Considerations when choosing brick for a building project

Man sitting at window sill looking at brick
By Annette Forster, Director of Marketing at Wienerberger

At its most simplistic, a home is bricks and mortar, so making sure that the right products are selected for a certain project is very important. Within the UK, brick is the most popular facade option within the housing market, with durability, security and solidarity, longevity, versatility, and cost-effectiveness all being key contributors to the product’s sustained prominence within the market.
 
There are many variables but most people are surprised that typically the cost of bricks on a new detached property cost around £5000.  That is less than 3% of the overall build cost and much less than most people spend on the average kitchen yet have such an important impact on “curb appeal”.
 
From the way the building looks, to the feel the build exudes, to how it fits in with its surroundings, the use of the right facade can have a major impact on the end aesthetic of a construction. Add to this the fact that it’s also the most difficult to change later - you can easily change your kitchen or bathroom but it isn’t quite so simple to change the fabric of the building – and the importance of selecting the right brick for your project becomes crucial, especially when there are over 1,000 different types available within the UK alone. With such a selection, choosing the right bricks for your project can be a daunting thought, but before jumping in, it’s important to consider the many factors involved with selecting the right product.
 
One key consideration is to ensure you’re fully aware of the style that you want your project to encompass. Do you want to create something with a contemporary feel or do you have a more traditional and ‘olde worlde’ feel in mind?  We see the old rulebooks being thrown out with beautiful soft mud bricks being used in open plan contemporary settings where we used to have it in the “traditional” category.  With so much choice, make sure to visit a showroom and play with colours and textures as there are vast ranges of options available, whatever style you’re aiming to achieve. One aspect that will obviously play a part in this is the local area as planning permissions will have an impact on the features and aesthetic that would be suitable for different areas of the country.

So what are the differences between bricks that make the impact on the look of a property?

 
 
Brick type
There are several different manufacturing methods for producing bricks, with each one offering different characteristics. Handmade, Stock, Wirecut and Waterstruck are all different types of clay bricks, and all encompass an entirely different style.
 
Size
The standard format of bricks in the UK is 215x102.5x65mm - however, there are several different size variations available that can have a massive impact on the look of the property. Traditional house styles tend to use the standard UK formats or larger, imperial sizes, however there is a growing trend for the more modern, contemporary designs to go for longer, thinner formats such as Wienerberger’s Megaline or Roman ranges.

Colours
Obviously, the colour of your chosen brick will play a huge factor in the look and feel of your project and within the UK market there is a huge number of colours available, from plains to multi coloured, reds to yellows to white and blacks and even glazed bricks, which provide a modern feel.
 
Textures
Similar to the colour of your brick, the texture also has a major impact on the style of your building.  Creased, handmade style textures and ‘tumbled’ effects provide a look of reclaimed bricks, which are popular with traditional styles where as monotone, smooth products are more popular for contemporary styles.

Blending
Currently there is a growing trend for projects to incorporate a mix of different products to create their own signature blend for a property.  This gives customers the chance to create a project that is entirely unique in appearance and character. We’re able to offer this service, with access to the largest range of bricks available in the UK, meaning that customers can mix and match from a huge selection of colours and textures for complete individuality.
 
Mortar colour
When selecting your brick, it’s also important to have your mortar colour in mind, as this ultimately will account for over 15% of the total wall area. Mortar colour has a huge impact on how the brickwork will look; as the same brick can have a totally different appearance depending on what mortar colour it is paired with. We’d recommend trialling different mortar colours as part of the selection process, in order to ensure the end product has the exact look and feel that you’re looking for.

Bond patterns
When building, bond patterns have a substantial impact on the overall look of the property. People looking for a more traditional look tend to opt for something like a Flemish Bond, while those looking for more contemporary styles may look to options such as Stack Bonding.
 
Mortar joint profiles
Further to bond patterns, mortar joint profiles also provide a number of options that will impact on the overall look of the finished build.  While playing a part in the look of a brick wall, joint profiles also play an important role in weather proofing, so whatever option is selected from an aesthetics point of view will also be required to perform with the local elements. We see a trend in recess mortar which looks very modern but ensure this is done correctly as there will be more water penetration. This is an important decision in the build process, so we’d recommend discussing bond patterns and mortar joint profiles with your builder and ensure that they have the relevant experience with these, along with working out the potential cost variations for using different bonds and joint profiles.

Special shaped bricks
Special shaped bricks offer many different benefits to a build, from enhancing the look of a project to adding extra durability and protection to brickwork.  They can even reduce build time and waste on site by reducing the need for hand cutting, so it’s worth taking a look at how specials can be used to improve the look and performance of your project.
 
Brickwork detailing
Bricklaying is a skilled art and techniques like corbelling can add additional features. Finally, remember to have fun choosing!

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