26 Jul 2023

Choosing the Right Bricks for Your Self-build Project

What is a brick? It can be described as a perfectly natural blend of the elements of earth, fire, air and water. Typically, it is made from clay formed into a rectangular shape and fired in a kiln to form a unit, which is suitable to clad the facade of a building or to build freestanding walls. Here, Mathew Davies, National Specification Manager at Vandersanden, helps you understand the basics about brick and how to make the right choice when selecting it for your project.


thumbnail image thumbnail image thumbnail image thumbnail image

Choosing bricks for your build

For many people, brick is one of the most obvious construction materials for facades and is a popular choice due to it being strong, cost effective, durable and frost resistant.

Bricks add to the thermal mass of a building. During the day, they absorb and store heat from the sun, and in the evenings and overnight, they release it again. This helps to keep the interior of the home cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Today, we are more conscious than ever of our environmental footprint, and brick is a great choice as it’s a sustainable building material. It is fired from clay, an abundant natural resource. Brick is sustainable throughout its life, as it’s reusable and recyclable.

The warmth, robust nature, character and varied options make bricks a perfect finish for any self-build project.

A quick reminder of brick benefits. A brick is:

•  Highly durable and frost resistant

•  Adds to the thermal mass of a building

•  Is classed as A1 non-combustible

•  Cost efficient

•  Clay is a natural and abundant resource

•  Is reusable or recyclable

•  Available in a wide range of colours and textures

•  Suitable for various styles and tastes

•  Brick offers a low-maintenance finish.

Factors to consider when incorporating bricks into your home design

Bricks are available in various colours and textures, making them ideal for different styles and tastes. The versatile brick can also be combined with other materials. Another important benefit is that a brick facade will improve over the years, taking on an appearance we call ‘patina’. The patina gives your home a unique charm.

Bricks can be used in any type of building design, from contemporary new builds that have a modern look or you can choose an aged or tumbled brick, which will give a more traditional appearance.

The choice of brick colours is wide and varied. Vandersanden produces a vast array of high-quality bricks in different finishes and colours, ranging from traditional reds and browns to contemporary greys, soft creams and buffs and dramatic black bricks that will inspire and enable the design and construction of any type of building project. All Vandersanden bricks meet the EN 771-1 standards, including F2 freeze-thaw durability and S2 active soluble salt content.

As well as the colour of the brick, various other factors determine how a facade will look. Size of the brick, joints, patterns – there are all manner of options, so research this carefully.

The brickwork pattern

The way in which a brick is laid, the pattern, has a big influence on the look of your facade. A well-considered brickwork pattern gives your project extra aesthetic and character. You could consider a half-brick pattern, stacked pattern, block pattern or random pattern to create something unique for your design. You can even combine patterns for an extra creative twist to your facade.

Brick types

There are generally three types of brick:stock, water-struck and wire-cut. Each has its own look, production process and properties. Stock or handform bricks are hand or machine-made. Typically, they include a frog in the bed face and are characterised as having an authentic look, combining a veined appearance with a sandy texture.

Water-struck bricks have a slightly textured appearance with a soft glazed character. The lip and vertical lines are created when the brick is pushed out of the mould using water release, hence the name water-struck.

Wire-cut bricks are formed by clay passing through an extrusion unit, which is then cut into brick units with a wire. Wire-cut bricks have a relatively smooth appearance, perforated bed faces, crisp angular arrises, high tolerance and are easy to cut into different shapes.

Creative ways to use bricks in home architecture

Many brick manufacturers now have digital tools that enable you to try different facade choices when planning your design. Vandersanden has an online texture generator for its facing bricks and brick slips. This enables architects, property developers and self-builders to design a facade by combining, among other things, different types of bricks and brick slips, colours, mortar choices, laying patterns and joint thicknesses. In total, the texture generator allows more than 1.1 million combinations to be created and compared. Thanks to cutting-edge technology, the texture generator displays the most detailed and realistic digital reproduction of a facade texture to date. The generated texture can be easily downloaded, including image folders and technical specifications.

What are some common challenges to watch out for when incorporating bricks into home architecture?

Over time, bricks can potentially discolour and lose their lustre because of the impact of wet weather, air pollution or efflorescence. The result can have a detrimental effect on a building’s visual aesthetic, compromising the architect’s design vision and potentially reducing the value of the property for the owner.

Vandersanden is the first company to develop a viable, large-scale coating solution to provide superior protection against efflorescence as well as a secondary protection against the effects of pollution. This innovative and environmentally-sustainable process has now been rolled out for Vandersanden’s hand-formed brick range.

Build with brick

Whether it’s a new build or renovation, brick offers the perfect finish to your unique dream project. From conception to completion, there is plenty of advice available on choosing the right bricks for your self-build, to ensure a home you love for years to come.

Further information....

Rate this item
(0 votes)
Login to post comments