Half way there: end of the first day laying the bricks for the internal wall

Bricklaying

Thursday February 18, Friday February 19

Timing

I had been been trying to get Trent the bricklayer back for a while. A couple of times he was available but I wasn’t – or didn’t have enough clean bricks ready for him. Other times I was organised but Trent was busy. Eventually the stars aligned and at short notice Trent and Scott came down to lay the internal brick wall over two days.

 

Before: a single room. Setting up the drop sheets to protect the already finished floor

Before: a single room. Setting up the drop sheets to protect the already finished floor

Recycling

There are three loads of recycled bricks used in the wall: foundations of a relocated house in Tranmere I worked on while at a previous practice; a load from my Building Surveyor; and the old chimney from the Woodbridge Post Office. Each load of bricks had varying amounts and types of mortar (concrete render is the hardest to clean) but every brick had something stuck on it. Because I gained an innate appreciation for cleaning mortar off bricks I decided to use lime mortar on the belief that it would make it easier to clean in the future. Not many people consider their building being torn down or even modified, but it pays to make things possible if you can.

 

Hours of fun: cleaning bricks, by hand

Hours of fun: cleaning bricks, by hand [photo credit: Sarah Lynn Rees]

Effort

I cleaned. Every. Single. One. Of those bricks! It was something I would chip away at most times I went to my block. I’d been cleaning them for years! I used a mortar hammer with a square head and no claw – knock the mortar off first then scrape the remainder. It was only once the wall was half way up that Trent mentioned there was a brick cleaner – a machine with little pins that pushes the mortar off! Scott also had an attachment for his hammer that had teeth that made it easier to scrape off the mortar.

 

Mixalot: Scott mixing a load of lime mortar

Mixalot: Scott mixing a load of lime mortar

Purpose

When I started cleaning the first load of bricks I had earmarked them as pavers before I had even considered building a house. A few hundred clean bricks sat on a pallet at my block for years, waiting for a purpose. That purpose came when I decided to incorporate a recycled brick wall into the design: to separate the bedroom from the living area; to provide additional thermal mass; and bring some natural, worn, reused material and texture into 60k House.

 

Ready to go: clean recycled bricks [photo credit: Sarah Lynn Rees]

Ready to go: clean recycled bricks [photo credit: Sarah Lynn Rees]

Random

I made the decision to leave any paint on the bricks (unless it was flaky – then I scraped the loose bits off). I mixed all three loads of bricks together when I barrowed them in and stacked them. The instruction to Trent and Scott was to lay the bricks as they came, or as they fitted best – some have the paint on the outside, others face inwards. The different loads of bricks are evenly spread throughout the wall but I can still identify which brick came from where…

 

Halves: running down the stack, using the incomplete bricks for the English bond course

Halves: running down the stack, using the incomplete bricks for the English bond course

Progress

On the one hand it was disheartening to see how quickly the pallets of bricks were disappearing and being used in the wall; on the other it was great to see the bricks being put to good use and the wall going up quickly.

 

Going up: Trent and Scott laying the first courses of the brickwork

Going up: Trent and Scott laying the first courses of the brickwork

 

Taking shape: Scott shoveling mortar onto the boards

Taking shape: Scott shoveling mortar onto the boards

 

End of the day: the view from the bedroom side

End of the day: the view from the bedroom side

Two is better than one

The brick wall is double skin, meaning it’s two bricks wide – or one brick across. The thickness provides greater stability than a single skin brick wall and makes the wall feel much sturdier – and has added thermal mass and acoustic separation. On Trent’s advice we decided to incorporate what’s called an ‘English bond’ into the wall. Traditionally this was a full brick laid across the two layers of the wall every few courses to tie the wall together. Instead we used half bricks (because we had some) with full bricks for the top course. Just a little bit of detail.

 

Bond. English bond: half bricks used instead of full ones

Bond. English bond: half bricks used instead of full ones

Realisation

When designing 60k House I hadn’t really considered if the brick wall would be full height and go all the way up to the ceiling. Once the ceiling was in place it became obvious that lots of bricks would need to be cut to fit the rake of the ceiling. And I would have to clean a lot more bricks. Those two reasons combined made it an easy decision to finish the brick wall at the height of the windows and doors and infill the top section later with Danpalon. The multi-cell polycarbonate sheet will provide good acoustic separation between the bedroom and living area while still allowing light to filter between the two rooms. The ceiling also runs through – something that wouldn’t be obvious if the brick wall was full height. The bricks are full height for a small section – this is where a future wood heater (and flue) will go.

 

Tight at the top: finishing off the top course for the full height section

Tight at the top: finishing off the top course for the full height section

 

Pattern: the finished wall from the bedroom

Pattern: the finished wall from the bedroom

Separation

Once the wall was complete 60k House was converted from a two room shack to a three room home: living; bedroom; and bathroom (plus the entry, but it’s not really a room). There’s something to be said for open plan living – or simple living. I’ve grown tired of walking from the living room to the kitchen at the other end of my share house in Hobart – I can’t have the TV or stereo on while preparing dinner, and have to make the trek to tend to the cooking. Life will be simpler and easier with all of the ‘living’ functions in the one modest sized room.

 

Nice: the recycled internal brick wall complete

Nice: the recycled internal brick wall complete

 

Room with a view: looking from the bed

Room with a view: looking from the bed

 

Costs: bricks – $200 + slab of beer; sand + lime – $175; bricklaying – $1,000

 

Disclaimer: Any advice contained within this blog is of a general nature only and cannot be relied upon. Details provided are in good faith and relate specifically to this project. Any author will not be held responsible for advice or information presented.

1 Comment

  1. The art of bricklaying has been around for thousands of years. What’s cool is to see old techniques that are still used today to build homes and buildings. It’s a skillful art and I’m grateful for those who work hard in this profession to keep things going.

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