Side Story: Is Thin Brick Your Friend or Foe?


April 2009


Thin Brick
Is Thin Brick Your Friend or Foe?

As a marketer of thin brick and thin brick wall systems for the last 20 years, I see first-hand how people many view thin brick as an asset to the masonry industry, and how many others see it as material that is “taking away wall share.”

If you are a mason contractor, you may see thin brick as a competitor. I would argue that becoming efficient at installing thin brick will expand your profitable opportunities and give you a market advantage over your local mason contractor competitors.

We should also look at the brick manufacturer’s perspective. Most full brick manufacturers are modifying their production processes to provide a thin brick. The reason for this is to fulfill the market demand for more environmentally sound structures and achieve LEED points. The brick manufacturers are not driving the thin brick train, they are jumping on board.

The following chart shows the material and energy savings you can achieve when cladding 24,000 square feet of surface area. Simply put, for every one full brick produced, you could have manufactured and delivered four thin brick. The architect can also eliminate all steel support and relief angles, and reduce the weight of the exterior walls by 70 percent or more.

Lastly, we must identify this term “wall share.” If wall share is every interior and exterior vertical square foot constructed in North America, as a member of the masonry industry, do we care if the percentage of total wall share is thin brick or full brick?

If you are a brick manufacturer who can provide both thin and full brick material, your answer to this question is different than if you are a mason contractor who will only install full brick solutions.

Do we include thin brick panelized systems in the masonry wall share category or not? Precast producers, tilt-up concrete contractors, and light gage metal frame panelized system manufacturers have been using thin brick for more than 40 years. Mason contractors see these systems as competition, whereas many brick manufacturers and brick distributors perceive these systems as a growth opportunity.

The one thing we know is that thin brick demand has increased every year. Therefore, architects will continue to design and specify both products. Your individual role in the marketplace will determine if you will profit by thin brick’s advantages or not.

The first step is to define your company’s future role in thin brick. As a mason contractor, if you knew you could increase your company’s profits and save your customers money; would you train your crews to be efficient in installing thin brick? How will you ever know if you have not researched the facts?

The fact is that thin brick and thin brick systems are here to stay. The question is will thin brick be your friend or foe. This question can only be answered by you.

Raw materials
363 tons  73 tons  290 tons 80%
Delivery trucks
from quarry to
brick plant
18 trucks 7 trucks 11 trucks 61%
Natural gas to
fire material
920 mmbtu’s 184 mmbtu’s 736 mmbtu’s 80%
Delivery trucks
to deliver brick
to jobsite
14 trucks 3 trucks 11 trucks 79%
Diesel fuel
490 gallons 105 gallons 385 gallons 79%
*175 miles, one way, direct delivery from plant to site

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