Texas Couple Sues Building Products Companies for Fraud, Misrepresentation; Were Sold Inferior Concrete 'Brick' Rather than Genuine Fired Clay Brick

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A Beaumont-area (TX) couple has sued two building products companies, accusing them of fraud and fraudulent misrepresentation for selling inferior concrete 'brick' as genuine fired clay brick.

A Beaumont-area couple has sued two building products companies, accusing them of fraud and fraudulent misrepresentation for selling inferior concrete 'brick' as genuine fired clay brick.

The suit, claiming violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, was filed on April 7, in Jefferson County District Court No. 1 on behalf of homeowners Todd and Marti McCown, of China, TX west of Beaumont.

The lawsuit names as defendants two Beaumont-area companies: Beaumont Brick and Stone, the distributor, and IPC Building Products, the manufacturer.

The suit claims that the McCowns, who purchased 'bricks' from Beaumont Brick for the construction of a new home, believed that the materials were in fact genuine fired clay brick and that the distributor and manufacturer failed to disclose that the product was in fact made out of concrete, not clay.

The suit points out that concrete bricks - sometimes referred to in the industry as 'crick' - are inferior to genuine fired clay brick, because crick does not have the same properties, resulting in cracks, and the color fades. Indeed, the McCowns said that on their project the color of the crick did bleed, resulting in a lighter color and it discolored the mortar, as well.

The McCowns claim in their suit that the distributor and manufacturer engaged in "unconscionable conduct" and knowingly and intentionally sold them a product that was inferior to what the McCowns believed they were purchasing - genuine fired clay brick.

Professional engineer Gregg Borchelt, vice president, engineering and research, Brick Industry Association, said genuine fired clay brick is superior to concrete brick because of the intrinsic properties of the two different products.

"The key differences between genuine clay brick and concrete brick result from the materials and methods used to make them," Borchelt said. "Both use inorganic materials, but with different processes. Clay brick is produced by the ceramic fusion of those materials. The firing process develops true natural colors that do not change with time or exposure.

"Concrete brick, on the other hand, are colored by admixtures to the materials that form that product by a chemical reaction with water. Since the admixtures are in the cement paste, the color can be changed by erosion. Water running over the surface will remove some of those coloring materials, resulting in a faded appearance as the aggregate is exposed."

The difference between fusion and the chemical reaction, Borchelt added, also affects the strength and stability of the two products. Clay brick expands slightly with time, he explained. This creates a compressive force in the wall; forces that are easily resisted by the brickwork. Concrete brick, on the other hand, shrinks with drying and aging. This results in a tension force in the wall -- forces that are not easily resisted by the brickwork. These tension forces create unsightly cracks in the wall if it is not detailed and constructed properly.

"The high compressive strength and durability of clay brick are renowned," Borchelt said, "but some builders use concrete brick because it's a lower cost material. Unfortunately, the lower costs are not always passed along to the consumer. No doubt many homebuyers think they're getting genuine fired clay brick, when they're actually getting inferior concrete brick."    

In the Texas lawsuit, the homeowners are seeking the award of actual damages and the recovery of all allowed legal expenses. They are represented by Port Arthur attorney Richard G. Lewis, of Boneau & Lewis, LLP.

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