There’s something innately appealing about good old British brick. With its solidity, durability and familiarity – not to mention its startling regional colour variations – there’s plenty to attract self-builders and renovators alike.
When it comes to cladding a heritage-style home – whether new build or conservation project – nothing beats handmade brick. It offers a depth of colour and texture that’s extremely difficult to replicate with modern manufacturing techniques.
Around 1.5 million of these beautiful masonry units are made each year. Many go straight to homeowners looking for that extra touch of authenticity for their project.
A traditional handmade brick is made by ‘throwing’ refined clay into a sanded timber mould. It’s essential to use top clay (which, as its name suggests, is from nearer the surface of the quarry), as it’s much easier to shape than material from lower strata.
When used in its refined state, the clay will develop its natural colour when fired into a finished brick – which can be significantly different to the hue of the raw material. At Northcot Brick, for example, the clay comes out of the earth grey but produces a red brick. A range of alternative colours can be achieved by adding sand to the mix.
The resulting brick is entirely individual, showing subtle variations in texture and even shape. Combine these unique bricks with a well-selected blend and attractive laying pattern, and you’ll be well on the way to creating a characterful home – whether you’re self-building, extending or renovating.
When it comes to projects involving historic homes, listed buildings or properties in conservation areas, handmade bricks are a fantastic choice.
They can be carefully crafted to match the colour and texture of the rest of your home’s facade – provided the company uses a suitable clay for your region (hence why it can be a good idea to use a local supplier). What’s more, most companies can work in both metric (common in the south of Britain) and imperial sizes (more prevalent in the north), so you can be sure of a perfect fit.
A matching service typically involves sending photos of your existing brickwork to the company. Sample panels will be produced and sent to you for comparison to the originals. In some cases, for example where complicated shapes or unusual colours and textures are required, a site visit might be arranged.
Unsurprisingly, the amount of specialist labour involved in producing these distinctive bricks by hand will add a significant chunk to your costs. You can expect to pay between £600-£1,000 per 1,000 handmade bricks; as opposed to £250-£400 for machine-produced versions.
Of course, investing in a luxury finish is likely to add value to your completed, highly individual home. What’s more, sensitive use of genuine handmade products when renovating an historic building will protect its character and value. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case if you choose to rely on modern, mass-produced alternatives.
Pictured: This series of images shows handmade units being produced at Northcot Brick. Prices start from £750 per 1,000
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