Don’t kerb your enthusiasm for brick

Jason Hughes of Imperial Bricks explains how variations in brick colour, texture, size, and laying pattern all have a direct affect on the kerb appeal of your project, which impacts its future value

Choosing the right cladding material is one of the most important decisions any self-builder will make – whether that’s constructing a house from the ground up, renovating an existing property or adding an extension to expand living space. Long-lasting, durable, and versatile for both period or contemporary builds, brick is one of the most popular options for developers and home renovators. Brick is perfect for the UK’s climate, resisting both high and low temperatures without damage. And it works well with other methods of construction too, such as thin ‘slips’ applied using external cladding systems. But the main draw for most is the kerb appeal that using brick adds to the finished project. 

As the facade is one of the first things anyone will see of your build, it’s important to research what’s available – and appropriate. Bricks are usually around 6% of the total build cost (and many self-builders will spend more on their kitchen), but it’s worth allowing a little extra budget to get the highest quality finish, which will undoubtedly increase a property’s value. 


Start with the basics and research the right type and colour for the geographical area, period, and style of building. Brick colours, sizes and styles vary enormously across the UK, but your architect, contractor or local builders’ merchant should be able to advise on local requirements, or you can ask a specialist brick supplier directly for recommendations and samples. Matching existing and/or local architecture is particularly important for home renovations or extensions, or new builds in conservation areas. It’s something many planning departments have strong views on! 

On some occasions, conservation officers may request reclaimed bricks, but these are expensive and can be difficult to source in the quantities needed. The quality too can be unreliable – with damage and wastage more likely in storage or transport. There are now new handmade bricks on the market that can replicate the look of reclaims. 

Handmade bricks will always trump machine-made bricks in terms of character and charm. Each one is unique, with natural texture and imperfections that help even new builds blend in with surrounding buildings. 


The diversity in brick colours around the UK is down to the local clay. Even within a small area, the shades can change significantly. For example, London is known for its Yellow Stock bricks, but red bricks are also common in parts of the capital. Buff shades are popular in Cambridge, while in the north, rustic reds and oranges – and even blues – are traditionally found. 

Pollution (centuries of smog in London!), weathering, and the different firing and finishing techniques have a significant effect on the colouring of a brick. Blackened and authentically coal-spotted bricks can be added to a pallet of bricks to create an authentic ‘reclaimed’ look once they are laid. Replicating traditional clamp firing, which was used in Yorkshire and the north, creates mixed hues of brown, red, purple and yellow, where the bricks are stacked on top of each other. 

Before 1965 all bricks were ‘imperial’ sized, so if you’re repairing or extending a period property the bricks should be matched appropriately. But note that imperial sizes differ depending on the region, with bricks in the north traditionally larger (3 inches high) than those in the south (2 5/8ths inches high). If you’re working on a new build, then a range of handmade bricks are also available in metric sizes, to fit with modern lintels and blocks. These can be aged and weathered (even ‘tumbled’ to soften the edges for a reclaimed appearance) to suit. 

Brick slips for cladding are a further option, to ‘reskin’ a property, covering up inappropriate brickwork or unsightly rendering, or match existing brickwork on neighbouring buildings. Slip systems can also be used with timber framing for fast-track construction. 

Finally, the pattern in which your bricks are laid (the ‘brick bond’) can have a major impact. The Flemish bond, for example uses alternative stretchers and headers (the long and short sides of the brick) in each layer (or ‘course’), while the English bond features a row of stretchers and then a row of headers. And brick ‘banding’ can introduce another brick colour to wrap or band around a property, adding visual interest. 


Whatever bricks you choose, and whether they’ve been specified by an architect, recommended by a builder or builders’ merchant, or you’re sourcing directly from the manufacturer, it’s worth checking their ethical trading policies, as well as quality accreditations. And also check that the bricks you specify are the ones you actually get! 

All new bricks used in the UK should be UKCA/CE marked, and tested to meet EU and UK standards for freeze-thaw, water absorption, compressive strength, soluble salt content, and tolerance. Ideally manufacturers and/or suppliers should be Sedex-audited – the benchmark for ethical trading used by companies like Dyson and M&S – and their factories accredited to ISO 14001 (for Environmental Management) and ISO 9001 (for Quality Management).

Jason Hughes is managing director of Imperial Bricks