Shaping behaviour

There are many benefits to using special-shaped bricks. Firstly, they can significantly enhance the aesthetics of a project by providing architects and designers with the freedom to create distinctive buildings. However, high quality aesthetics is just the tip of the iceberg. Special-shaped bricks also have a very functional role as they add extra durability and protection to brickwork. They can even reduce build time and waste on site, as well as address the much publicised skills shortage by reducing the need for hand cutting.

Special overview
In simple terms, special-shaped bricks are exactly what the name suggests. They are bricks that do not have the shape or dimensions of a standard metric or imperial brick. They are used in a wide range of applications, such as creating decorative features, forming non-right-angled corners, for protection in places of high exposure, such as copings and sills, or as an attractive way of ‘closing off’ a run of brickwork.

With hundreds of British Standard special shapes split into ten groups, as well as an almost unlimited range of purpose-made and bespoke options available, it is understandable why people see special-shaped bricks as a bit of a minefield. However, there is a great deal of support available from brick manufacturers to help in choosing the right products for the right job. From departments dedicated to special products to technical support from design services teams and free training – assistance is just a phone call or an e-mail away.

I would urge anyone considering using special shaped bricks on their projects to contact a manufacturer as early in the process as possible as it can help in terms of product selection, technical advice and planning of material requirements.

As well as the brick manufacturers, there are also a number of companies that offer brick cutting services. These brick cutters are often used when there is a requirement for cut and bonded specials. Therefore, why should you opt to source your specials from a brick manufacturer? Apart from the expert product knowledge and comprehensive support available from manufacturers that I mentioned earlier, there is also the key issue of guaranteed quality. Sourcing the specials from the manufacturer of the standard facing brick is often the best way to ensure the closest colour match.

The specials production facilities of the major manufacturers also tend to be covered by an ISO 14001 Environmental Management System, which means you are specifying high quality products from high quality facilities. One of the major manufacturers only offers performance guarantees on cut and bonded specials produced in their own facilities.

The price is right
When shopping around for prices of special-shaped bricks, it is important to ensure you factor in the full cost of the specials. There is often a misconception that using bricks already on site to produce cut and bonded specials is the cheapest option. However, the prices for this usually don’t include the initial cost of the brick already on site and can also lead to more waste. The prices for cut and bonded specials from the manufacturer would normally cover the cost of the bricks, the manufacturing of the special shape and often even include delivery to site depending on the order quantity.

Challenging myths
There is also a perception that special shaped bricks have long lead times – this is not the case. Of course, when there is a requirement to purpose make a bespoke special shape, this does take time. However, the majority of the most common special shaped bricks are often readily available in smooth red and smooth blue (the most commonly used colours for special shaped bricks). Some of the major manufacturers have created ranges of these most popular specials types, such as the Essential range from Wienerberger, which are usually delivered within three working days.

The subject of special shaped bricks may, on the face of it, sound challenging and difficult. However, with the right consideration, and by utilising the support available from brick manufacturers, they can be child’s play, and the benefits of taking the time to incorporate specials offer rewards to everyone. Architects get more freedom with their designs, builders benefit from less need for cutting and less wastage on site, and the end users get a more visually appealing building.