The story of humankind’s history of construction is relatively straightforward: dugouts in the dirt led to structures of mud, reinforced with straw; as humans began to proliferate to different biomes, mud led to building with wood; meanwhile, other peoples began to build with sand, which when mixed with water and fired like pottery, formed into hard blocks called bricks. Eventually, bricks became the dominant material used in Western construction for the next few centuries.
The medium became so ubiquitous in fact, that nursery rhymes like The Three Little Pigs were written, in part, to reinforce its superiority. After the wolf blew down structures of straw and wood (mirroring the evolution of man’s journey in construction) the two foolish little pigs found safety in the sturdier, more luxurious brick home of the third, wisest pig. With brick being as the dominant building material in cities all over Europe and America, how then, did it ultimately diminish in use and relevance?
THE DEMISE OF BRICKS
As any of our Burbach Exterior experts will tell you, brick has become a much sought-after material to use in home renovations. But before that could happen, it would first undergo a period of irrelevancy. This is due to a few important factors:
- The cost skyrocketed: As is the case for every tectonic shift within the market, brick eventually became too cost-prohibitive to use. With the end of World War II came a number of important things, all occurring at the same time; first, thousands of men were returning from war and getting married﹘this meant that neighborhoods had to be built quickly to account for the rapidly growing population of new families; secondly, as urban centers and post-war neighborhoods started to grow, preferences started to veer away from the traditional homes of the country that most people grew up in﹘now people wanted modern-looking homes that reflected their optimistic push into the future; finally, cities stopped requiring bricks be included in homes in order to meet code. All of these factors worked together to end America’s infatuation with using bricks and instead created a reliance on wood, vinyl, and steel. Ordering the firing and laying of bricks became an older, and therefore more expensive, technique.
- Dependency on repairs: When using natural materials made of sand, lime, and water, the reality of home repairs becomes a constant threat. Eventually, the mortar will crumble and someone will need to be by to repoint the entire structure, which can be time-intensive and costly. Newer materials don’t typically need to undergo this type of routine scrutiny.
- Popularity of stronger materials: As World War II was winding down, steel production was ramping up, and with it the number of people proficient in its use. No longer did load-bearing bricks need to be relied upon﹘America had access to a far stronger, far more malleable material.
Thanks to two world wars and a country rich with natural resources, the face of industrial America changed and with it the identity of modern residential and commercial construction.
BRICKS IN HOME RENOVATION
There is a saying that time moves in a circle and that old things become new again. Such is the case in home renovation, as we have seen at Burbach Exteriors. People are beginning to request bricks be used once more in building, in order to evoke a more classic colonial or pioneer aesthetic. However, the reasons for doing away with bricks as a dominant building material remain. Why would people choose to revert to a more inefficient, more expensive way of construction? The answer lies in the brick façade or brick veneer approach.
Brick veneer is a great way for our customers to “have their cake and eat it too,” allowing for their aesthetic choice to be met while their budget is respected. The technique comes from building the home or office as normal, but using bricks as an outer, non-weight-bearing decoration. There are a number of benefits that come from using bricks this way:
- Fewer bricks are actually needed: In the old days, brick houses needed walls two layers thick in order to ensure the structure held. A veneer reduces the cost and time of installation immensely by simply needing fewer bricks.
- Veneer bricks look like the real thing: Instead of sand and water, veneer bricks are made of shale and clay, giving them the appearance and feel of real bricks but not nearly as heavy, expensive, or difficult to use. And most people can’t tell them apart from the old ones.
- Veneer provides superior insulation: Veneer bricks are coded differently than regular bricks, earning what’s called an “R-Value,” which rates their insulation quality. These bricks retain heat extremely well and can therefore be used practically anywhere to increase the comfort of those inside the home.
Whether it’s a home renovation or home repair, the professionals at Burbach Exteriors know how to utilize brick veneers to give you all the nostalgia of pre-war construction with none of the prohibitive factors. Simply give us a call today to get a quote.