January 26, 2021

Brick Exteriors: Traditional Choice with a Solid Future

Over the past couple decades, Home Innovation Research Labs has been tracking the popularity of new home exteriors through our Annual Builder Practices Survey. Based on the 2020 survey, we reported that brick, after a gradual long-term decline in share of new home exterior wall materials, saw back-to-back years of rebound in U.S. single-family detached homes. 

In December 2020, Home Innovation conducted a survey of more than 200 builders on behalf of the Brick Industry Association to learn what they and their homebuyers value in clay brick. The findings point to a strong perception of beauty, quality, and safety for brick exteriors among builders, and an indication that their future use of clay brick is likely to remain strong with continued homebuyer demand and popularity of architectural styles they see as a “good fit” with brick.

Clay Brick Usage Last Three Years

Survey respondents were initially asked whether their use of clay brick had increased, decreased, or stayed the same over the past three years. Of the 200 brick users in the survey, a little more than a quarter stated they had increased — about the same number that stated they had decreased (see Table 1). Of itself, this result would seem to indicate a stable usage pattern with no growth or decline. However, a deeper analysis reveals that higher-volume builders were more inclined to increase brick usage than smaller builders. Table 1 indicates that as annual completions rise among builders, so too does the likelihood that they increased their use of clay brick. Thirty-five percent (35%) of those in the 11-50 completions category and 42 percent (42%) of the 51+ completions category reported an increase, versus 19 percent (19%) of builders constructing 10 or fewer homes per year.

Table 1. Percent of Builders Reporting Change in Clay Brick Exteriors on New Homes in the Past 3 Years

Percent of Builders Reporting Change in Clay Brick Exteriors on New Homes in the Past 3 Years

Source: Home Innovation Research Labs Survey for Brick Industry Association, December 2020 

Home Innovation then used its Builder Practices tabulation methodology to take another look at the impact of annual home completions on the increase and decrease reported on brick use. This method gives higher-volume builders proportionately more emphasis, or “weight,” than lower-volume builders (Table 1, far-right column), providing a more balanced look at the market. These “weighted” tabulations confirm the growth in brick exteriors reported in the Builder Practices Reports is due to an increase in their popularity among higher-volume builders with 39 percent (39%) reporting an increase in brick use. 

Why Is Clay Brick Being Used More Often?

Next in the survey, respondents were asked the reasons why they were using more brick. Each respondent was given a blank space to write in their answer(s) – multiple answers were accepted from each respondent. These open-ended responses were then categorized by the research project team so they could be tabulated and compared.

Reasons Why Use of Clay Brick has Increased in Past 3 Years

Source: Home Innovation Research Labs Survey for Brick Industry Association, December 2020 

The top driver was the desired aesthetic of brick, or that brick was most appropriate for the architectural design of the home. Following closely were responses related to customer demand or specific homebuyer request, representing 40 percent (40%) of the responses. Durability rated a distant, but important, third. In fourth position was “More Favorable Cost.” This group tended to convey that the cost of alternatives to brick, such as stucco or stone, had increased recently, making brick more cost competitive, especially considering the other advantages that clay brick provides.

Brick: Quality, Beauty, and What Homebuyers Want

In the final question, respondents were presented with a series of statements and asked whether they agreed, disagreed, or were ambivalent (neither agree nor disagree). The findings from this question indicate a market perception that brick homes are high quality, beautiful, and desired by homebuyers. Eighty-two percent (82%) of respondents agreed that using clay brick results in a safer and higher quality home than those using other exterior materials. Eighty percent (80%) said they use brick because of a favorable style or aesthetic it provides. Seventy-five percent (75%) stated their primary reason to use brick is because their customers ask for it. Sixty percent (60%) of respondents said clay brick homes are easier to sell. More than half said brick homes are more energy efficient.

Agreement with the Following Statements About Clay Brick Exteriors

Source: Home Innovation Research Labs Survey for Brick Industry Association, December 2020 

The Future of Brick

What does this mean for the future of brick according to respondents? Here’s what the data say:

  1. The vast majority of builders primarily use brick because their customers ask for it.
  2. More than twice as many builders agree than disagree that they will be using more brick in 2021 and beyond.
  3. More respondents agree than disagree that homebuyers ask about brick often.
  4. Nearly twice as many respondents agreed than disagreed that clay brick is becoming more popular in their areas. 


Table 2.  Agreement vs. Disagreement with Statements about Clay Brick

Agreement vs. Disagreement with Statements about Clay Brick

Source: Home Innovation Research Labs Survey for Brick Industry Association, December 2020 

The study findings point to a potentially strong future for clay brick. Homebuying behavior in the wake of COVID-19 shows signs of moving the market toward larger, more well-appointed homes — favoring the luxury home market, and the use of more brick on those homes.

Another factor is land availability. With developable land in increasingly short supply, building lots in older neighborhoods continue to make up a larger proportion of new homes (i.e., infill lots and teardowns). In older neighborhoods, traditional architectural styles will be favored — these styles tend to favor brick over some other materials.

Overall, this study confirmed and expanded on what we have seen in recent Builder Practices Survey results – clay brick is enjoying a market rebound and has a strong future in providing the aesthetics and performance that builders and their homebuyers desire.

If you are interested in Builder Practices Reports on this or any of the many other categories we research, or if you are interested in more in-depth and targeted data like we collected in this work for BIA, contact us today.