SIC 3251

This category covers establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing brick and structural clay tile. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing clay firebrick fall under SIC 3255: Clay Refractories; those manufacturing nonclay firebrick are grouped under SIC 3297: Nonclay Refractories; those manufacturing sand lime brick are classified in SIC 3299: Nonmetallic Mineral Products, Not Elsewhere Classified; those manufacturing architectural terra cotta and other miscellaneous structural clay products are classified in SIC 3259: Structural Clay Products, Not Elsewhere Classified; and those manufacturing glass brick are classified in SIC 3229: Pressed and Blown Glass and Glassware, Not Elsewhere Classified.

NAICS Code(s)

327121 (Brick and Structural Clay Tile Manufacturing)

Organization and Structure

In the late 1990s, the leading product types for this industry were building or common brick and face brick, accounting for 91.6 percent of the value of total shipments, which reached $1.82 billion in 2000, compared to $1.77 billion in 1999. Glazed brick and paving, floor, and sewer brick, made up about 5.3 percent of total shipments. Among the specific products produced by the industry in the late 1990s were clay book tile, clay ceramic glazed brick, corncrib tile, clay radial (rounded) chimney blocks, hollow and vitrified (heat-fused into glass or a glassy material) brick, clay building tile, clay floor arch tile, clay furring tile, clay fireproofing tile, clay flooring brick, clay paving brick, clay partition tile, silo tile, and slumped brick (brick with an expanded or "slumped" base).

The characteristics of brick and structural clay tile products vary depending on the type of clay or raw mineral material used, the manner in which they are manufactured, the temperature at which they are burned or baked, the relative absorptive and strength qualities, and the severity of the climates they will be used in. The standard dimensions of U.S. bricks range between 4 and 6 inches thick, 2¾ to 4 inches high, and 8 to 12 inches wide. Bricks come in roughly 10,000 different colors besides the traditional red, weigh about six pounds, and cost between 25 and 50 cents each. Typical uses for brick and clay structural tile have historically been in the construction of homes—66 to 76 percent of all industry brick sales—as well as office buildings and industrial and other structures.

In its most common form, brick is made from clay that has been mixed with water, formed or "tempered" into a rectangular block, dried, and burned in a kiln. "Common brick" refers to brick in its undifferentiated state as it comes from the kiln, and it is used as "backup" masonry for wall thickness and structural support behind face brick. Face brick is chosen based on its uniformity of appearance for use in the exterior or visible portions of walls and is divided into various grades of color, texture, and perfection. Glazed brick is brick that has been treated with a coating of melted ground glass to repel moisture, engender easy cleaning, and/or create a desired appearance.

Unlike the most common ceramic home floor tile, which is typically thin and flat, structural tile more resembles concrete construction blocks in that it is hollow or cored and is primarily used for structural support rather than for aesthetic, decorative purposes. Structural clay tile is derived from clay, ceramic, and refractory minerals including kaolin and ball clay, mixed with industrial chemicals, molded into specific dimensions by forcing the raw material through dies, and burned or baked in kilns or ovens. The basic types of structural clay tile are load-bearing wall tile to bear the weight of floors, roofs, and facings; nonload-bearing tile used in the construction of partitions in building interiors and for backing up walls made of two or more materials; furring tile used to line the inside of walls and to provide an air space between the plaster and the wall; and fireproofing tile used to protect steel girders, beams, columns, and other structural elements from fire. Flooring tile—not to be confused with everyday decorative floor tile—is used in floor and roof construction, and structural clay facing tile is used in exposed or visible interior and exterior walls and partitions.

Background and Development

The first bricks in North America appeared in the form of the ballast of English ships, but a native brickmaking industry soon emerged in which clay was pressed into wooden molds and baked in beehive-shaped kilns. This handmade method endured until the 1870s when early brick production machines began to transform the industry. Besides the handmade method, two basic brickmaking methods soon emerged. Machine-molded brick resembled the traditional method except that the moist clay was forced into the molds by machine. Extruded brick—the most common method today—uses a machine to press a continuous tube of moist clay through an aperture, after which a wire cuts the individual bricks at preset intervals.

The use of uniform or modular standards for brick and structural clay tile by the construction industry and the brick and structural clay tile manufacturing industry has a long history, and industry products are governed by precise specifications with respect to tile length, width, and thickness—as well as strength, endurance, and appearance. For example, in the early 1960s there were 12 distinct modular sizes or specifications for structural load-bearing wall tile. Sizes that become unpopular may be dropped, however, and new ones can be added as construction industry demand dictates. Traditionally, few manufacturers have produced all the tile sizes accepted as standard by the industry. Between 1985 and 1994, the U.S. brick industry languished with an annual growth rate well below 2.5 percent.

Current Conditions

In the late 1990s, the brick and structural clay tile manufacturing industry consisted of 129 companies operating 225 establishments. The industry's shipments in 2000 reached a value of $1.82 billion, compared with 1992 shipments of $1.12 billion, generated by 117 companies operating 186 establishments. In the late 1990s, the top brick producing states were North Carolina, which accounted for 17 percent of total shipments; Texas (10.2 percent); and Ohio (7.6 percent). Government economists predicted that the industry would see a healthy growth rate of close to 3 percent into the early years of the new millennium.

Issues confronting the industry in the late 1990s included conforming to environmental protection regulations, managing labor costs, coping with fluctuating construction demand, financing new facilities and expansion, and competing with imported products. Industry firms have increasingly benefited from improved brick making technologies, including better kiln designs, improved knowledge of brick and tile raw materials and their characteristics, greater use of modern manufacturing technology, and better control over the firing or baking process.

The explosive spread of computers in American industry has led to computer control of the brick manufacturing process and the adoption by some industry firms of the World Wide Web as a marketing tool. In the late 1990s, brick makers continued to address the growing demand for the "human" feel (handmade bricks) by returning to historical handmade brick-by-brick manufacturing methods and by altering the look of machinemade bricks to give them a less uniform appearance. The use of recycled brick from demolished structures also continued to grow in the late 1990s, as producers looked for cheaper raw material alternatives to clay.

The building boom of the late 1990s created occasional shortages of brick, prompting manufacturers to place limits on their shipments to retailers. Brick manufacturers in 1999 turned out about 8 percent more bricks than they produced in 1998, but demand still outstripped supply, according to Tom Perry, a spokesman for the Brick Industry Association, a trade group representing manufacturers. "We are behind demand because it is an extremely robust home buying market." Perry pointed out that building booms do not usually last as long as the one seen in the latter half of the 1990s. In the fall of 1999, there were some signs that the building frenzy was beginning to slow down, hopefully enough to allow brick producers to catch up with demand. However, although the weakening economy in the early 2000s did curb growth in most industries, the building industry continued to grow, fueled by plummeting interest rates.

Industry Leaders

In the late 1990s, leading manufacturers included GTE Precision Materials of Danvers, Massachusetts; Justin Industries Inc. of Fort Worth, Texas; Coors Ceramics Co. of Golden, Colorado; Boral Bricks Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia; and Cherokee Sanford Group Inc. of Sanford, North Carolina.


In 2000, the brick and structural clay tile manufacturing industry employed 14,382 workers, of whom 11,612 were involved in production. That's nearly identical to the 14,200 workers employed in 1992.

Further Reading

"The Brick Industry: Markets and Trends." Ceramic Industry, 1 October 1996.

Brozda, Mike. "Building with Brick." Home, November 1995.

Ceramic Industry. Troy, MI: Business News Publishing Co.

Darnay, Arsen J., ed. Manufacturing USA, 6th ed. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 1998.

Masonry. Oak Brook, IL.: Mason Contractors Association of America.

United States Census Bureau. 1997 Economic Census: Brick and Structural Tile Manufacturing. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1999. Available from .

United States Census Bureau. "Statistics for Industries and Industry Groups: 2000." Annual Survey of Manufacturers. February 2002. Available from .

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