April 5th 2018
Are you undertaking an extension or renovation? Whether you're repairing existing masonry or adding to an original structure, you'll want to match your bricks successfully. Mismatched bricks can stand out like a sore thumb and make your new development lack visual appeal, and even compromise the structural integrity.
However, finding bricks that seamlessly blend in with your existing structure can be challenging. With a large variety of brick sizes, textures, and colours used across buildings and property within the UK, successfully matching brickwork can be costly and time-consuming. Read on to discover how to make your new masonry project look like it's been there for years.
When you're sourcing bricks for a project, there are several factors that you need to consider;
Size: Brick sizes have changed significantly across different time periods in the UK, with imperial brick sizes used until recently (imperial brick size is 228 x 110 x 68+ mm). The metric system was adopted in 1965 (metric brick size is 215 x 102.5 x 65mm) and is now the standard. While metric bricks can be incorporated into an existing imperial masonry structure by increasing the mortar joint bed, it is always best to source the original brick size to ensure consistency and a better visual finish.
Colour: The colour descends from the raw materials used in the manufacturing process of the bricks. Colour shade variance can be common, so even if you have the perfect match, it's essential to provide an accurate forecast and timeline to ensure your structure is from the same batch. Standard practice is to use a minimum of 3 packs concurrently (with overlap between deliveries where possible) to provide a well-blended finish.
Texture: While colour may be your main concern when matching bricks, texture should not be overlooked. Do your original bricks have a smooth, light or heavy texture? Matching the original texture of your brickwork can help maintain a consistent look and feel, with light reflection, shadow, all impacting the final colour of your facade. While it may look good from afar, the texture becomes increasingly noticeable up close.
Finding the exact facing bricks used in your original masonry structure can be a difficult task. With a current brick shortage in the UK, many specialist brick manufacturers that have since closed, and there is a high likelihood that your original facing bricks may have been discontinued or replaced. However, not all is lost. There are several different avenues you and your builder can take to find the perfect match.
Using reclaimed bricks in your masonry project can be a great way to find an exact match, especially for older or listed buildings. Reclaimed bricks can also be an excellent alternative to help reduce your carbon footprint as they have a minimal impact on the environment. There are many suppliers of reclaimed bricks across the UK that have sourced bricks from demolished buildings and other masonry projects ensuring the bricks have aged naturally. It's also a higher possibility that you can find a similar size, as many imperial bricks can be sourced to align with the period of your originals.
However, when using reclaimed bricks, it's crucial to use a reputable supplier. Bricks need to be thoroughly tested to ensure they are suitable for their intended use. Generally, reclaimed bricks are supplied without certification, although frost resistance, strength, and water absorption all need to be considered before use. Availability of supply and wastage are other concerns when using reclaimed bricks, so make sure you provide an accurate forecast.
While you may think reclaimed bricks are needed to match the aesthetic, the fact is new bricks can also achieve the same effect. Many suppliers offer bespoke brick matching services and can successfully replicate the exact brick texture and size, or provide close alternatives. For example, tinting is one specialised technique that can be used to help blend new bricks seamlessly into old.
New bricks can also be a cheaper alternative. Reclaimed bricks cost around £700+ per 1000, while new bricks can start at just £250 per 1000 for standard-sized, machine-made bricks. If you're interested in new handmade bricks, be prepared to pay significantly more as the cost can be approximately £600-£1000 per 1000.
In addition, all new bricks that are manufactured need to meet the European Standard BS EN 771-1 for frost resistance and effloresce (soluble salts). Reclaimed bricks have no standardisation or guidelines, and subsequently, can impact your home insurance premiums. For quality guarantee and cost-savings, new bricks are an extremely attractive avenue.
Brick colours vary significantly due to clay colour, kiln temperature and overall manufacturing process. Original masonry can also be difficult to match due to natural weathering, making brick tinting a viable option to maintain the original aesthetics and provide a balanced finish.
Brick tinting involves altering the colour of the brick through the application of specially formulated agents that are chemically bonded into the masonry surface. This helps to preserve the texture and character of the brick, resulting in a permanent, natural colour change that doesn't fade over time.
There are many different types of applications for brick tinting such as correcting manufacturing colour problems, custom brick matching, historic property ageing, decorative work, and much more. While there are DIY brick tinting products available, it's always best to use a professional service as inconsistent application and mixing can result in spoiled brickwork.
Reclaimed bricks don't require certification, so it's important that they meet industry standards for frost resistance and soluble salts. Non-frost resistance bricks should only be used for internal use.
Wastage can be a major issue with reclaimed bricks. Depending on the batch, in some cases, up to 30% may be unusable. These costs should be taken into consideration when deciding between reclaimed vs new bricks, which have little to no wastage.
Brick tinting is much more effective when it's applied to a slightly lighter brick. When you're looking at samples, choose a brick that is slightly lighter than your original, if you cannot find an exact match. Remember to consider the size and texture of your new bricks too.
Your mortar accounts for over 15% of the total area and can have a huge impact on the visual appearance of your structure. Trial different mortar colours and textures until you find the right match.
Matching your bricks successfully is one step towards a flawless and uniform finish. If you're having trouble finding look-alike bricks, we offer fast and convenient brick matching service to get your new masonry project perfectly aligned. By sending in three photos of your brick, we will provide the name, size, colour, and manufacturer in 24-hours. If your brick is no longer available, we will provide a range of options.
Learn more about our brick matching service here.