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Brick or Render?

February 27th 2019

Brick or Render?

Can't decide on brick or render? It's a common conundrum. Bricks are traditional and hold timeless appeal, while render is undeniably modern and a popular way to instantly transform a home.

Whether you're building from scratch, planning an extension, or looking to freshen up your facade, deciding between brick vs render can be a difficult decision. Both serve their function of protecting a home from the elements with equally strong fire resistance, sound insulation, and pest protection. But there are some key characteristics that can make your decision a little easier.

Building a Home or Extension with Render

Venture down any street in the UK and you'll likely notice that every other house has a rendered facade, from smooth white Victorian terraces to Tudor-style pebbledash. Rendering involves the application of cement to a brick or concrete wall and has been popular throughout Europe for centuries - think colonial Spanish architecture and gleaming white villas in Greece.

While external wall rendering is admired by many, there are some clear reasons why it's not everyone's cup of tea. Just like any big commitment related to your home, it's important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of rendering:

Advantages

  • Versatile: Many homeowners choose to render their entire home, or specific feature areas, for aesthetic purposes. Render is available in a wide range of colours and designs, making it an effective way to quickly freshen up your home. Depending on the look you're after, the finish can be textured or smooth, fine or course, natural or coloured, and pigmented or painted.

  • Prevents Damp: Render provides an additional layer of protection against penetrating damp, which is particularly important in old properties with solid walls. If moisture penetrates a solid wall, your home will be exposed to a whole host of problems from rotting skirting boards and stained plaster to mould - ridden carpets. But be warned, applying render over existing damp will only make the matter worse. Most new properties have cavity walls, which are less vulnerable to this issue.

  • Improves Thermal Protection: Render, especially when painted a light colour, provides an extra layer of insulation that improves the thermal performance of your home. Also, if you're considering installing external insulation on your property, rendering at the same time can be cost-effective.

Disadvantages

  • Expensive: Using concrete blocks and render is generally considered less expensive than traditional brick, particularly for new builds. However, rendering an existing home can prove quite costly. External render starts at around £60 per square metre, therefore a typical three bedroom semi-detached house would cost at least £4,800. Not to mention, the additional costs of professional application, painting, and particularly maintenance. If your house doesn't already have external wall insulation, render will set you back approximately £100 per square metre.

  • Profitability: If you're planning to sell your home, or it's an investment property, then you really need to consider whether render is a wise choice. Will it add value to the property? If so, is the outlay really worth the return? A local real estate agent may be able to suggest more profitable ways to increase the value of your home while ensuring it appeals to a wider market. For example, painting your trim or tidying up your garden may give your brick home the street appeal it needs to attract a higher selling price.

  • High Maintenance: Rendered walls are more vulnerable to weathering, which over time causes fading and stains. To keep your external walls looking fresh, you'll need to re-paint every 10 - 15 years. The first coat on a newly rendered house will set you back £850 to £1,500 while freshening up your rendered walls will cost around £650 to £1,200. It also has to be said, rendered walls in public places, particularly commercial buildings, are prime targets for graffiti.

  • Cracking: The strength of your render will vary according to the type of render used and the method of application. However, all render (silicone, acrylic, and mineral) has a tendency to develop hairline cracks, particularly when the underlying brickwork is old or was damp at the time of application. Moisture can penetrate the walls, freeze and expand, blowing out the render surface and exposing patches of brick beneath. Repairing small patches up to 0.5m² costs in the region of £70. Typically it will require hacking off old render, raking the joints, cleaning the wall and then applying two coats of render.

  • Planning Permission: Depending on the location of your property and type of building, you may require planning permission before rendering interior or exterior walls. If you live in a listed building, it's an absolute certainty. Likewise, if your property falls within a Conservation Area, National Park, or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you must apply for permission before rendering the exterior of your house. Outside of these areas, rendering is permitted without prior permission, provided the materials are similar in appearance to those used in the original construction and won't clash without neighbours.

Building a Home or Extension with Bricks

Bricks are one of the oldest building materials, with a history that dates back to almost 7500 BCE. There are a variety of different types that serve distinct purposes, from common burnt clay bricks used in external masonry walls to sand lime bricks for hidden walls and engineering bricks built specially for load bearing.

Let's take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of brick for ornamental facades:

Advantages

  • Versatile: Thanks to advances in manufacturing, the humble brick is now available in a vast variety of colours, textures, and finishes. You can opt for the classical elegance of traditional red bricks or the modern sophistication of a glazed symmetrical design. If you're looking for a high-impact contemporary home, you can also push the boundaries with striking patterns and textures.

  • Low Maintenance: Brick is one of the most low maintenance building materials on the market. Bricks don't need paint or sealant to maintain their appearance, durability and weather resistance. Even after 50 years, a well made masonry wall will remain strong and relatively maintenance free.

  • Secure Investment: Bricks are expensive, however as the world's most sought after and trustworthy construction material, they are a secure investment with consistently high resale value. Bricks not only pay for themselves in the long run, they also provide returns in the short - term as they're low maintenance and energy efficient.

  • Eco-Friendly: Made from minerals and naturally abundant clay, bricks are a sustainable building material with a long life. Unlike rendered walls, bricks are highly recyclable. Clay bricks are often reclaimed after a building is demolished and re-used as bricks or crushed up for roof tiles, paths, and road surfaces.

  • Timeless: As bricks have been around for hundreds of years, their aesthetic appeal has lasted for all this time - meaning less risk to your property being valued lower in future due to the changing trends of other cladding materials.

Disadvantages

  • Spalling: Although not prone to cracks like rendered walls, masonry on rare occasions is vulnerable to water damage. When moisture from rainfall, melting snow, or even soil enters bricks, it can freeze and thaw causing spalling. Spalling starts off as small cracks that grow into bigger cracks and eventually lead to crumbling. Luckily, spalling is preventable with a high - quality drainage system and breathable sealants. It's also easily repaired. An experienced mason can address the issue by removing the damaged bricks and replacing them with well - matched bricks and mortar.

  • Expensive: Bricks are manufactured throughout the UK and available at competitive prices, particularly through our own brick quotation service. However, building with bricks is generally considered more expensive due to the need for more building materials. Concrete blocks used in rendering are larger than clay bricks, therefore for each concrete block used, you typically need six bricks. As a guide, bricks typically represent around 5% of a new build (£11,000). The cost per brick can vary from £300 per 1,000 to over £1,200 per thousand dependent on the manufacturing process and the demand at time of purchase.

  • Insulation: Unless built using the double brick walls, masonry homes don't quite provide as much insulation as rendered walls. As concrete blocks are bigger than regular clay bricks, they have a hollow core, which improves their insulation capacity. The thermal resistance is further strengthened by the render.

  • Matching Bricks: Trying to find an exact match for an existing brick used to prove difficult. However, mismatched bricks are becoming a problem of the past. Whether you need to repair an existing wall or you're planning an extension, we will quickly find a perfect match for a seamless finish; the exact brick where possible or the perfect solution where not.

Sticking With Brick?

If you've decided rendering isn't for you, the next step is to source the perfect brick for your project. At Brickhunter, we work with over 10,000 brick suppliers to offer the UK's most comprehensive brick matching and brick selection service. Simply fill in our brick selection form or go through our brick matching process and we'll guide you through the process!