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How do bricks affect energy efficiency in buildings?

Brickwork is a building technique that’s been around for thousands of years. In the modern era, the standard red brick symbolises stability and strength in construction – to the extent that the term ‘brick and mortar’ has become a synonym for property of all kinds. Around three-quarters of new-build homes in the UK come with brick facades.

But not all brickwork is created equal. Your choice of brick will affect not just the structure of the building, but its ability to retain heat. Let’s look at how and why this is so.

Why are bricks important for energy efficiency?

The walls of your home are, for the most part, made from bricks. You might have a single brick wall, or two of them spaced apart from one another, with a cavity in the middle. Thus, the insulating properties of the brick you choose will hugely influence your home’s ability to retain heat. Given that it’s effectively impossible to replace your bricks later on, it’s worth doing a little bit of research before the work starts.

What options are there?

Homeowners have several options to choose from when considering bricks. Each offers slightly different properties. The most popular categories are clay bricks, and concrete ones (though other choices are also available).

Clay bricks

Clay bricks aren’t excellent insulators. But what they do have is thermal mass.They’re able to absorb heat energy, and slowly release it. This allows them to slow the movement of heat between the inside and outside of your property.

Bricks of this kind are easily recycled, and can be manufactured at scale with (relatively) little environmental impact. Thus, they’re the default option for many homeowners.

Concrete bricks

Concrete bricks can be made very cheaply, which makes them a great choice in larger buildings where volume is key. Concrete is a superior insulator, and doesn’t require care and attention in the same way as clay does. The major downside here is aesthetic – most homeowners prefer the look of a clay brick to that of a concrete one.

Quality and construction

Wherever you’re sourcing your bricks from, it’s essential that you secure the best possible quality. If you’re building on an existing structure, it’s important that you match the bricks with the ones that are already there. Look for bricks from a reputable supplier, and make sure that you know exactly which kinds of brick you’re shopping for.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning the value of the skilled tradespeople who’ll actually be laying the bricks. This is an area where inferior workmanship will be highly visible, and inhibit your ability to sell the property. Don’t cut corners, or you might end up paying for it later on.

25 April 2024

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