This article is part of our series: An overview of 5 key material options for a stunning facade.
Introduction to brick cladding and brick slips
Brick is an icon of British construction. Since the Industrial Revolution super-charged its use in residential and commercial building, brick has been a stalwart since. Due to the abundance of clay, brick established itself as the solid and dependable go-to option to level-up an industrial nation.
The characteristic red brick colour comes from the iron oxide content of naturally occurring clay. This gives its buildings both a sense of warmth and strength.
In recent years, with other structural materials being preferred, the use of brick on facades has become more about its aesthetic, sentimental and flexible qualities.
Brick slips – the frontage of a clay brick, just a few millimetres thick – have increased in popularity in recent years partly due to this nod to traditional appearance and because they increase its versitility.
So, let’s look at the advantages of using brick slips.
Key five key advantages of brick slips are:
- Retain your brick features
- Variety of styles
Brick slips are often applied to panels of insulation which are fixed to the outer wall of existing buildings. This is known as ‘retrofitting’ and is great for buildings that can’t be insulated through wall cavities or where internal space is a premium. A new layer of insulation padding keeps the building thermally efficient and condensation-free, warm in winter and cool in summer. It also improves soundproofing, too. Many such insulation systems are now built with brick slips in mind.
Retain your brick features
Brick slips are the ideal way to retain the aesthetic of your beautiful brick building whilst also insulating it. You have a traditional brick house, with features you’d like to keep. Brick slips allow you to retain a style in-keeping with other buildings around and its environment generally. Brick slips allow features to be retained (or even improved) whilst levelling-up its energy-efficiency credentials – fit for the 21st Century.
Brick slips are much thinner compared to their older cousins and as they’re not leaned on for structural purposes (see what we did, there?), are lighter in weight.
There are different systems fine-tuned over the years to make installation super-easy. For example, they often come prefabricated onto insulation boards so they can be fixed right onto the outside of the structure in panels. This is especially useful on larger commercial or high-rise buildings, making them quick and efficient to install.
Variety of styles
Brick slips come in a huge variety of styles and thicknesses. This allows for more elaborate features to be created or maintained. For instance, a traditional farmhouse or brick church feature is to have brick patterns or motifs. These are created on a wall by placing individual bricks either forward out of the wall slightly, or deeper-in from the rest of the surface. As brick slips come in different thicknesses, it’s possible to achieve this effect whilst retaining a flat surface underneath.
As well as red, brick slips are also available in a multitude of other colours and textures to match just about any design brief. They’re even available as highly polished modern tiles (see more on tiles in our other post).
Although lightweight, brick slips are also tough and durable because they’re mostly fired just like regular clay bricks or cut from full-size bricks. As such, they will withstand extremes of weather and a battering from the elements and can be easily replaced and maintained if necessary.
Key considerations when using brick slips are:
a) where they’re to be used (retrofit, new build, commercial, residential) – this may affect the style or system used.
b) the thickness of brick slips required (generally 7, 9, 15 or 20mm) – as mentioned, if a relief pattern is desired or if external space is limited.
c) how they fixed (either as steel-framed bricks slips, fixed onto galvanized steel mesh, applied directly with adhesive or as part of module insulated boards) – a design decision to be considered up front.
d) style considerations (traditional to modern) – depending on your design brief or architectural preferences.
e) whether it’s worth buying prefabricated boards (or on insulation or cement boards) – again depending on the particulars on your project.
Something to watch out for when considering brick slips:
They don’t suit all designs and can be more expensive than other types of cladding such as render or timber. (Sometimes, brick slips are combined with render or timber, which can help cost-wise and add a different aesthetic quality).
Something we’ve experienced with clients with tighter budgets is replicating a brick appearance using a brick-effect render. Here, a brick-coloured render is applied to the entire surface, texturized to look like brick and then modified it by cutting lines in the render and filling them with a mortar-coloured material.
In summary, brick slips make a great choice for those looking for a beautifully traditional or industrial-looking aesthetic, those needing a quicker or simpler installation and where it’s important that an authentic brick effect is created or maintained.
For more inspiration on the use of brick or details about the history of the use of brick in construction and the industry as it is today, you can try the Brick Development Association website.
If you’re considering something like timber cladding, check out our previous deep-dive article for more information.
Here at Renderline, we’re on hand to provide advice and support through the critical design phase, so get in touch if you’d like to discuss your project further. Send us a message, connect and chat with us on Twitter or LinkedIn, or give us a call.
We love hearing about your experiences of design and install of any of the products and systems mentioned in this article – feel free to comment below and keep in touch.
Thanks for reading,
For info on other types of facade materials such as brick, tile, stone and zinc cladding, check out our series summary: An overview of 5 key material options for a stunning facade.