Hebel vs Brick: Which is Best?

Having a new home built is one of the most exciting times in your life. It’s also an extremely expensive project and something you don’t want to get wrong.

The first step to getting the most out of your money is deciding what material you should use for building purposes.

In this post, we discuss two of the most common options available: Brick and Hebel.

What is Hebel?

Hebel is a building product made by fusing sand and cement in an autoclave to make a mash that’s as strong as concrete but as light as cork.

This environmentally friendly building material comes in panels or blocks, so it’s quick and easy to install on multiple levels or with curves.

Hebel is made using a simple process involving three basic ingredients: cement, sand and water.

When these are mixed together with air at high pressure inside an autoclave – a large steel vessel – the product becomes extremely dense and lightweight.

The process uses less energy than the production of conventional concrete products. This means it has reduced carbon dioxide emissions when compared to other materials.

Hebel panels also include a steel reinforcing frame for extra strength.

Using Hebel for home construction

Hebel is easy to handle/work with because it’s light and comes in panels. It can be cut to size on site, and you don’t need special equipment.

It is commonly used in aircrete blocks and panels, but can also be cast into bricks, pavers and stones.

Hebel is incredibly strong, fire-resistant, resistant to pests and moisture and has outstanding thermal properties.

It’s also very easy to cut, drill and install. As a result, it has been used for residential construction in Australia since the early 1960s.

Because it’s so easy to work with, Hebel can save you time and money on your construction project.

Hebel can be used for:

  • walls
  • interior and exterior columns
  • fire walls
  • sound walls
  • foundations
  • floor systems

However, it’s mostly used for exterior cladding on residential buildings, where it can be cut into blocks and panels like wood.

In fact, Hebel looks so much like wood that some people call it “cement wood.”

It weighs about 50% less than concrete and twice as much as wood, and is fire resistant and insect repellent. But unlike wood, it doesn’t burn or rot, and unlike concrete or steel, it doesn’t corrode or rust.

Advantages of Hebel

Hebel is non-combustible and has a fire rating of up to four hours. It also has excellent acoustic properties, providing superior sound insulation between rooms in multi-storey buildings, or between dwellings.

Hebel is the only building system that can have its wall frames installed on the same day as its wall panels – making it faster than any other building method. It’s also ideal for renovation work where time is of the essence.

The end result is not just speedier construction, but stronger walls, better sound insulation and superior fire protection.

Here are some other benefits of Hebel:

  • Fast installation – Hebel is much faster to install than bricks. This results in savings on ongoing construction costs like scaffolding as well as saving time for the builder.
  • Thermal-efficiency – Hebel panels are very effective at insulating, which helps reduce electricity bills relating to heating and cooling
  • Sound insulation – Hebel’s sound insulation properties mean that your home is peaceful and quiet from outside noise – even from car traffic or rowdy neighbours!

Hebel can help reduce the overall weight of your house, which can be beneficial in some situations (eg. on steep or narrow sites).

Disadvantages of Hebel

The main disadvantage of Hebel is that you need to paint it, while bricks can be left bare.

Because Hebel has a smooth surface, it requires painting after installation with an acrylic paint suitable for masonry surfaces.

You will need to have it painted twice during its lifetime because of chalking and mildewing issues. Regular bricks do not require painting or coating, making them cheaper to maintain.

Hebel also requires expansion joints between blocks. While expansion joints are required with regular brick as well, they are not as important as they are with Hebel because regular bricks do not expand and contract as much when exposed to moisture changes.

When used in cold climates where ice dams occur, Hebel can be damaged from moisture that repeatedly freezes and thaws in the masonry walls. The damage may not be noticeable at first but can cause problems later.

Hebel is a newer product and may not be cost-effective for many homeowners who are on a tighter budget. Regular brick is generally cheaper than Hebel. Also, there are fewer contractors that know how to use Hebel in construction projects than those who build with brick.

Advantages of brick

Brick is an excellent building material and very traditional, so works well in almost all situations.

Brick buildings can last for centuries with little wear and tear, and it does not rot as wood does. It is fireproof as well as impervious to many natural disasters that can destroy other materials.

A brick building also requires little maintenance once it has been built. There are no special paints or treatments that must be applied periodically to keep the structure sound and attractive.

Painting a brick building may change its appearance, but it is not necessary for the health of the building. Brick buildings also do not require insulation in cold climates.

Some benefits of brick:

  • Timeless appearance – Bricks are more likely to fit in with the surrounding buildings and age well with them. Bricks are often earthy colours that rarely look out of place amongst other materials or surroundings.
  • Durability – Brick has proven itself to be one of the most durable and long-lasting construction materials.
  • Low-maintenance – Brick is effective at controlling and minimising moisture, reducing the risk of dampness that may result in mould.

It is also easy to find construction teams who have experience working with standard brick.

Disadvantages of brick

Bricks tend to be far heavier than other building materials (like timber, steel, or Hebel) and require less maintenance, which can make them incredibly durable and long-lasting.

But this weight can place additional stress on the support systems of any structure built out of bricks, which in turn requires a stronger foundation and more labour-intensive installation.

Brick material is not as durable as concrete or steel. It can also absorb moisture and over time may start to deteriorate.

The history of Hebel

Hebel is made of Autoclaved Aerated Concrete, or ACC.

This material was first developed in Scandinavia in the 1920’s, and rose in popularity throughout Europe due to it being lightweight, easy to work with and install, and having great insulation properties.

In 1945, German construction engineer Josef Hebel invented a system that reinforced prefabricated AAC panels with steel. Josef Hebel also filed a patent for the name “Hebel”.

In Australia, Hebel is manufactured by CSR. CSR is a leading manufacturer of building products for residential and commercial construction. Brands under th CSR umbrella include Gyprockafs, Bradford, Himmel, and Hemel.

Hebel installation

Learn about the Hebel installation process in the video below: