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Principal type of exterior wall material on new single-family homes completed. Source: 2012 Charateristics of Housing, US Census Bureau
Principal type of exterior wall material on new single-family homes completed. Source: 2012 Charateristics of Housing, US Census Bureau
July 17, 2013 7:00 AM CDT

What do we know about brick's “share” in the residential space?

New information available from US Census and NAHB/Home Innovations Research Center


In the past month, two pieces of information have become available that can provide some insight and third-party perspective on brick’s position in the residential space. They are the 2012 Characteristics of Housing Report published by the US Census and “2011 Market Demand Data,” which is distributed by Home Innovations Research Center.

1. 2012 Characteristics of Housing

In 2012, median size of the 483,000 newly built single family homes rose to 2,306 square feet - the highest median square-footage for single-family homes since the government began keeping track in 1973. Additionally, the number of new homes that had four bedrooms and three bathrooms also hit new records at 46% and 30% respectively.

With respect to the data concerning wall cladding, the US Census does not measure “wall share” or “market share.” Instead, they measure “Principal” and “Secondary” exterior cladding materials. The “Principal Type of Exterior Wall Material of New One-Family Houses Completed” is the one that represents 50+% of the house, while the “Secondary” cladding material is the one that is the second most frequently used. So, in the example of a brick-front house with three sides vinyl, the US Census would record vinyl as the primary material and brick as the secondary material.

Additionally, the US Census captures actual data from a small number of completed homes and estimates the rest. In 2012, the US Census collected data on 18,100 completed houses, which means they have survey responses from less than 5% of the 483,000 single family homes that were completed last year. Because of the small sample size, the US Census only releases findings for the four primary US Census regions. With this in mind, here is how “brick or brick veneer” ranks with other materials in the country for the past few years.

Principal Type of Exterior Wall Material

Since 2007, brick has held a steady ranking as the #2 material – significantly behind vinyl. At a 24% level for the past two years, brick’s incidence as the primary material is actually at the highest level it has been at since 1984. (As a reference point, the last time brick was the #1 material was in 1974 when brick was the principal material 35% of the time.) So, the data here shows that brick’s usage as a principal wall material has held steady for the past five years.

Secondary Type of Exterior Wall Material

At 13%, brick (and brick veneer) has been the #2 secondary material for the previous five years in a row. However, there are two trends to keep in mind that pre-date these charts. First, the incidence of using mixed materials on houses has increased significantly since the US Census kept track of secondary materials. In 1999, for example, 64% of houses did not have a secondary material, and in 2012, 54% of houses did not have a secondary material. Second, the “other” category, which includes concrete block, stone, aluminum, etc., has grown significantly as a secondary material. Between 1999 and 2006, brick was actually the #1 secondary material and was used three times more often as any other material. Starting in 2007, though, the “Other” category has grown significantly and is now used at least 50% more frequently than brick.

2. Home Innovations Research Center Market Demand Data

Because the US Census Data lacks some information that could be extremely useful to BIA’s membership (such as estimated wall share and a more geographically-precise breakdown) the BIA Regions agreed to buy some off-the-shelf research from a reputable third party resource. Through the BIA Industry-Wide Program, BIA has purchased two years of “Market Demand Data” from Home Innovations Research Center, which was formerly the NAHB Research Center.

This data is a bit different than the US Census data. Through the research center’s Annual Builder Practices Survey, the Home Innovations Group uses data from over 1,300 builders around the country (the biggest sample size of the firms we spoke to), and the numbers here are percentages of estimated volume tabulated with estimates of product demand, quantities purchased, types, styles, sizes, etc. with proprietary formulas. It should be noted that the product usage data here estimates wall share for both single and multi-family dwellings in the residential space.

So, what does it say about brick? As the chart for 2011 below indicates, brick is the #2 wall material in terms of “product usage,” and the top four materials are clustered together more closely than they are in the US Census “Principal” material chart.

Comparison of Both Sets of Data for 2011

When comparing both sources of information together, the top cladding materials measured by Home Innovations Research Center are almost always the same ones as measured by the “Principal Exterior Cladding Material” in the US Census. However, the percentages vary quite a bit because the US Census is measuring incidences of primary and secondary cladding materials while the Home Innovations/NAHB Research Center data actually estimates share. Looking at the 2011 data, here is how they both rank in terms of top wall materials in the three census regions of interest to our industry.


Vinyl is the dominant material in the Northeast in both reports, but it is significantly higher in the US Census report than it is in NAHB’s report. One could interpret this to mean that while vinyl is the principal material on almost eight of every 10 houses built, other materials definitely come into play on the finished house. The US Census Bureau indicates that brick is the third “principal exterior wall material,” but NAHB/Home Innovations places brick as tied for third in terms of product usage.


Similar to the Northeast, vinyl siding is the dominant cladding material with the US Census Bureau recording a higher number than NAHB/Home Innovations. Interestingly, both brick and stone have a higher rating in the NAHB/Home Innovations ranking than they do in the US Census. It is possible that while brick and stone are not “principal materials” much of the time, they may be used a bit more on the finished house in combination with other materials.


Brick is the #1 material in both the US Census and NAHB/Home Innovations reports followed by vinyl siding. As shown in the other regions, though, the differences indicated by the US Census Bureau are much closer in the NAHB/Home Innovations numbers. Assuming these numbers are credible, one can infer that brick’s use as a primary material is very high, but it is frequently used in combination with other materials. Along the same line of thinking, it appears that wood and stucco are rarely used as primary materials, but they do appear to be used as accents on finished houses more than the US Census Bureau may indicate.

Moving Forward

Once it becomes available, BIA will circulate the 2012 Market Demand Data on a national and US Census Region basis and possibly discuss aspects of it at the next BIA Residential Committee meeting on July 23. Additionally, Home Innovations will tabulate their data on a BIA Region basis, which the BIA Regions' staff can forward to their respective members. If anyone has any questions or comments on this, please contact Stephen Sears at or 703-674-1536.

About the Author

Stephen Sears, Vice President of Marketing and Member Services at the Brick Industry Association, is a strategic marketing executive with a proven track record in blue-chip, private sector and nonprofit organizations.


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