Brick and Structural Clay Tile

SIC 3251

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

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 non-clay 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.

The brick and structural clay tile manufacturing industry was valued at $1.37 billion in 2008. In the mid-2000s, the leading product types for this industry were building or common brick, accounting for 91 percent of the value of total shipments. Glazed brick and paving, floor, and sewer brick made up about 6 percent of total shipments. Among the specific products produced by the industry in the mid-2000s 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).

All but 11 states had brick manufacturing plants, and the annual capacity of all firms was 9.5 billion bricks. The top brick producing states were Texas, North Carolina, and Florida. The largest region for production and consumption of brick was the South Atlantic.

Organization and Structure

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 where they will be used. The standard dimensions of U.S. bricks range between 4 and 6 inches thick, 2-3/4 to 4 inches high, and 8 to 12 inches wide. Bricks come in roughly 10,000 different colors besides the traditional red, weigh about 6 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, with 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, or create a desired appearance.

Unlike the most common ceramic home floor tile, which is typically thin and flat, structural tile more closely 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; non-load-bearing tile used in the construction of partitions in building interiors and to back 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, which should not 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 brick making 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 brick making methods soon emerged. Machine-molded brick resembled the traditional method except that the moist clay was forced into the molds by machine. Extruded brick, which is the most common method in the 2000s, 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 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.

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 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 U.S. industry 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 machine-made bricks to give them a less uniform appearance. The use of recycled brick from demolished structures also continued to grow as producers looked for cheaper raw material alternatives to clay.

In the mid-2000s, about 200 establishments manufactured brick and structural clay tile in the United States. The industry's shipments in 2005 reached nearly $2.23 billion, compared to $1.76 billion in 2002 and $1.41 billion in 1997.

In the mid-2000s, the trend toward consolidation of brick manufactures continued. At that time, the top 10 brick manufacturers represented more than 82 percent of production capacity. Although the number of establishments was decreasing, foreign investment in the U.S. brick industry increased between 1995 and 2005. In 2005, about 54 percent of U.S. capacity was owned by companies from Australia, Austria, England, Germany, Ireland, and Turkey.

U.S. production of clays also rose in the mid-2000s. Production in 2004 was 49 million tons, an increase of 18 percent from the previous year. Imports of clay for consumption decreased to an estimated 225,000 tons. The major sources of imported clay were Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. Clay exports increased to 5.6 million tons, with major markets being Canada, Japan, Mexico, Finland, and Taiwan.

Current Conditions

In 2007, brick shipments began to fall, closing out the year with a 20 percent drop compared to 2006. That trend continued when brick shipments fell more than 31 percent in 2008 along with the actual value that fell more than 33 percent.

The industry reported an estimated 428 establishments engaged in manufacturing brick and structural clay tile. Valued at $1.37 billion in 2008 from a high of $2.23 billion in 2006, the industry employed 12,435 workers. Based on market share, top performing states were Texas, North Carolina, California, and Florida. Texas and Tennessee were the leaders based on shipments, totaling $460.3 million and $403.6 million, respectively. Significant sectors were manufacturers of brick clay, either common face, glazed, vitrified or hollow; ceramic glazed brick (clay); structural brick and blocks; and clay paving bricks.

Despite increased demand in the specialty clay brick market for products such as glazed brick, demand for U.S. clay brick was expected to contract 10.2 billion units in 2010, with consumption of common brick taking the largest hit.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, housing starts continued to fall in 2009. As the global economic downturn intensified, brick manufacturers were forced to trim their workforce and idle or shut down plants all together.

Industry Leaders

In the mid-2000s, the largest brick maker in the United States was Hanson Brick & Tile of Charlotte, North Carolina. Operating 25 plants in the United States and Canada, the company produced 1.7 billion bricks annually and had 2005 sales of $370 million. In 2007, it became a HeidelbergCement subsidiary. Boral USA of Roswell, Georgia, whose brick manufacture division produced about 1.5 billion bricks annually through more than 20 brick plants in the Southeast and Southwest, was also significant in the industry Estimated 2008 sales for the company were $128.6 million. General Shale Brick, Inc., of Johnson City, Tennessee, produces more than one billion bricks annually. Revenue for 2005 was $399 million and Acme Brick of Fort Worth, Texas, made several acquisitions in the early to mid-2000s, including Edmond Materials, Denver Brick Company, and Justin Industries. Acme had 2008 sales of $450 million.

Workforce

In 2005, the brick and structural clay tile manufacturing industry had 12,996 employees, 10,617 of whom were production workers earning an average of $14.26 an hour. In 2008, industry-wide employment fell slightly to 12,435 workers.

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