From the classic Brooklyn brownstone to the exposed brick wall in what seems like every start-up’s office space, bricks offer both a classic and enduring design feature. While traditional brick laying is a time-consuming and expensive procedure for the average homeowner, installing interlocking bricks is a popular way to improve the appeal of any paved surface, be it a driveway, walkway, pool surround, or even walls.
It’s important to understand the differences between interlocking and traditional bricks, as well as interlocking advantages and disadvantages, project ideas, and installation tips.Image via Unsplash
Interlocking bricks vs. ‘traditional’ bricks
Interlocking bricks are made by compressing a mixture of sand, soil and cement in an interlocking brick-making machine and curing them with water for seven days. They’re made to fit together, avoiding the use of mortar, using a self-locking shear-key and lock system. This allows for more aesthetically pleasing and functional designs when you’re using bricks for your driveway, patio, front walk, or other projects.
Traditional cement bricks, like the ones used to build your home or buildings, are cut into their uniformly rectangular shape with a wire and bound together with mortar. Since they’re plastered, traditional bricks hold up longer to wear and tear, extreme weather, and insect infestation. That’s why they’re used for residential and commercial buildings, unlike interlocking bricks which are generally reserved for vanity projects.
If you’re using interlocking bricks for the exterior of your home, remember they can only be used for the first three stories of a building. It’s not safe to use interlocking bricks for tall commercial buildings.Image via Pixabay
The interlock advantage
Think of the savings
Depending on your project, interlocking bricks can be less expensive than traditional brick! They also require less labour for construction and maintenance, and a significantly shorter curing period—standard brick mortar can take up to 28 days to fully cure.
Reduce your emissions footprint
Since interlocking bricks are compressed and have more mass than standard ones, their internal temperatures provide a more environmentally friendly way to help keep building interiors cool in the summer heat.
If you live in an earthquake-prone area, take note. Interlocking bricks used in retaining walls can be more resilient against earthquakes than traditional cement bricks. If the mortar that supports cement bricks fails, then so too does the entire structure, whereas interlocking bricks support each other. As a result, some governments have recommended building durable interlocking brick structures in earthquake-prone areas, like Nepal, California, and British Columbia.
How you can use them
The versatility and variety of interlocking bricks makes them ideal for improvements to your exterior landscape design. They’re also increasingly used for some interior features, like the much sought-after exposed brick wall in trendy loft spaces.
Driveways and walkways are among the most common uses, and for good reason. Interlock systems are more flexible and have a longer lifespan than poured concrete and asphalt. Plus, with a variety of shapes, colours and custom designs, interlocking driveways and walkways could boost your curb appeal and overall property value.
Patios and garden features
Interlock brick features can also really tie your backyard together. An interlock patio can add texture, depth, and solid ground for al fresco dinner parties while reducing time spent on lawn care. Gardens encased in an interlock retaining wall help organize and protect your blooming flower beds.
If you’re choosing an interlocking brick patio, keep in mind pesky weeds or anthills can eventually start to sprout through the cracks. Keep an eye on these and try some of our methods for keeping weeds and pests out.
A swimming pool surrounded by interlocking blocks or stones enhances appearance and improves pool safety by helping to reduce slippery surfaces. Plus, similar to how interlocking brick can help keep buildings cooler when it’s used for walls, it’s also cooler on your feet so you don’t have to worry about the heat while you sit poolside!
Adding interlocking brick to your home
You’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided an interlock feature is right for your building project. What’s next? It’s important to consider several factors that will affect your final product, such as:
- The size of the project (i.e., a long driveway or a small retaining garden wall?);
- any borders or features that will affect the pattern and size or space;
- the colours, patterns, textures, and mixture composition that work best for you; and
- maintenance and repair (i.e., do you want to seal your interlock for that extra layer protection from the elements?)
Once you’ve settled on the details, it’s time to start bricklaying. While in theory you could do this yourself, unless you’re a seasoned DIYer it may not be the best choice. More likely, you’ll want to seek out the help of a professional. Contact a landscaping contractor or ask a your REALTOR® if they have any contractors they tend to use. Your REALTOR® will also know the trends in your neighbourhood to see if interlocking brick features are the best option for your resale value.
Interlocking brick is a great way to add personality and curb appeal to your home, and it comes with its advantages! Whether it’s your driveway, patio, and pool deck, you’re sure to end up with a design you love.