Concrete Blocks vs. Bricks: A Guide

D.P. Taylor
Written by D.P. Taylor
Updated June 17, 2022
A small brick house on a sunny day
Photo: Nomad_Soul / Adobe Stock

Highlights

  • Both concrete blocks and bricks are strong and fire-resistant.

  • Concrete has a drab, utilitarian look, while brick is prized for its beauty.

  • Building with concrete blocks can be slightly less expensive.

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If you’re building a foundation or a wall, you want it to be sturdy. Your home is your castle, after all. For homeowners like you, bricks and concrete blocks are good options. But which is best?

This comparison guide breaks down the pros and cons of each material, and how they match up head-to-head in several categories. After you’ve made your choice, contact a masonry professional near you for a consultation and a quote.

Concrete Blocks Pros & Cons

The foundation of a house built with concrete blocks
Photo: Dan Reynolds Photography / Moment / Getty Images

Also known as concrete masonry units (CMU), concrete blocks are one of the most fundamental construction materials out there. They’re dependably strong and come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Here are more pros and cons to consider.

Pros

Because they’re intended for use in load-bearing walls and the like, concrete blocks are incredibly strong. Look for concrete blocks that meet ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards; this means they meet or exceed requirements for compressive strength.

Concrete blocks can help muffle unwanted noise, too. And they’re fire-resistant: They won’t burn, and they can withstand fire for an hour or more before sustaining any significant damage. Because concrete blocks are often made with recycled materials, they’re considered to be an eco-friendly option.

Cons

Concrete blocks just aren't that attractive, and not much can be done to change that. Still, it is possible to paint them different colors, and they do lend themselves to a modern, minimalist look.

If your concrete blocks get damaged, it's not easy to patch and repair them. You may need to remove and replace large sections.

Bricks Pros & Cons

A worker with gloves laying new bricks
Photo: Jung Getty / Moment / Getty Images

Bricks have been a popular building material for generations, valued for their durability and timeless good looks. Here’s more on the advantages and disadvantages of building with bricks.

Pros

Like concrete blocks, bricks are strong, low-maintenance, fire-resistant, and eco-friendly; a brick’s ASTM classification will indicate what type of building project it’s best for. What sets brick apart from concrete blocks is its enduring beauty—when you build with brick, you’re choosing a material that will last for a century or more and will never go out of style.

Bricks also have a higher R value than concrete blocks; this means they’re better at insulating and will likely save you money on energy costs down the line.

Cons

Bricks come in an attractive but limited palette, and there’s not much you can do to modify their appearance. They don’t lend themselves well to painting, so customization is limited for homeowners.

Should you find yourself having to repair brick down the line, doing so can be pricey. The cost to repair a brick wall is around $1,400.

Concrete Blocks vs. Bricks

A worker installing concrete blocks
Photo: FredFroese / E+ / Getty Images

Here’s how these two materials compare in several key categories.

Appearance​

Bricks easily get the win here, thanks to their classic, timeless look that is highly desired by homeowners. Concrete blocks simply aren’t as attractive.

Advantage: Bricks

Options & Customizations​

It's easier to customize concrete blocks, which can be dyed different colors. Painting over brick generally doesn't work very well.

Advantage: Concrete Blocks

Durability​

Concrete blocks and bricks are both strong and dependable building materials that can last for 100 years.

Advantage: Draw

Price​

Concrete blocks can be slightly less expensive than brick, but the installation costs are usually pretty comparable. The complexity of your project and the skill of your installer will dictate the price tag more than your choice of material. As a point of reference, it costs an average of $5,200 to install a concrete block retaining wall.

Advantage: Draw

Resale Value​

Because brick is highly desirable on the real estate market, it will typically offer a bigger boost to your home’s value than concrete.

Advantage: Bricks

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