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What is a Clinker Brick?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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Clinker brick is a product of manufacturing mistakes. New bricks that are overheated or sit too close to a fire can change in composition, becoming harder, less uniform in shape, unpredictably colored, and up until the early 20th century, a costly waste of materials that became slated for disposal. The reason the clinker brick came to the attention of anyone outside of the brick yard was because architects in the early 20th century began to see the possibilities of using these mistakes, instead of more uniform bricks, to create home or other building interiors and exteriors with a unique appearance. Since the bricks were considered useless, their initially low price also made them appealing.

Throughout the first three or four decades of the 20th century, obtaining clinker brick and using it for all or part of homes or other buildings become popular, increasing the demand for these bricks. It also spawned creation of a number of structures that are still standing and have historical interest. None of these structures are exactly the same in brick design or brick color because the shapes and colors of clinker brick are unpredictable. They may be curved, and of different lengths, and coloration can be anything from rose to black with many colors in between. The degree to which bricks continued to melt, or whether they melted into other bricks determines shape, size, and possibly color.

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It can be challenging work finding enough clinker bricks that bear some resemblance to each other, and laying them out in some form of pattern takes planning and skill. Instead of creating whole walls or other areas out of clinker brick, sometimes they’re merely used as accents. In this way, a few bricks are easier to accommodate into a more uniform design with other standard-sized bricks.

Where the clinker brick was once widely and cheaply available, this is no longer the case. Some companies may produce replica forms, but many people who want to use them for buildings or restoration projects must find old brick manufacturing companies or clinker brick suppliers who search these companies out and obtain their discarded brick. This means that demand tends to exceed supply and the decision to restore a clinker brick building or to use the brick in new buildings is an expensive one. Replicas may be preferred because they are less expensive.

No matter how the bricks are made, they produce unusual and attractive shapes and colors. This is considered by many to be charming. A number of newer buildings with classic or replica clinker bricks are thought appealing in their very disorganization of brick arrangement and lack of uniformity.

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