The thousands of types of bricks available can be divided into just a few broad categories. Do not be fooled into thinking that bricks are all pretty much the same, as each type has different properties and characteristics. An understanding of the different types of bricks will help you make the decision on which to use for which purpose.
Common Bricks: This type of brick is the industry standard, multi-purpose brick. It can be used in most circumstances, though it is not often the best choice for any of them. No attempt is made to control their color, and their composition is such that they should not be used below ground.
Engineering Bricks: Commonly thought of as the toughest brick available, an elaborate process is required to make engineering bricks. Their low rate of water absorption means that they are ideal for using outside and in damp climates. Engineering bricks can be used underground and are often laid as a damp proof course.
Facing Bricks: The bricks you see when you look at a building or structure are facing bricks. They are hard burned to give them strength and durability, which they need to withstand varying temperatures and extreme weather conditions. There are several sub-types of facing bricks, so you will need to do a little research before purchasing them. The climate that you live in will make a difference to which sub-type you need.
Reclaimed Bricks: These are basically second-hand bricks, which have been collected from knocked down buildings and cleaned up. These bricks are popular with those who want to add a bit of charm and character to their new structure. Rather than being cheaper because they have been used before though, the time and effort it takes to collect, sort and clean them actually push their price above that of other bricks.
Special Bricks: If you want to add a finishing touch to part of a structure, such the top of a wall, then special bricks are what you need. If you are prepared to pay a premium, then you can get a brick in practically any shape that you want it. You can get special bricks manufactured just for you or, if you want to keep costs down, then you can choose from a wide selection that has already been made.
Concrete Blocks: As well as bricks, there are all sorts of concrete blocks that can be used for similar purposes. They are easy to shape into whatever form you want them in and plain ones can be painted or rendered. Many are given a finish to make them look like natural stone.
As which type of brick is best to use, there is no single answer, as it depends on what you are building and the location you are building it. Rather than just guess, you should ask a senior employee at your local brick merchant what they would advise. With their vast experience, they will be able to tell you exactly which bricks you need to use to get the job done.