Preparing for the overhaul...

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bricking An Entire Facade: Tips and Tricks

Bricking an entire facade is a major undertaking.  This project has gone quickly in the sense that I've been working on it pretty much nonstop due to time concerns.  I take deadlines (including self-imposed deadlines) very seriously!  However, it's also kind of driven me nuts...I legitimately had dreams about making bricks.  And gluing...and gluing....  I honestly thought, for awhile there, that I'd be slaving at it forever.  That being said, I think this is the best way to make bricks and I'm planning on doing it again on my next project.  Apart from being a cheaper way to make bricks, I think the final results are much more realistic looking.  The problem with using real materials is that even if the piece is cut to scale, the material it's made from isn't and sometimes things can end up looking a little weird.  Moreover, there's only so much you can do with an actual brick; but cardboard can be shaped into almost anything.

First and foremost, pay attention to the height of the bricks!  I learned the hard way that even tiny discrepancies can end up throwing off the entire facade and making it look awful.  I drew out a grid and then cut out each "strip" of bricks with a knife.  Then, I separated each brick with a pair of scissors.  Change your blades often!  The egg carton cardboard eats through them like nothing else.  My husband had to sharpen my scissors for me twice (then again, I cut out about 6,500 bricks).  To shape each individual brick, I sanded off the corners a bit with a sanding block.  That, to me, seemed to be the quickest way and gave the most uniform results.  That last step of shaping each brick, as tedious as it might seem, is really crucial; I think it's what makes the difference, ultimately, in terms of realism.

I drew guidelines on my walls, although for the most part I eyeballed placement.  Where I found it to be most important to measure was when I was working around things like windows; it's important, obviously, that the sides match up.  Around the windows and door, I started with the edges and then worked out from there.  Elsewhere, like along the sides of the chimney, I used what whole bricks I could and then filled in the gaps.  It depended on what the focal point was, and where I needed things to be the most accurate (versus where it'd be acceptable to fudge a tiny bit, if it turned out I had to).  For some reason, for me, at least, when it comes to bricks mathematical precision eludes me.  There always seems to be a tiny, unexpected error somewhere.  And even if there isn't, it's good to plan for one I think?  Better safe than sorry, or so I'm told...

Once in awhile, I put in a "missing" brick, or cut the edge off a brick, for realism.
An area where I measured the "odd" bricks after the fact--although in this case it's sandstone blocks, for the foundation.

After establishing the "perimeter," as it were, I glued my bricks in strips.

Another spot where I added the odd-shaped bricks after the fact.

Some additional tips:
  • Use Aleene's Fast Grab tacky glue.  Nothing else works as well.  And buy about three times as much as you think you'll need.  Particularly when you're creating odd-shaped "bricks" by wrapping them around forms, etc, you--or at least I--end up using a lot of glue.
  • Even if you've drawn guidelines, pull out your ruler and re-measure once in awhile just to make sure.
  • I've said this before, but seriously, consider buying your egg cartons in bulk!
  • Change your cutting blades as frequently as you can.  This cardboard is super dulling and I gave myself a really bad cut at one point (and am now missing a small portion of my fingertip as a result).  Which brings up another point: don't cut bricks when you're tired!  Shaping them can be quite meditative, but cutting them...I miss my missing fingertip!  
  • Be prepared for this to take a long time--and be prepared for the fact that every design element adds exponentially to the number of bricks you need to cut.
When I was gluing particularly challenging shapes, I often glued in stages.

The last thing I'm doing right now (apart from writing this post) before I start painting is gluing the kitchen floor.  My last piece of advice is, if you can glue it separately and then install it post facto, do that.  It's a whole lot easier.  In this case, for me, that meant the fireplace inserts, mantelpiece, and one of the bathroom walls.  At the moment, I'm planning on painting and sealing, then installing before grouting.


Elizabeth S said...

What a great progress report! I am currently working on The Arthur doll's house and tried out a random stone exterior from egg carton, which is only on 2 sides right now. I chose to use a stone finish because I knew that laying bricks would take way too long for me, given my short attention span. However, I see that the egg carton bricks have given your little house a whole lot of personality, solidity and interest that has paid off for you in a Big Way! I Love brick houses and now that I have seen what you have done and how Beautiful it looks, I am challenged to give it a try on my next house project. So Thank You for the tips :)) and sorry that you lost your finger tip in the process which was sacrificed for the cause! :(


C.J. said...

Elizabeth, thank you! Regarding your concerns, it can get a bit tedious at times but is also strangely addictive. I recommend putting something really good on the TV; I watched a number of films, including "Dallas Buyers Club," which were excellent!

Giac said...

Hello CJ,
Thank you for the great tips and for the great pictures.
Big hug,

Steinworks said...

thank you for sharing your tips on brick work from egg cartons, I am going to do a small chiminey for my cabin so this is very helpful :)


Michelle said...

Your hard work has paid well and truly off, I just love the whole look! ;o))))

I totally agree about the 'real' stuff. It's too perfect and real life just isn't. I have found the same issues, that you really can't do much to them in terms of making them look more realistic. So I keep well away from the real thing now for many reasons. :o)

I managed to find loads of sellers on Amazon UK for the egg boxes, so many thanks for that! Most certainly saves on having to save them and I don't have to wait as long to start on my cobble stones!

Debora said...

Otterine gave me the link to your site and I'm really enjoying your blog. I love the brickwork, it will be even more stunning when finished! I'm following you on Bloglovin.

Susan Korman said...

Ooh! Sorry about the finger. Thank you for all the tips. It's amazing how egg cartons can look so wonderfully realistic.


PILAR6373 said...

Un trabajo excelente!!! Le da una apariencia muy real!!!

Anonymous said...

Can you tell me where I can find his sheets of egg carton ?? Thank you from Belgium

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Unknown said...

Do you put anything for grout around the bricks after?