If you want a rendered surface on your retaining wall one of the best ways of achieving this is by using ‘Besser Blocks’.
These are hollow concrete blocks which are designed to incorporate steel reinforcement within the block.
A few issues when building these walls are:
Don’t skimp on the foundation. Even a 600mm high wall will need a concrete foundation 600mm wide by 250mm deep.
Make sure that the cement grout is well packed around the steel reinforcement.
Buy some of the yellow safety caps you see here to put over the reinforcement bars and ‘Keep Yourself Safe.
Don’t backfill behind the wall for at least a week
As well as free standing retaining walls Besser Blocks are also used as basement walls and to provide structural strength for external walls when building against a slope.
This photograph shows a typical example where the Besser Block wall will provide the external wall of a garage. ( You can also see the builders plastic which will form part of the ‘tanking’ to keep damp from passing through the wall)
I hear a lot of people agonise over the choice of bricks for their new house.
That’s probably because they are:
Looking Too Closely. At the builders display centre you may be handed individual bricks or see a board with about 8 bricks on it. When you have been in the house a month you probably won’t notice the individual bricks. You only see the overall effect.
Taken In By The ‘Hype’. Brochures use words like Premium, Valued, Crafted and other ‘Bulldust’. (see ‘Brochure Bulldust’ below)
These premium bricks are derived from the uniquely textured and blended heritage of the original “hand made” English bricks. It is these timeless characteristics that have been applied by highly skilled craftsmen to a range of clay colours.
The palette now includes subtle grey blends, warm, earthy reds & tans, bold coffee browns and deep black tones.
This premium range of genuine clay bricks are unique and highly valued by building professionals. The range is a statement of luxury befitting premium homes, residential developments and commercial applications.
In the old days when all work was done by hand it wasn’t practical to mix clay to get a consistent colour, so you got what came from the raw clay.
These bricks are machine made with a mix of clay colours, but we think we can charge a lot more for them.
When choosing bricks go to a Brick Suppliers Display Centre and only look at bricks panels from at least 3m away. It much easier to see if a cheaper brick gives the effect you want.
During your Selection or Pre-Start meeting It isn’t just Picking a Brick. You also have to pick a mortar colour and a type of mortar joint.
If you have been to a Brick Display Centre check what colour mortar they use in the test wall of the brick you like. This will probably be the best colour for your house.
Below are the more common types of brick joints:
The ‘Ironed’ or ‘Rounded’ joint is quite common and helps to keep the water out of the brickwork
The ‘Weather’ joint, which is not so common in Australia, also helps to keep the wall dry.
The ‘Raked’ joint does give an interesting texture to the wall, but is the least moisture resistant joint. Best choice for beveled edge, or tumbled, bricks. It is unsuitable for bricks that only have a surface coating on the sides as the body colour will be exposed at the joints. Because the mortar is almost always in shade it will look darker than you expect.
A flush joint is reasonable weather resistant but can look uneven. It is unsuitable for rustic or rounded edged bricks. Another issue is it is more likely to result in staining of the brick face.
My E book Guide to Selection/Pre-Start includes lots more information and checklists to help you choose the details that will make your new house a home.
Double Brick is the most common method of construction in WA.
Construction consists of two panels (sometimes called leaves) of masonry with a cavity between them. The panels are connected by steel ties at regular intervals.
A better description would be Structural Masonry, Cavity Construction. which also includes using limestone, rendered brick and concrete block for the external face, and brick or concrete block for the internal leaf. (The photo shows a brick external leaf connected to a concrete block inner leaf by a wire tie)
The purpose of the cavity between the outside leaf of brick and the inside leaf is so that moisture doesn’t penetrate into the home. In more sustainable homes this cavity is partially or fully filled with insulation.
Internal walls are usually a single brick thickness and generally use a 2nds brick or concrete block that is plastered or lined using a lining board.
It is extremely durable requiring very little maintenance.
The mass of the brickwork can help moderate the internal temperature of the dwelling
You can place a heavy fixing anywhere on the walls.
Usually builders over order bricks. This is to ensure that all the bricks come from the same batch and there is no problem colour matching. (Each batch of bricks manufactured should be consistent within the batch, but will vary from batch to batch).
Some of the extra bricks may be used by the brickies cutting bricks, but there is usually lots of intact bricks left over that you could use for:
Brick planter boxes; or
Building a barby.
So whats the situation when it comes to getting those bricks?……………
Well for most house contracts you are paying for the completed walls not the actual bricks so the bricks are really owned by the builder.
In practice if there are complete packs/pallets of bricks the builder will probably want to take them off site for reuse. The reuse is typically for houses or fences that are going to be rendered.
For packs that have been opened its normally ‘too hard’ for the builder to load the bricks by hand so they go off to the tip during the clearance.
If you want the bricks the best thing to do is speak to the Site Supervisor. If you have a good relationship the SS may allow you to collect and stack the bricks somewhere on the site and make sure they are left there for you to use once you have moved in.