Self-build diary: brickwork and ventilation

Written by Charlie and Helen – Plot 1 (Church Cottage) homeowners


From the outset, we knew we wanted a Flemish bond for the brickwork on our utility. First used in England in 1631, it gained real popularity in the 18th century. I (Charlie) liken the finished pattern to divide signs with a header and a stretcher alternating. As a more decorative choice of bond, we felt it would give our cottage more depth of character and once weathered, would create the impression it had been there for years. Additionally, we chose a brick that had weathered to enhance this aged look, and although the mortar was not as we planned, it has really worked out well, complementing all the other materials, textures and colours that make up the exterior of our home.

Our ventilation system was key. After achieving an airtightness of 1.51, (Passivhaus standard is 0.66 and to pass Building Regulations it needs to be 5.0) it was imperative we had forced ventilation. With no real ceiling space, we pursued a non-centralised system called ‘Lunos’. Independent fans are electronically controlled, so there was no need for ducting around our cottage or a central unit. Without the ventilation, our home is an incredibly warm space and the airtightness does not allow for much heat loss at all: great for our everyday bills!

Charlie and Helen chose a Flemish bond for the brickwork on their utility

Written by Craig and LB – Plot 2 (Manuka Cottage) homeowners


The exterior of our oak framed cottage is made up of render, timber weatherboarding and bricks. The brickwork covers the chimney and our utility room, along with the damp proof course (DPC) around the house. When it came to choosing the style of brickwork, we were fairly set on the look we wanted to achieve and chose a stretcher bond using traditional lime mortar, which ties in nicely with the colour of our render. The brickwork was always something we knew we would bring a trade in for and were delighted with how quick and neat the work was; particularly as we had opted for details such as a picture frame in the chimney.

The mechanical ventilation heat recovery (MVHR) system was an area Craig felt confident he could tackle, and we purchased the Systemair VSR 300. The loft is the most common space for an MVHR system, however, as our cottage design is a storey-and-a-half that wasn’t an option. So, we installed a ceiling into our downstairs loo which allowed enough space for the system and ensured it could easily run through the posi-joists to all areas of our cottage, and, we only needed to make two penetrations in the building fabric. The system also purifies the air meaning hay fever and allergies are left at the front door at Manuka Cottage!


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Bricks of varying colours have been laid with their stretchers showing to create Craig and LB's bonding on their utility and chimney

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