AT THE 2003 INTERNATIONAL BUILDERS' Show in Las Vegas, Builder wowed the 100,000-plus attendees with its HomeDestinations show home. We chose to design the 13,000-square-foot, European-influenced house with all the bells and whistles a modern-day buyer would want. What type of siding did our builder use for the house? Bricks—45,000 of them.

Our builder chose brick because it fit the Old World architectural style of the home, but the product's strength, durability, and maintenance-free attributes were factors as well. Among the most enduring building products on the market today, bricks can either be made the traditional way, with natural clay and shale that are kiln dried, or they can be made from Portland cement, natural aggregates, and color pigments that are steam cured. Used for siding, landscaping, and walkways, traditionally made brick is one of the oldest building materials in the world. And all the attributes that made the product popular thousands of years ago are the same reasons people choose it today.

Super Brick

“Nothing else can match the classic beauty and elegance of a brick home,” says the Brick Industry Association (BIA), in Reston, Va., a group that represents clay-based brick manufacturers. “Building with brick says you have arrived. But there's more to brick than just looks. Brick offers lasting value. It can enhance the resale value of your home by as much as 6 percent.”

Gary Freels, sales manager of Bilco Brick in Lancaster, Texas, says brick has a higher value than vinyl and other materials. “It does cost more,” he says, but “when [buyers] see it, they know they are getting something valuable and maintenance free.”

Brick says something about a builder, too, says Paul Scott, vice president of sales at Potomac Valley Brick in Rockville, Md. “It makes a statement when you see a brick house. It speaks to the quality of the builder.”

Though brick is perceived as a high-quality product, home buyers also know the real history of its longevity and performance. “It doesn't rot, dent, or need to be painted, and it won't be eaten by termites,” the BIA says. And because it is made with natural materials, it is a sustainable product, too, the association adds.

With more than 150 styles and colors of brick, Atlanta-based Boral Bricks says that it offers the largest selection of colors, styles, and specialty items in the United States. Available in rough and smooth textures, the products can be used in numerous architectural applications. Because of brick's durability and maintenance-free characteristics, says Shelley Ross, Boral's director of marketing, “it's probably the best siding material you can put on a house,” which is where most production builders use the product.

Labor Crunch

Despite brick's pedigree, the cost is the primary reason builders in some markets don't offer four-sided brick homes without a premium price tag. The price of brick has gone up slightly over the years, but manufacturers agree that labor is the main reason for the increase. “Labor can account for half the cost of the product, so it makes it difficult for builders [to put it on their homes],” says Freels.

The BIA agrees that brick carries a premium cost but argues that it's a premium product.

Alternate Endings

One way builders are achieving the look of brick without using the product is with manufactured veneer products, thin faux-brick products made from Portland cement. Veneer products are lightweight alternatives that can be installed by a carpenter or skilled do-it-yourselfer, which cuts labor costs.

Typically used as a replacement for stone, veneer products that look like brick are available from various manufacturers, including Cultured Stone in Napa, Calif., which says veneer brick is a good way to give buyers the beauty of brick and allow them to keep their eyes on the bottom line.

For more product information, visit ebuild, Hanley Wood's interactive product catalog, at www.builderonline.com or www.ebuild.com.