CHooSING ExTERNAL BRICK FINISHES
Architect and homeowner Stuart Archer explains what to consider
There are a number of decisions to be made when choosing bricks for an extension project or new build project. Some, like the colour and texture, could be dictated by the planners, but it’s important to do your research before you decide.
Brick Colour and Texture
One key decision is whether you opt for a colour which is consistent brick to brick or whether you want a ‘multi’, which has variations in colour. It depends on the look you are after: if you want a modern look it might be good to look at a more consistent colour. Where the project is situated should also affect colour — if you are next to a busy road, white may not be a good choice as this may stain from exposure to pollution. It’s also important to research the local history of your area; often certain colour/types of bricks are prevalent in different areas, such as London stock brick, which is a yellow/buff multi brick. It is always worth getting samples of the bricks to see them in person. The surface finish is important to get right — there are hundreds of types to choose from: e.g wirecut, waterstruck, handmade, stockbricks and engineering brick. This results in the brick being smooth, sandy, textured, or rough. We chose an engineering type brick as we were after a smooth and consistent appearance.
Mortar and Brick Bond
It’s important to get the mortar right, too. For instance, in older buildings when undertaking refurbishments the builder should use a lime mortar which is more flexible and breathable than modern cement-based mortars. There are also different mortar joint types which will affect the look of the end result — i.e. bucket handle (curved), raked (square recessed), struck, flush. It is worth bearing in mind that certain mortar joint types suit certain brick types — we have chosen a flush joint for this project as we wanted a modern aesthetic, which suits a smooth, dimensionally stable brick. The colour of the mortar should be considered — do you want the colour to match the brick or contrast? When it comes to brick bond (the pattern in which the bricks are laid), the most commonplace in this country is a stretcher (running) bond. However there are a number of different ways to lay brick, such as English bond, Flemish bond and stack bond. In some instances, for example, over a window or door opening, brick details can be specified. The most common of which is a single row soldier coursing.
Time and Cost
The price of bricks has risen over the last few years. Generally, you get what you pay for and you can expect to pay anywhere from £200/1,000 bricks from a builders’ merchant, to over £1,000/1,000 bricks for handmade bricks. As ours was an engineering type brick, this was very economical as they are readily available from merchants such as Ibstock. Also, it’s worth noting that bricks can be on an extremely long lead time (up to 16 weeks in certain instances) so ensure that the bricks are chosen early on in the process. Finally, it is always worth asking the builder to do a sample panel to see how the brick and mortar look before proceeding with the work. Get these things right first time around as bricks are a pain to change once they have been laid!