DIY Brick Slips: Save Money and Get the Industrial Look in Your Kitchen

brick slip wall with wallpaper on the adjoining wall and mid century furniture
Our brick slip cladding in the kitchen

I have long been an admirer of industrial interior design and found myself constantly saving kitchens to my Pinterest boards with exposed brickwork and steel beams. The industrial kitchen look is inspired by old factories, warehouses, and industrial spaces, bringing the rugged charm of the past into contemporary homes.

Whether it was from my time spent in coffee shops (where industrial style is in abundance) when my kids were young, or my love for old stately homes, I knew I wanted the industrial look in my kitchen. 

We needed steel beams put in when we extended our kitchen and I knew I wouldn’t cover them up, all I needed was the exposed brick look. However, when I told our architect this and our builders gave us a quote, we soon realized it was going to be much more expensive to build our exterior kitchen wall out of bricks, and would take longer to get the materials, so we went with concrete blocks. 

My dream of having exposed brickwork in the kitchen started to fade until I saw homeowners using brick slips in their homes! 

What Are Brick Slips?

brick slips in the kitchen with wooden flooring and rattan bar stools around the island

Brick slips, often referred to as brick tiles or brick veneers, are thin cuts of brick or purpose-made brick-like tiles that can be applied to surfaces to give the appearance of real bricks. They’ve become popular in both interior and exterior design projects, and for good reason.

Brick slips can be made by cutting the face off of standard bricks, giving them an authentic appearance and texture. They can also be manufactured separately to resemble real bricks, often made from a mixture of concrete, clay, and other materials.

Typically, they range from 15mm to 25mm in thickness. This slim profile distinguishes them from full-sized bricks. They replicate the surface look of bricks, complete with the texture, color variations, and even the possibility of aged or weathered appearances.

They are primarily used as decorative facades for both interior and exterior surfaces. Common applications include feature walls in living rooms, kitchen backsplashes, and external cladding on buildings.

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Benefits of Choosing Brick Slips for Your Kitchen

brick slips and bifold doors in the living area of the kitchen with green velvet sofa and a gallery wall
Not a real wall!

Budget is always the biggest factor when we renovate, obviously! One of the main reasons we renovate our homes is to improve it’s value and hopefully move up the property ladder. 

When I became aware that brick slips existed, I started doing a bit of research and the main benefits I found were: 

  • The cost is lower than a normal brick wall as you are using less materials.
  • The process of installing brick slips is relatively straightforward, which can reduce labor costs, especially if you’re a DIY enthusiast.
  • Reduced installation time compared to constructing a full brick wall or applying some other wall finishes means paying less in labor if you’re hiring professionals.
  • Unlike installing real bricks, which might require additional structural support or alterations (increasing costs), brick slips can be added to most existing walls without the need for such modifications.
  • Brick slips come in various price ranges based on material, finish, and brand. This allows homeowners to choose a product that aligns with their budget.
  • Brick slips are durable and require minimal maintenance.
  • A stylish kitchen with a timeless brick finish can make a property more attractive to potential buyers, possibly yielding a higher return on investment.

Tools and Materials Needed

a white wall with tile primer applied
Windows covered and brick slips, adhesive and tools ready to go

We purchased our brick slips from The Brick Tile Co. and I decided to have a go at installing them myself. Here is how I did it: 

Tools Required

  1. Notched trowel: Used to spread adhesive or mortar on surfaces in a consistent manner. The notches ensure an even distribution of material.
  2. Spirit level: Essential for ensuring that tiles, brick slips, or other materials are laid level and straight.
  3. Sponge: Useful for cleaning off excess adhesive, grout, or mortar from the surface of tiles or brick slips during and after installation.
  4. Mortar Gun: Helps you apply mortar in between the slips and is easy to fill. 
  5. Bucket: For mixing adhesive, mortar, or grout. Also handy for holding water to clean tools and tiles.
  6. Mixing Paddle for Drill: Attached to a drill, it helps in mixing adhesives, mortars, or grouts to the right consistency.
  7. Tile Cutter or Angle Grinder: For cutting tiles or brick slips to the required size or shape.
  8. Utility Knife: Useful for opening bags of grout or adhesive, cutting spacers, or trimming materials.
  9. Rubber Mallet: To gently tap tiles or brick slips into place without damaging them. I found I didn’t need this. 
  10. Measuring Tape: For taking accurate measurements of the area, tiles, or brick slips.

Materials Needed

primer bottle
Tile primer
  1. Brick Slips! We opted for Blend 01 from The Brick Tile Co
  2. Adhesive: Special adhesive for brick slips is required to bond them to the wall. Again, we purchased ours from The Brick Tile Co
  3. Brick Slip Primer: Used to prime the wall before the adhesive goes on. 
  4. Pointing Mortar: This is used to fill the gaps or joints between brick slips, giving the appearance of traditional brickwork. It can be colored to complement or contrast with the brick slips. We used cream mortar
  5. Tile Spacers: Small plastic pieces that help maintain consistent gaps between tiles or brick slips. This ensures even grout lines and a professional finish. I used 10mm spacers
  6. Sealant: Applied after the brick slips are set and the mortar has dried. It provides a protective layer, making the brick slips resistant to moisture, stains, and other external factors. So far, we have found we don’t need this. 

Safety Equipment

  1. Gloves to protect your hands from potential cuts and protect from chemicals. 
  2. Glasses to shield your eyes, especially when cutting the brick slips. 
  3. Dust mask when cutting brick slips and mixing mortar. 
  4. Protective clothing, it’s a messy job!

Step-by-Step Guide to Installing Brick Slips

a white wall with exposed steel beams
Our walls ready to be brick-slipped!

Once the majority of our kitchen renovation was complete, I started to install the brick slips. We wanted to put them on the exterior wall of the kitchen as I knew this would make it look authentic and provide a wonderful contrast to our anthracite gray bifold doors.

It was quite a big space so the first thing I had to do was measure the area we were installing our brick slips and calculate how many we would need. It was quite tricky as they were going around bifold doors and a large floor-to-ceiling window, so I had to measure it out in sections. 

a rough measurement for the brick slips
My very amateur measurements, it worked out though!

It was quite a big space so the first thing I had to do was measure the area we were installing our brick slips and calculate how many we would need. It was quite tricky as they were going around bifold doors and a large floor-to-ceiling window, so I had to measure it out in sections. 

There is a helpful guide to calculations on most brick slip companies’ websites, they should be able to help you out if you get stuck. 

With my brick slips ordered and all the above materials and tools purchased, I was ready to go! Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you successfully install brick slips in your kitchen:

Preparation

a paint roller applying primer
Applying primer
  • Clear the Area: Remove any items from the area and cover items that can’t be moved with drop cloths or plastic sheets to protect them from dust and debris.
  • Clean the Wall: The surface should be clean, dry, and free from grease or any other contaminants.
  • Primer Application: Some walls, especially if they’re porous, might benefit from a primer. Apply as per the manufacturer’s instructions and let it dry thoroughly.

Cutting the Brick Slips

You may find that you don’t need to cut a lot of brick slips, but there will be corners or edges where you will need half a slip, so cut your slips beforehand using a tile cutter. 

Apply Adhesive

  • Mix the adhesive as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Using a notched trowel, spread a thin layer of adhesive onto a small section of the wall. Hold the trowel at a 45-degree angle and make sure to create even ridges.

Setting the Brick Slips

Tile adhesive with brick slips and tile spacers
Starting from the bottom, apply adhesive and brick slips and use tile spacers
  • Start from the bottom and work your way up. Press each brick slip firmly into the adhesive, giving it a slight wiggle to ensure a good bond.
  • Use tile spacers between each brick slip to maintain consistent gaps for mortar or grout.

Continue Laying

brick slips and tile spacers

Continue applying adhesive and setting the brick slips row by row. Check with a spirit level regularly to ensure everything remains straight and level. This is really important as to begin with, I forgot to check and then found that the bricks started leaning slightly. Thankfully, the adhesive takes around 30 mins to properly set so you have time to move them if needs be. 

brick slips going on a wall
Progress

This is the time-consuming part, it took me around a day to complete just one section of the wall as I had to cut many brick slips and work around awkward corners. If you are only applying them on a straight wall, it should be much quicker. 

There are corner brick slips available which make laying a lot easier. The trickiest part was working with inner corners as you have to calculate how the tiles will fit between each other. 

Let the Adhesive Set

brick slips going on around the bifolds

Once all the brick slips are in place, allow the adhesive to set for the time recommended by the manufacturer. I found it gripped well straight away and was pretty much set under an hour. 

Applying Mortar or Grout

a bucket with mortar mix and a mortar gun with scoop

Mix the mortar or grout as per the instructions. I used a bucket with a mixing paddle fitted onto the end of our drill. It is so much easier than doing it by hand (which I found out when the paddle broke due to excessive use!)

Using a mortar gun, fill the gun up with grout using the scoop provided and gently press the mixture into the gaps between each brick slip. Ensure it’s packed in securely and consistently.

Wipe away any excess with a damp sponge, ensuring you don’t dig out the freshly applied mortar or grout. I wore some plastic gloves that were wet and smoothed down the mortar to give it an even finish. 

Sealing

After the mortar or grout has dried (typically 24-48 hours), apply a sealant to protect the brick slips from moisture, stains, and other potential damage. This step is especially crucial in areas close to sinks or cooking areas, but as our brick slips are next to the doors, we found we didn’t need this. 

I used a brush attachment on the end of our vacuum cleaner and gave the whole area a clean after I finished. Due to the nature of the brick slips, you would be forever brushing and vacuuming them if you wanted to get rid of the dust, so a quick clean and leaving them alone is the best option!

Maintenance and Cleaning

 

a corner wall with brick slips and a view out through the bifold doors into the garden

Our brick slips have been up for over a year now and they still look as good as the day I installed them. Many people on social media have asked me if they produce a lot of dust, or make the area dirty, but we haven’t found it to be a problem. 

Occasionally, we may rub up against them and get a bit of brick dust residue, but overall, unless you are rubbing yourself up against them daily, they don’t produce a lot of dust 🙂

Tips to Preserve the Look and Longevity

a close up of the brick slips next to a shelf with plants

Brick slips, when installed and maintained correctly, can last for many years and continue to look great. Here are some tips to preserve the look and longevity of your brick slips:

Seal

Always seal brick slips after installation, especially in areas exposed to moisture or heavy use, like kitchens. Sealants will prevent moisture infiltration and protect the brick slips from stains and damage. Re-seal periodically based on wear and manufacturer recommendations.

However, as I said before, we have found we haven’t needed to do this. 

Regular Cleaning

Dust and clean brick slips regularly using a soft brush or cloth to prevent the buildup of dirt, grease, and grime. Remember to avoid harsh or acidic cleaners.

Avoid Abrasives

Never use abrasive scrubbers, like steel wool or scouring pads, as they can scratch the surface of the brick slips, making them more susceptible to staining and wear.

Avoid Direct Heat

While brick slips can handle heat to some extent, prolonged exposure to direct, high heat (like from a stove or heater) can cause them to crack or discolor. Use heat shields or barriers as needed.

Cost Comparison: DIY vs. Professional Installation

Choosing between a DIY approach and hiring professionals for installing brick slips, or any home improvement task, often boils down to the balance between cost and quality. Here’s a general cost comparison for both scenarios, highlighting the potential expenses and advantages of each:

DIY Installation

  1. Labor Savings: The most significant saving will be on labor costs, which is often a substantial portion of professional installation fees.
  2. Flexibility: You can work at your own pace and on your preferred schedule.
  3. Personal Satisfaction: There’s a sense of accomplishment in completing a home improvement project yourself.
  4. Potential Mistakes: If you make errors, such as buying the wrong material or damaging the brick slips, it might incur additional costs.

Professional Installation

  1. Expertise: Professionals have experience and can often ensure the brick slips are installed correctly and look seamless.
  2. Efficiency: A professional team can often complete the job faster than a DIY approach.
  3. Guarantee: Many professional services offer guarantees on their work, giving you peace of mind.
  4. Materials: Some professionals might offer a package deal that includes materials, but always compare prices to ensure you’re getting a good deal.
  5. Additional Services: Professionals might charge extra for services like removing old tiles or prepping the wall.
  6. Potential Upcharges: Some professionals may charge for unforeseen complications or if you decide to upgrade materials midway.

DIY will usually be more cost-effective purely in terms of out-of-pocket expenses. However, the trade-off may come in the form of time, effort, and potential for errors.

Professional installation is typically more expensive, but you’re paying for expertise, convenience, and often a more polished end result.

When deciding between DIY and professional installation, it’s essential to honestly evaluate your skills, available time, and budget. If you’re confident in your DIY abilities and have the necessary time, then doing it yourself can save money.

On the other hand, if you prioritize a flawless finish and quick turnaround, investing in professional installation might be worth the added cost. 

a brick slip wall in the kitchen with a green velvet sofa and a view out into the garden

My honest opinion is that if you have never tried DIY before, this is not a task for novice DIYers. I have some experience in DIY, like building wall to wall living room units and painting and decorating, and experience with power tools.

I think using an angle grinder and the more manual side of applying the brick slips was often tricky. It was also incredibly time-consuming and took me several weeks to finish as I had to do it in my spare hours. 

If you feel confident in your DIY capabilities and have the time to spare, then do it yourself. It is not hard, just monotonous. However, if you want it done quickly, get a professional in!

Design Tips for Enhancing the Industrial Look

a kitchen with navy blue island, wooden flooring, open shelves, metro tiles, grey kitchen cabinets and a white quartz worktop. There are brass and glass pendants hanging over the island and wood and rattan bar stools

Achieving the perfect industrial look requires a fusion of raw materials, vintage accessories, and a minimalistic approach. When it comes to brick slips in your kitchen or any other space, there are plenty of design ideas to enhance the industrial aesthetic. Here are some design tips to help you fully realize and enhance that coveted industrial vibe:

  • Metallic elements such as stainless steel appliances, iron or steel shelving, or metal light fittings
  • Exposed pipes and ducts can become a design feature
  • Open wooden or metal shelving in the kitchen allows you to display items in an organized manner, reinforcing the industrial feel.
  • Incorporate raw or reclaimed wood into your design. Whether it’s in the form of open shelving, countertops, or furniture, the rustic texture complements the industrial look perfectly.
  • Stick to a neutral and muted color scheme – think grays, whites, and blacks, with occasional pops of color (green or rust being the best) for added depth.
  • Opt for pendant lights with exposed bulbs, metal fixtures, or cage-like designs. Edison bulbs can also enhance the vintage industrial vibe.
  • Whether it’s concrete countertops, floors, or decor elements, the raw look of concrete pairs well with brick and adds to the industrial feel.
  • A blend of brick, metal, wood, and concrete can provide a layered depth to the design, reinforcing the industrial aesthetic.
  • Leather stools or chairs can introduce warmth to the space while aligning with the industrial theme.
  • If possible, expose beams, columns, or any other architectural structures. Their rawness speaks to the core of industrial design.
  • Use old industrial items and repurpose them. For example, old lockers can be turned into storage units, and old ladders can be used as pot racks.
  • Introducing plants, especially in metal or concrete planters, can provide a refreshing contrast to the raw industrial elements.

Brick slips offer a variety of benefits, making them a popular choice for those looking to achieve an authentic brick aesthetic without the complexities of using full bricks. They are such a talking feature in our kitchen and people always comment on them when they come to our house. 

Most people are amazed to find out that it is not a brick wall, but brick slips applied to plasterboard. They’re equally amazed that I did it myself! 

I highly recommend installing brick slips if you want an industrial look in your kitchen, we absolutely love ours. They are the highlight of our renovation. 

FAQs >>>

Q. Can I use brick slips in wet areas like kitchens or bathrooms?

Yes, but it’s essential to ensure they are sealed correctly to prevent moisture damage. Using a waterproof adhesive and sealant is recommended for such areas.

Q. Do brick slips provide insulation?

While they offer some level of thermal insulation and soundproofing, brick slips primarily serve aesthetic purposes. For significant insulation, you might need to consider additional insulating materials.

Q. What’s the difference between brick slips and brick tiles?

The terms are often used interchangeably. However, brick slips usually refer to slices taken directly from full bricks, whereas brick tiles might be manufactured specifically as thin tiles with a brick appearance.

Q. How long do brick slips last?

With proper installation and maintenance, brick slips can last for many years, offering durability similar to traditional bricks.

Q. Can I paint over brick slips?

Yes, brick slips can be painted. Ensure they are clean and consider using a primer for better paint adhesion. However, painting might detract from the authentic brick appearance.

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will receive a very small commission if you click through and make a purchase. These links help to pay the editorial costs of writing a blog. For more information, please read my full affiliate disclosure here.

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