Brick Slips: Create an Exposed Brick Look in your Home

Exposed Brick: Using brick slips is an absolutely classic look when done right.

What’s the best way to get this look? Well, that depends on how your house is built. If you’re lucky enough to live in a home with genuine brick to be able to expose, you’ve got options.

Exposed Brick – The pros and cons

Brick slips used in a kitchen

If your home is old enough, you may have the chance to discover bricks behind your walls.

Unfortunately this is rare nowadays. If you are lucky enough then you’ll most likely need to clean up the brickwork, but once that’s done you will have a genuine exposed brick wall with bricks from your local area at the time the property was built; which should then be in keeping with the rest of your house’s construction.


However, there is a chance that it’s not very appealing, as many internal walls weren’t built with aesthetics in mind.

You could also just not like the colour and texture of that brick, or cleaning it may be an onerous task if it’s in a bad state, and you also don’t want to risk damaging the walls in extreme cases.


If any of this is the case then you have a couple of options- build a brick wall with all it’s expense, mess and cost or tile a wall with brick slips.

Using Brick Slips

Brick Slips are simply 22mm cuts of brick that can be tiled onto a wall- if it’s done right then no-one will know that it’s not an exposed brick wall!

It’s something that can be done by a tiler, a bricklayer or a DIYer and makes such a difference to a room with the colours and textures you use.

It means you get to choose your look, and doesn’t give the logistical and cost implications of a full brick wall.


They can be installed on plasterboard, cement board or any masonry.

Choosing Brick Slips

This is the key part of the process, deciding on your brick slips, and your look.

Material

Firstly the brick slips themselves- make sure you look at real clay brick, some companies sell cheaper concrete versions, whilst they may seem like good brick tiles they are dyed to give the effect and can therefore look slightly fake, but also can fade in sunlight over time.


There are then two ways to make a clay brick slip- get a full brick and cut the sides off, or ‘moulded’ made from the start as a brick slip rather than a brick.

Bricks are clay dug from the earth and then fired at high temperatures- the full brick option is the most genuine as there’s no difference in the making of the brick verses slip other than cutting, the moulded option is slightly cheaper but usually doesn’t quite give the authentic texture.

Have a look at The Brick Tile Company to see more. And if you’re tempted by cheap brick slips, always go for quality, even if you buy slips online.

And here you can see them being installed.

Style

An exposed brick wall in a living room made with brick slips

The most popular style are reclaimed brick slips. It can be very time consuming and expensive to find genuine reclaimed brick in your area and have them cut into slips, but ranges of bricks are now made as new bricks to current standards, but then ‘tumbled’ to create the same aged look.


This look is timeless, in creating something that’s already aged you bypass a current trend, what you need to embrace is the misshapen bricks that come with it- that’s where you get your real character.

Your reclaimed collection delivery will be a truly unique range of brick slips due to the random nature of the tumbling effect.

This means you will be left with bigger mortar joints where a chunk is missing, and potentially wonky looking ones where a corner has gone. These things may feel wrong, but once the project is complete that’s what elevates the look- it also means your installation is more forgiving as you can go with these natural variations to be less precise.

The other options are traditional and contemporary- traditional brick slips are as you’d expect- just like the house bricks you see around you, in a variation of colours and textures, but with a more uniform shape. The shape won’t be exactly perfect however as they’re naturally made, but again, that does add to the overall look, in this case though just be aware of how imperfect they are- one very bowed brick in a wall of near straight ones would look odd.


The contemporary option is usually more expensive, these are uniform colours with defined uniform shape, most effective in dark colours- black, and navy blue for example with grey brick slips being very popular.

Mortar

Once you have an idea of the brick slip you want, don’t forget about the pointing mortar.

The mortar in between the brick slips is a very important part of the look and makes up 30% of the overall visual. The traditional options are grey, cream and white in terms of colour, and then you should consider what finishes as well.

The reclaimed style works best with a concave joint, or a flush joint- so either scraped out as you’d expect old brickwork or brought up to it to create more of a flat surface.

How to Make Brick Slips work

In order for brick slips to work best, you need to consider where you’re using them.

Firstly the room- they are at their best as a feature wall, or subtly in a fireplace – red brick slips look good here.

They can be used on a full chimney breast or as a kitchen backsplash, they can be used externally too without issue.
Wherever you are thinking of using them, just check on how easily you can replicate a full brick wall- if it’s a flat wall then that’s fantastic, if there’s an internal or external corner, no problem.

The issue comes where there are lots of quirky corners in close proximity. This means that you’ll need to cut a lot of the brick slips down, and it could prove very tricky to install and get a good final look.

If this is the case maybe look at a different side of the room. You should always end on an internal corner, so there are no edges on show to give away that they are slips, but if you need to you can cover that edge with some timber, or just a 45 degree angled line of mortar.

Common Questions:

An image of brick slips being installed

Can brick slips be used outside/externally?

Yes, real they are just like brick, so there’s no problem using external brick slips, just make sure you’re tiling onto masonry (with primer), cement board or a backing system.

Can brick slips be fixed to plasterboard?

They can indeed, the plasterboard just needs to be securely fixed and ideally scored before priming.

Can brick slips be used in a fireplace?

Absolutely, the only thing to bear in mind is to use a cement-based mortar, not a lime-based mortar.

Can brick slips be used in a shower?

The short answer is yes, in a bathroom it’s a good idea to use a brick sealant once everything is dried, if in a shower unit then you need to ensure that the substrate is waterproof as brick is porous. Ideally still coat them with a brick sealant (or even a resin) to keep the look (they will be darker when wet). Make sure to re-seal them every 6 months-year.

Can brick slips be used on the floor?

Yes, bricks meant for walls can still be used as indoor flooring, they need to be installed properly (ensuring no air pockets underneath them. The only consideration is the texture, it could make your chairs a little wobbly or collect dirt in any creases. As such you may want to use a clear varnish/resin to fill in gaps and create a completely flat surface. For external flooring you need to consider the moisture, they have to be on a solid, flat surface and be able to soak away, we don’t recommend them for anything heavier than foot traffic.

Can you cut brick slips?

Yes, you cut them with a tile cutter, a tile saw, angle grinder or multi-tool.

For more Information on how to install brick slips in specific areas (like a kitchen or bathroom), calculating how many you need, installing or looking after them, have a look at this handy brick slip guide.

And don’t forget to check out some case studies to see brick slip tiles in action before you shop for them. They are a stunning product as I’m sure you’d agree.

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