Faux Brick Wall Tiles vs Real Brick: What Are the Differences?
Written by Milan Jara on 27th Apr 2022
We explain the differences between faux brick wall tiles and real brick in terms of cost, ease of use, durability, and maintenance.
The renewed interest in interior brick walls has many people exposing their own brick walls for the first time or even considering installing one. While the cause of this unexpected revival is something we can only speculate about, it’s likely because of its rural charm, striking appearance, and ability to add a bit of energy to a home.
Brick walls are not found in every home. Because they are quite expensive, many people can only dream of adding this lovely feature. We're not saying that it's impossible, but installing a real brick wall involves a lot of planning, money, and time. That’s why more and more people are turning to faux brick wall panels. Even though faux brick paneling has been around for a while, it has only recently been manufactured in a way that makes them appear almost identical to real brick. These are increasingly popular because they give off the rustic charm of a brick wall without nearly as much work or cost.
If you're considering adding a real or fake brick wall to your home, do your homework first to decide which option is best for you.
Fortunately, you can find all of that information and more in this article, which is designed to help you make an informed decision about whether to add bricks to your home.
We examine the distinctions between faux brick wall tiles and actual brick wall tiles so you can understand the benefits and drawbacks of each. You'll also discover a few helpful insights and suggestions throughout this article. Once armed with this information, you can make an informed choice about which one to purchase.
What Is Faux Brick?
Faux brick wall panels are an immensely popular choice amongst homeowners and interior designers looking to create the illusion of actual brick. They are typically made of high-density polyurethane or other materials. They are cost-effective, durable, and simple to install with just some extra strong glue and a drill.
Faux brick wall tiles are not as strong or durable as real bricks, and they're not meant for load-bearing purposes. However, they make up for this in their price tag, since they are considerably less expensive than real bricks. They also provide a cleaner and quicker way to get decorative accents on either the exterior or interior of your home.
Faux Brick Pros:
- Faux brick walls excel at versatility. They are suitable for both indoor and outdoor decorative accent walls, fireplace settings, kitchen backsplashes, and much more.
- Although real brick can last for ages, it’s still prone to chipping and cracking, which is nearly impossible to repair. A brick wall panel, on the other hand, is significantly less susceptible to such damage. They are water-resistant and do not fade as real brick does. Most faux brick panels are weather-resistant and fire-resistant.
- The lightweight materials used to make faux brick wall panels not only make them easy to move around and install but also have a significant impact on the associated costs. For example, shipping and transportation costs are much less when using faux brick wall tiles.
- Faux brick wall panels cost a fraction of the price of actual brick, allowing for more elaborate and unique projects that would have been out of most people’s price range if using real brick.
- There are only a few different colors for real brick, and some of the more exotic colors are hard to find. Compared to actual brick wall tiles, faux tiles are available in a broader range of colors and styles.
- Real brick tends to be dusty and can become home to all types of molds and fungi if not properly cared for. You usually need to apply a sealer to prevent and limit this damaging stuff from invading its pores. Faux brick wall panels have none of those problems and require little to no maintenance.
Faux Brick Cons:
- Faux brick is not as strong as real brick and can’t be used as structural support.
- There are limitations to where you can apply faux brick wall tiles, and you must attach them to a preexisting wall.
What Is Real Brick?
Bricks have been around for a long time and are a popular material for both interior and exterior walls because they’re long-lasting and dependable. Authentic brick wall tiles are made from natural, organic materials, such as baked clay, ceramic, and stone. They have a distinct, warm feel and are very attractive when used as a decorative accent. Generally used for covering and beautifying walls and floors, this product is thin-sliced and square or rectangular. They come in various colors and shapes, and the textures are usually smooth.
Real Brick Pros:
- You can use real brick inside or outside.
- They're made of regular-sized bricks and have the same color, shape, and texture as a full-sized brick.
- It tolerates different weather conditions, including extreme heat and cold.
- It doesn’t need as much maintenance as some other materials.
- Properly maintained brick can last for centuries without issue.
- Real brick adds value to your home at resale.
Real Brick Cons:
- Working with brick can be exhausting.
- Real brick requires more installation materials than faux brick.
- The installation is more labor-intensive because of the weight and complexity.
- They retain moisture, which can cause them to get brittle and crumble over time without proper maintenance.
- Installation sometimes necessitates the specialized skills of a mason.
In a Nutshell
The most glaring difference between faux brick wall panels and the real thing is the disparity in their weight. Unfortunately, brick is incredibly heavy and you will need the specialized skills of a mason when using real brick as a design choice, which is outside the realm of most DIYers. The fact that real brick wall panels weigh almost three times as much as their faux counterparts are what ultimately drives the decision to use the latter. Here’s just a quick rundown of all the issues that come with using real brick because of how much it weighs.
- Natural brick has a high transportation cost due to its weight and the work required to carry it. Because it is so heavy, your hired contractor will probably charge you extra for transporting this material.
- Using real brick significantly limits the types of projects you can accomplish with it. The heavy nature can also bring ill-prepared walls down, and if you apply too many real brick panels on drywall, it can destroy your wall.
- When employing actual brick, the maximum building height you can safely achieve is severely limited.
- Each row takes time and effort to both prepare and apply, resulting in a larger labor cost and increased project duration.
Now that you have a solid grasp of what problems real brick wall panels have in terms of weight, let's find out how this compares to the lightweight nature of faux brick wall panels.
- Being lightweight greatly increases the speed of transporting and assembling faux brick wall tiles.
- Because faux wall tiles are light, they don't require mortar as they easily attach to walls using only construction adhesive and screws.
Keep it Clean
Another major difference between real and faux brick tiles is the amount of maintenance you have to do with each type.
Cleaning Real Brick
Remove any loose dirt with a garden hose with a spray nozzle or a spray bottle once a year. Splashback or rising water are the two circumstances that produce water damage. Rain repeatedly hammering against the brick soaks into the mortar, causing the mortar joints or bricks to shatter. When groundwater seeps up from below, it leaves a tide line behind, and after the rainwater above the tide line evaporates, the salt crystals that remain cause the bricks and mortar to deteriorate over time.
Freezing and thawing cycles can hasten the deterioration of water-soaked bricks, so catching problems early will save you money in the end. Examine your bricks for water damage once a year, and budget for repointing every five to ten years.
Look for moss, mold, or mildew on any side of your house that receives little or no sunlight and has moist vegetation nearby. You can clean most problem areas using a scrub brush and a solution of one cup of bleach and one quart of water. You can use brushes with natural or synthetic bristles, but avoid wire brushes as they leave traces of steel, which rusts and discolors brick. Soak the bricks completely before applying the bleach solution to keep the bleach from soaking into the brick.
In areas where mortar joints have gotten mushy or the mortar itself has become cracked or broken, repointing is required. Carefully remove the broken mortar so that the surrounding masonry is not disturbed. New mortar is placed in layers. The depth of the new mortar should be double the breadth of the mortar joint for repointing. Mortar that is put directly into the damaged area is not very long-lasting.
Removing paint from brick is a tedious process. Chemical treatments are best for paint removal and are best left to professionals. You should never use sandblasting for paint removal as it permanently damages the integrity of the brick. Real brick has a rough texture, and because sandblasting removes its outer skin, it becomes more susceptible to dirt buildup and moisture penetration. This is especially true for older bricks.
Aggressive treatments, such as chemical applications to remove lime, calcium carbonate, and rust, are best left to a professional. Chemicals must be spot tested at various concentrations. Too high a concentration can attack the surface of the brick, damage window glass, or cause discoloration.
Cleaning Faux Brick
Thanks to the materials used to make them, faux brick tiles are low-maintenance. Water and dirt stay on the surface and don’t permeate through it. You can remove most of the dirt that accumulates on the panels using a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment.
To remove stains from paints, solvents, grease, or gasoline, use mineral spirits or lacquer thinner.
As you can see, real brick wall tile masonry is considerably different from faux brick tiles. Many people are attracted to the beauty of natural brick, but there are a lot more disadvantages than advantages. When you use faux brick products, there are no hassles in moving, installing, and maintaining as with real bricks. Faux brick products provide solutions to the problems encountered with real brick, which results in lower labor, material, and installation costs, as well as a faster completion time and hardly any maintenance.
Overall, the differences between these two products show that working with faux brick wall tiles is easier and takes much less time than working with and maintaining real brick. The positive difference regarding real brick is its genuine look and feel that the fake products have yet to match. To the untrained eye, though, it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between the real and fake. It’s only a matter of time before they’ll be nearly identical in look and feel.