventilation or insulation you’re looking for, and choose accordingly. 

Sources

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