Don’t slip up with cladding

The construction industry has long recognised the benefits of brick cladding systems – Eurobrick’s Richard Haines outlines how they can benefit self- builds in particular

Brick slip cladding can be a cost effective, quick and versatile solution for many self-build or home renovation projects. Creating a ‘real’ brick finish may be easier than you think and can suit both contemporary or traditional style projects with the wide variety of brick finishes now available.

Whether it’s a new build or renovation project, aside from the speed of installation compared to traditional build, there are a number of benefits with brick slip cladding. It’s a versatile solution that can offer insulation benefits if required, while providing a genuine brick finish that looks like traditional masonry and is durable too.

Brick slip cladding systems are generally lightweight and do not require the foundations associated with traditional masonry, which helps to simplify the design of foundations and reduce costs when compared to traditional brickwork. This can be of particular benefit if you’re looking to extend a property upwards. Cladding can also be fitted to many different substrates, including timber, steel frame and SIPs.

Most brick cladding systems are easy enough to install with semi-skilled labour so it is possible for experienced DIY people to handle installation themselves. Some manufacturers also provide a number of installation guides, training courses and support materials plus accessories to help with installation. If you feel you need the help of an experienced installer, you can ask your brick cladding supplier for details of approved installers in your area. For exterior works, installation can be carried out while you remain in your property too, meaning little disruption to daily life.

You can add layers of insulation to brick cladding systems for better thermal performance too. Pre-1930s brick built houses in the UK have only single skin walls so they don’t allow for cavity wall insulation, but brick cladding offers a solution to this. The insulation benefits of some systems have been shown to reduce energy bills by up to 30 per cent and can help to improve interior living conditions of older houses. Regulations for new build properties now stipulate such low U-value requirements that it’s difficult to achieve it with traditional building methods.

Aesthetics are a key consideration for many homeowners. A brick finish remains popular, particularly in British architecture and design, and in many areas it may be the vernacular building material. Brick cladding can help new buildings fit in with the surrounding area, and it may be part of planning requirements that the new housing development uses brick or a particular colour or type of brick or stone to fit in with the surrounding area. Brick or stone cladding can provide a seamless finish through overcladding or matching to existing brick or stone work. It can also simply be used to rejuvenate the exterior of dilapidated buildings, which can be a big help for increasing kerb appeal on older properties.

Brick slip cladding can be used for interior projects too. Due to the slimmer profile of the systems it takes up less space, which can be a benefit to both interior and exterior projects. The overall thickness of the wall will be reduced compared to traditional building methods which is often of particular importance in conserving floor space for interior projects that require a brick finish.

The extent of brick colours and textures available means that most aesthetic designs are possible. Brick slip cladding systems are flexible and may be used in conjunction with other cladding systems such as timber, render etc. This means that a mixed palette of finishes, popular for creating a contemporary look is achievable.

Brick slip cladding is durable too. Kiln fired clay brick slips weather and age in the same way as conventional brickwork and a brick slip exterior will require little to no maintenance. It is important to note that the life span and guarantees of different cladding systems may vary and should be checked with the supplier.

The brick slip market itself has grown significantly in recent years and there is now a wide selection of manufactured brick slips and corners available. Manufactured (extruded) brick slips are competitively priced and generally enjoy a reliable supply chain. In addition to extruded slips, it is also possible to have brick slips cut from whole bricks if a specific brick has to be sourced, although this is a more costly option.

Brick slip cladding can also be assembled on or off site and, largely due to the speed of delivery benefits, is popular within the modular building sector. A brick finish is still very desirable and brick cladding allows you to achieve this within an energy efficient modular design. The modular approach to building takes advantage of many of the benefits of brick slip cladding, so it’s not surprising that these modern methods of construction and offsite assembly are becoming more popular on smaller scale self-build projects too.

Richard Haines is director at Eurobrick