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05.06.2014 admin
Welcome to week four in my series of posts on starting and running a landscape or gardening business. Please note that this is a referral service only and Landscape Juice does NOT recommend its members - before entering into a transaction, please refer read the following carefully. LJN is an open association of individuals and companies involved in landscaping, garden maintenance, horticulture and garden design. Welcome the last and final part about how I built a 12m x 5m barn for storing logs and implements on our small holding. I must reiterate my disclaimer; I am not a structural engineer or a builder so the whole project is more ‘belt and braces’ than calculations and you should not rely on my design or construction for your own building! After finishing the frame in Part 4 I then spread some of the shale around that we had dug up when building the house extension to provide a firm floor. Bricks around foot of  each column to help stop lateral movement of column and support the cross rails for attaching vertical boarding. Horizontal rails were fixed across between the columns and the vertical boarding nailed to these with approximately 20mm air gaps.
All that was left to do was cut all the side boards to the correct height and fix them before fixing the end cover strip which is fixed over (and through the roofing sheets) and covers the top of the side timbers to give a nice clean finish. We’ve always been keen that it would be hidden in the landscape as much as possible so deliberately set in the lowest spot and formed a soil bank in front of it.
The barn is landscaped into the surroundings so that once we have planted the soil bank in front of it it will be almost completely hidden.
At the end of part 3 John and Jonathan were leaning smugly against the frame having assembled it. Each sheet of corrugated steel is 1m wide when lapped with its neighbour and they can be bought in any length to cover the exact span (remembering to leave enough overhang for the gutter).
John marks where to fix the sheets by hooking a line over the last fixing and along the centre of the purlin. If you don’t carefully mark the line of the purlin you risk having a hole in your roof and nothing underneath to screw into! The screws should be tightened down until they are holding firmly but not crushing the corrugation.
Here you can see the fixed roof with another sheet waiting to be fixed as I work my way across the roof. So the roof will soon be finished and then I only have to fix the side cladding boards and do a bit of tidying up etc which I hope to show in the last part. Unfortunately everything then went on hold due to a combination of the wet weather and us starting the building work on the house.
In essence I am using 200mm x 200mm upright columns each with a cut in one end to accept 200mm x 100mm cross beams; these will be bolted together.
After Erecting the 200mm x 200mm Columns the 200mm x 100mm cross beams are drilled and bolted in place. Getting the first cross pieces into place was a tad tricky as nothing was really secured and it was all a bit wobbly! We also found that it needed some triangular braces between horizontal beams and columns to increase its stability.So these were duly added and treated with preservative. The story of our property refurbishment and building 2 extensions has been documented in a very haphazard manner in various posts.
The photo above shows the new sun-room from the back; the wood cladding is Accoya, a preserved timber, that is meant to last for 60 years and is very stable in wet weather.
In view of the extreme weather in Wales we sourced the aluminium bifold doors from Solarlux in Germany. Barry Wade of Wade Furniture, a local cabinet maker, made and fitted the new kitchen for us.
The living area had to have sufficient space for our Quad ELS63 loudspeakers made by Quad hifi in 1963! The new ensuite shower room has John’s niches in the wall for shampoo etc as he hates those wire basket things! So there you have it 7 months of building work, a lot of expense but we have a lovely warm environmentally friendly house that we love.
The water services are installed, sleeved in conduit and you can see the start of the bathroom stud wall.
By the beginning of August 2012 the concrete has been poured into the footings, the below ground block work done, the slab poured and block work is starting to rise above ground. Meanwhile inside the original bathroom floor for some inexplicable reason was finished above the height of the bedroom floor. The builders Jones and Maher of Carmarthen have continued demolishing the interior of the house and by the first week in July they had inserted the new structural steelwork to support the new mezzanine level and where we are extending our bedroom into the existing bathroom (which is really too large). John tends to see Phil the site foreman most days and we’re pretty sure that he (Phil) now thinks that he has a client with OCD. Much of our time is spent just trying to think ahead; for instance it is necessary to decide on the floor finishes as the finished floor heights for the extensions will need to be calculated taking these into account.
Of course having decided to start work in summer the weather has remained extremely wet, which hasn’t helped with digging the foundations for the new extensions. The excavations for the porch and utility room show the steel tied into the existing foundations. After moving here to Wales we had the idea of building a porch to help reduce the draught into the house in Winter. Realising that this needed to be done well we set out to find someone to could put our ideas on paper.
We did consider installing a ground source heat pump but ultimately decided against this on the grounds of cost. To cut a long story short, after a 6 month battle with the planners (including having to employ Planning Consultants) we ended up with Planning Permission to build two contemporary timber clad extensions. So after 18 months of design, trauma and an ever increasing budget we moved out of the house on the 11th June 2012 (into rented accommodation) and the builders moved in to start gutting what most people would see as a perfectly adequate dwelling. And after a week or so the builders stripped out the house now the long process of putting it back together starts! Choose your subscription package Individual Team access Student Individual This subscription package has been designed to help architects thrive in the workplace by providing them with their essential 5 a day - news, buildings, business, culture and opinion. Cheap, robust and quick to construct, block work is still a staple element of most new buildings.
Bricks and blocks are components of durable masonry construction in which uniformly shaped individual units are laid in courses with mortar as the bed and binding material. Brickwork is usually left exposed for its aesthetic qualities and blockwork is usually rendered, but most bricks and blocks can be used as facing materials or given a render coating. Conventional brick veneer construction places the high mass of brickwork on the outside of the building, where it contributes little to the thermal performance of the building but takes advantage of the capacity bricks possess for long life and low maintenance. Reverse brick veneer, in which the brickwork or blockwork is the inside skin tied to an otherwise conventional lightweight stud-framed construction, takes advantage of the material’s thermal mass properties.
In double brick, the two leaves of brick walls are separated by a cavity that reduces thermal transmission and prevents moisture being transferred directly from the outside wall face to the interior of the building. Solid brick or blockwork walls deliver good loadbearing capacity along with substantial thermal mass to provide a unique combination of structural, thermal and aesthetic benefits. Clay and concrete brickwork have low thermal resistance and therefore relatively poor insulation values. The thermal resistance of brick and blockwork walls, including veneer or cavity construction, can be greatly enhanced by adding foil or bulk insulation. Due to their mass, brick and blockwork walls provide excellent sound insulation, particularly for low frequency noise. The Building Code of Australia (BCA) has specific requirements for sound attenuation in multi-unit dwellings which can be satisfied by providing two leaves of 110mm clay bricks with a cavity of 50mm between leaves and a 13mm cement render on each outside surface (see Noise control). Clay bricks are affordable, readily available, mass-produced, thoroughly tested modular building components. The use of clay and concrete brickwork is informed by extensive Australian research, manufacturing and construction experience. Blockwork is construction with concrete or cement blocks that are larger than a standard clay or concrete brick.
Autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) is used to make a special kind of concrete blockwork much lighter than normal concrete and with significantly higher thermal resistance (see Autoclaved aerated concrete).
Clay brickwork is available in a wide variety of natural colours and textures derived from fired clay used in combination with cement mortar joints of various colours and finishes. The colour of concrete bricks and blocks — light to medium grey — is a consequence of the cement used in their manufacture. Concrete blocks come in a variety of densities, and should be matched to the required application. The voids in hollow concrete blocks can accommodate reinforcement rods (a typical detail for retaining wall construction) or be filled with a variety of insulating materials to improve their thermal resistance. Although traditional brickwork often included the use of partial or full arches, these forms are rarely used structurally in modern construction.
Similarly, concrete bricks and blocks are inert, do not give off volatile materials and are non-toxic once manufactured. Clay and concrete brickwork and blockwork consist of dense inorganic materials that do not harbour vermin. Although not completely waterproof, clay brickwork walls resist the penetration of rainwater, including wind-driven rain.
Clay bricks can be subject to fretting where the surface of the brick progressively spalls off.
Concrete bricks are designed to perform in a similar way to clay bricks and have a surface finish that resists the penetration of rainwater. Concrete blocks are porous and need to be treated, coated or covered to prevent moisture wicking through the material. The manufacture of bricks and blocks in either clay or concrete uses energy but the investment of embodied energy is repaid by the longevity of the material. The use of fly ash in some concrete block manufacture replaces the energy-intensive material of cement with a waste product from power stations. As a result of the long history of building with cavity brick, brick veneer and concrete blockwork in Australia, there is a huge body of knowledge and experience on standards and techniques for these construction systems. Clay and concrete bricks are manufactured throughout Australia and are available at competitive prices. Brick veneer — the construction system of choice for most domestic builders — is one of the most economical ways of building in Australia.
The prevalence of brick veneer construction means that the availability of the materials and skills to build brick veneer is generally very good; it is the construction system of choice for most domestic builders and this contributes to it being one of the most economical ways of building in Australia. Double brick or double masonry typically requires that the inside leaf (in an equivalent position to studwork in a lightweight frame structure) is structurally sound before roof framing can begin. Reverse brick and masonry veneer uses trades and techniques that are familiar to the domestic builders but arranged in a different configuration. Solid brick and blockwork walls are mostly used for internal walls and generally the only buildability issues arise from their connection with other components of the building and impacts that may have on the construction program.


Volumes 1 and 2 of the BCA provide the regulatory framework for the design and construction of masonry.
Brick and blockwork industry bodies and many of the manufacturing companies publish design manuals and standard details.
For clay and concrete brickwork houses, concrete footings and concrete raft slabs should comply with AS 2870, Residential slabs and footings. For other brick and blockwork buildings, concrete footings and concrete slabs should be designed and constructed in accordance with AS 3600, Concrete structures.
For brick veneer and reverse brick veneer houses, frames provide the required strength and stability.
In architecturally designed homes the use of frames in association with clay and concrete brick or block walls may help the designer to better exploit the qualities of bricks to achieve particular outcomes. Critical to the function of any building is the ability of the walls to support suspended floors in addition to the roof and walls in the storeys above. Major anchorages (such as roof tie-down anchorages) should be built into brick or blockwork during construction. Minor anchorages (such as hanging light loads from walls) may employ any of the wide range of commercially available proprietary mechanical or chemical anchors. Most commercially available doors and windows are manufactured to be compatible with standard brick sizes, in either veneer or cavity construction. The loadbearing masonry walls of this Rockhampton house are constructed of hollow blocks made from waste fly ash, externally rendered. External face clay brickwork capitalises on the broad variety of colours, textures and finishes of Australian bricks, mixed and matched with coloured or plain mortars in struck, ironed, pointed or raked joints. Internal brick and blockwork loadbearing walls, firewalls and acoustic partitions are usually painted, rendered or sheeted with plasterboard. Two-and-a-half times lighter than concrete or clay, it has a higher insulation value than brick, concrete or earth masonry, with moderate thermal mass and a high fire resistance. Timbercrete is a lightweight composite masonry material available in bricks, blocks, panels and pavers. The cutting of stone into building blocks is an ancient tradition and the basis of some of the world’s oldest buildings but it is rarely part of modern construction. This stone wall provides thermal mass and a strong visual feature for a passive solar home in the Adelaide Hills. In modern Australian housing, stone masonry is typically used for feature walls, fireplaces, garden walls and landscaping. Manufactured stone, which is essentially moulded and coloured concrete, has become increasingly popular, particularly for stone veneer applications.
Even the lightest stone, such as Mount Gambier limestone, has substantial thermal mass and its use should be considered carefully to gain maximum performance benefits in your home’s passive design. There is little thermal insulation value in most stone masonry, particularly when used as a veneer, but it can provide good sound insulation (see Noise control). Stone masonry is extremely durable — it has provided some of history’s most enduring monuments — but its moisture resistance varies enormously. Traditional stonework requires a high level of specialist skill but although moves to introduce Australia’s first accredited course in stone masonry didn’t begin until early 2012, stone masons can be found in all parts of Australia, often with qualifications and training from other countries. The cost of stone masonry varies widely, generally according to the quality of the stone and the labour involved.
Also known as glass bricks, glass blocks share some of the properties of both blockwork and glazing. Glass blocks have higher thermal insulation values than double glazing and are approximately equivalent to double brick walls. The customer asked for a section of unstable boundary wall to be demolished and rebuilt, complete with topping stones (dragons teeth) running the length of the section.  Work involved taking the existing wall down to ground level and rebuilding to original height using the original stones. The customer asked for the dividing wall to be rebuilt.  Work involved partial demolishion of the wall, rebuilding, heightening and straightening. The customer asked for section of brick wall to be rebuilt.  Work involved partial demolishion of the wall, cleaning existing brick, rebuilding and finishing with copings.
Panoramio - Photo of 19th century Northamptonshire Iron stone blockwork building Guilsborough village. This is how your name and profile photo will appear on Panoramio if you connect this Google+ account. Manthorpe’s Cavity Tray Stepped System is for use where a pitch abutment meets the vertical external wall of a house.
The GW293 Catchment Tray is fitted first at the corner of the abutting roof and provides a collection point for water at the bottom of the step system. Once the Catchment Tray is in place, Manthorpe’s Intermediate Trays, GW291 or GW292, are simply built in above the finished roofline in a stepped fashion. These funnel water from tier to tier until it reaches the Catchment Tray and is safely vented through the Weep Vent. In this way the Manthorpe System guarantees complete protection from rain that has been wind-driven through the external wall and threatens to run down the inside of an abutment.
All trays include unique angled ribs which trap falling mortar, preventing debris from blocking the tray.
Like the GW293, once installation is complete, the lead locating strips attached to the front of the intermediate trays are designed to be easily removed to reveal a chased out slot, thus removing the need to grind out any mortar. In applications where a roof abutment ends at the corner of a building the Manthorpe Corner Catchment Tray replaces the regular Catchment Tray.
Manthorpe has developed its range of cavity trays for applications where random stone or blockwork is specified. Fans of TV renovation show The Block: Sky High were out in force in Melbourne over the weekend as the renovated property featured in the show was opened up to the public for the first time.
The hard-working stars of the show also turned out for the weekend, taking time off between bouts of grouting to sign autographs and pose in photos for the crowd.
A sea of orange balloons, all picked up from the E&S trading stall on the open weekend. This series isn't just for landscapers and gardeners starting out: it's also a refresher for existing businesses.
This is to ensure that the columns cannot move laterally in any direction even if hit with a tractor and to provide a support to keep the bottom rail for the cladding off the ground. The bottom one supported on a brick and the centre one by a vertical timber off the bottom rail. Some people have asked about costings and this is of course a lot more than if we had used telegraph poles and second hand roofing sheets.
After Jonathan went back home to Spain, I (John) carried on fixing the 75mm x 50mm purlins across the rafters.
They are nailed to the rafters and also have galvanised straps at places for ‘a belt and braces’ approach to gusting wind!
The Tek screw fixing are self cutting but I found it easier to either drill a pilot hole or just bang a small nail through. They can be capped of with plastic caps (a dab of silicone under the cap before putting them on is not a bad idea to stop them coming loose). I found a local sawmill here in Carmarthenshire and Rocco at Talley sawmills sourced some larch and cut it to my specifications. Then rafters will span across the barn and these are  200mm x 100mm above each column with (2) 200mm x 50mm rafters in each bay.The latter will be secured by upside down joist hangers. The gutters will be replaced with something more sympathetic when we get round to painting the rest of the house!
This means that the bathroom floor needs to be broken up to lay a new slab at the correct height.
We’ve spent the best part of a year planning this work to include the extensions, underfloor heating, increased insulation in the floors and vaulted roof, solar hot water, and a new kitchen (as we are relocating some of the old one into the utility room). As the windows and front doors are being ordered from Rationel, a Danish company (with manufacturing plant in Poland) and come pre finished it is necessary to decide on colours at the outset; so that they can be ordered in advance to arrive at the correct time. This lead us to  local architects Llewelyn Lewis Sennik (Gareth and Anita) who also concluded that if we were going that far we might as well have a Utility Room as well and also do any other upgrading at the same time.
As we already have solar PV providing some free electric and indexed linked payments of around ?1500 per annum and our own woodland providing us with free wood for the woodburner we decided that a few hundred pounds of oil a year will be all that is needed to keep us warm in the coldest periods (I think that is what economists call a cost benefit analysis!) with all the extra insulation we are installing. When looking to reduce the environmental impact of block work, look for high levels of recycled aggregates, lower levels of cement and increasingly available alternatives to concrete.Block work is something of a necessity in a building. They consist of high mass materials with good compressive strength formed into units that can be lifted and handled by a single worker.
Each method has its environmental and economic merits and it is important to understand the reasons for choosing any given method in building your home.
It can produce high performing buildings with lower than average energy demands for both heating and cooling.
The internal leaf, or skin, may be plasterboard-lined concrete blockwork, with the external skin in facing brick. Internal walls of solid brick or blockwork provide well-located thermal mass that can be either self-supporting or load bearing.
Combined with internal and external air films and a cavity, they achieve moderate thermal resistance. Wall insulation should be accompanied by appropriate detailing to avoid thermal transfers by bridging through window and door frames, by radiation through window openings or by convection through leakage (see Insulation). The firing transforms the clay into a building component with high compressive strength and excellent weathering qualities, attributes that have been exploited for millennia. Their most desirable acoustic and thermal properties derive from their relatively high mass. They share many of the same attributes of clay bricks but may require more control joints, may stain more easily and their colour may be subject to fading over time. To make them lighter and easier to work with they have a hollow core that also improves their insulation capacity.
The colour of clay bricks is a direct consequence of the clay they are made from and the process of firing. Other colours from pigments added to the concrete mix are subject to changes from fading and weathering. Both clay and concrete brickwork walls can readily support relatively high loads such as suspended concrete slabs.
These provide the means for determining the strength of clay brickwork walls when subjected to horizontal loads resulting from wind, earthquake or fire (see Construction systems). High density blocks are generally made from cast concrete and aggregate, whereas lower density blocks may use fly ash or cinder.
If a building with internal masonry walls and concrete floors is subjected to a heating and cooling cycle that crosses the comfort zone, the walls and floors will maintain a relatively stable level of heat energy for an extended period. Clay brickwork and its constituents are non-toxic; however, when handling cement (used in the mortar) or cutting brickwork with a masonry saw, observe the manufacturer’s safety procedures to minimise the risk of skin irritation and lung damage. Termite resistance may be achieved in a variety of ways, including proprietary termite barriers developed for use with brickwork.
The requirements for bricks, mortar, built-in components and reinforcement to achieve various levels of durability are tabulated in AS 3700-2001, Masonry structures.


This is caused by water migrating in the wall and transporting salt to the brick surface where it forms crystals that grow in voids in the brick and break off from the brick surface as they expand. As with clay bricks, general detailing and construction should seek to eliminate moisture penetration, typically with cavity walling. Masonry homes have a long life and low maintenance requirements and are highly recyclable, adding to their potential as a sustainable form of construction. After cleaning they can either be directly reused as bricks or crushed for making path and road surfaces. Even in remote areas, bricks and blocks can be supplied at moderate prices due to the wide availability of truck transport and back-loading opportunities. The external, lightweight leaf requires waterproofing treatment and the building’s openings require slightly different detailing.
AS 4773.1-2010, Masonry in small buildings — Design, sets out minimum requirements for the design of unreinforced and reinforced masonry for use in small buildings and specifies requirements for the design and specification of masonry with a leaf thickness of at least 90mm in buildings of Class 1 and Class 10a, as defined by the BCA. Timber frames should comply with AS 1684, Residential timber framed construction, and steel frames should comply with AS 3623, Domestic metal framing (see Lightweight framing). In most cases, the inclusion of concrete floor slabs dictates the use of loadbearing masonry. For high wind uplift, anchorages should pass down the cavity and be tied into supporting concrete slabs or footings. Information on the required sizes of openings and fixing information is available on the internet and from window manufacturers. Clay brickwork is often used for internal feature walls — a particularly appropriate approach for reverse brick veneer construction. Although concrete blocks can be used as facing material they are usually rendered to improve both aesthetics and their resistance to water penetration. It is a lightweight composite masonry material invented in Australia, and is available in the form of bricks, blocks, panels and pavers. Timbercrete is manufactured in a range of blocks and bricks varying in thickness from 90mm up to 300mm. It is available in a wide range of colours, textures, sizes or shapes that can be specified by the purchaser. When stone masonry is used in modern Australian housing it is almost invariably as a kind of veneer. Its appearance can range from regular smooth-faced ashlar blocks to highly textured, knobbly, random rubble.
Its thermal lag properties may be useful in mild climates but should not be confused with insulation (see Thermal mass). However, if used in loadbearing situations, it can crack and crumble in very hot fires, depending on thickness and type.
Generally, the harder the stone the greater its moisture resistance, but any flaws, porosity or cracking that allow moisture penetration will compromise its overall resistance to weathering, particularly in frost-prone regions.
A surprising amount of stone is imported into Australia, including specialist marbles from Italy and cheap slate from India.
You may consider stone building as a self-builder, but first seek extensive advice from qualified masons and builders. In a recent innovation to improve thermal efficiency, a sheet of floating glass is set between the two halves of the block to create two chambers that are filled with argon gas, reducing thermal transmission by 50%. Rain water is caught by the tray and drains from either end on to the Left or Right Hand Intermediate Trays.
The water is picked up, either at the apex or further down the step system, is funnelled from tier to tier and is then safely vented through a Weep Vent when it reaches the Catchment Tray. Another member of the team loads out the blocks from the front garden and brings the remaining sand to the rear garden, my landing platform soon becomes clear for the next delivery.With all the measurements double checked I install the first course of 225mm wide concrete blockwork. The project became more of a timber framed building than a pole barn; but you could easily adapt it and just put telegraph pole uprights straight into the ground (or concrete them in) if the land was suitable. It also means that I can pour preservative or perhaps waste oil down between the brick and the wood every year or two to stop the base rotting! All the timber was supplied treated so no need for any preservative other than on the cut ends and joints. We then had to constantly check that columns were plumb and that distances were the same between openings etc. The building work was meant to be finished by the end of November but has been delayed by the anhydrite screed not drying out fast enough. I estimate that we should receive around ?600 or ?700 a year more in payments for the PV panels and solar HW than we will payout in energy costs.
In addition we would be improving the heating and fitting Solar Hot Water Panels to compliment our recently fitted solar PV Panels.
We took the decision to retire in our mid 50's (deciding that quality of life was more important than money) and retired in 2010 and moved to South West Wales in November of the same year to start a new life on our 23 acre smallholding that lies in a hidden valley near Carmarthen. Clay honeycomb blocks have been used on the continent for years, but are now becoming more common in the UK. It is quite feasible to use each method in the same home but generally more economical, logistically sound and environmentally effective to use just one or two. They require little or no maintenance and possess high durability and loadbearing capacity. Clay brickwork is commonly used in construction of up to four storeys and with suitable detailing can be used for loadbearing walls in much higher buildings. In summer they will remain relatively cool, and in winter the same building will remain relatively warm (see Thermal mass). Clay and concrete brick and blockwork does not burn when exposed to bushfire and can help protect the more combustible items inside a house.
For this reason external brickwork is generally constructed with a space separating it from the internal leaf in the form of brick veneer or cavity walling.
Appropriate use of damp courses and good detailing to avoid moisture penetration and build-up can eliminate most of the risk of fretting. Because of their inert, inorganic nature, crushed clay bricks may also be used as part of the growing medium of extensive green roofs (see Green roofs and walls). Consider transport energy costs for any long-distance movement of heavy material (see Embodied energy).
It is quick, uses no wet trades and allows roofs to be erected early in the building process (see Lightweight framing). As a result, reverse veneer is generally more expensive than conventional brick veneer and there may be some differences in the building program that slightly extend construction time. Footings for brick veneer buildings are generally smaller than the corresponding footings for cavity brickwork. Industry bodies provide comprehensive manuals with charts and tables for the design of loadbearing masonry walls.
Windows and doors may be built into walls by setting the attached ties in the mortar joints.
Higher anchorage strength can be achieved if set into the bricks or blocks rather than the mortar.
Made from excess sawmill waste from plantation timbers mixed with sand and binders such as Portland cement and a non-toxic deflocculating additive, it is cured using sun and wind and has a lower embodied energy than traditional fired bricks. The natural colour of stone ranges from the near-white of marble and limestone through the light yellows and reds of sandstone to the darker hues of granite. Modern Australian quarrying techniques include site remediation but stone sourced from overseas may be from quarries that do not have such advanced environmental management.
Check the provenance of stone intended for use in your home if you have any concerns about transport energy or the labour conditions in its point of origin.
Made from two halves of heat-proof glass pressed together, the modern, industrially produced hollow glass block dates from the early decades of the 20th century. No weep holes are required as this walling is not a retaining wall and no materials will be placed against it, its purely a feature wall.Installing DPC225mm wide DPC, damp-proof course, this flexible plastic sheet is a barrier in all garden landscaping walls and is designed to resist moisture rising through the structure.
So with the help of a chainsaw I reduced the columns to a height that gave sufficient access for a tractor but that was not too high so as to be visible from the house and from the other side of the valley. It could be built for half of this by careful sourcing of things like second hand roofing sheets etc. We hope to improve the land, plant more trees and make our home less dependent on expensive energy sources.
Their convenience and cost effectiveness have made them a popular alternative to clay bricks although they require an additional finish for reasons of aesthetics and water resistance. Clay brickwork is most commonly used uncoated to display the richness and texture of the material. The other potentially major impact of using stone is in its transportation — you should try to use stone sourced from local, quarries whenever possible. Glass blocks can be set directly in mortar as part of a brick or blockwork wall, and although a wall or panel of glass blocks is essentially self-supporting, they are generally set in a frame, usually steel or aluminium (and sometimes UPVC), and fixed with silicone to help accommodate differential movement relative to the containing wall.
Dense concrete blocks with their properties of durability and strength are typically selected for load bearing walls.
Large amounts of granite used in conjunction with well-sealed construction may require appropriate ventilation to eliminate the build-up of radon, but this is rarely a concern in Australia. However, after spending the Christmas break grinding off the top surface of the screed with a grinder it has started to dry quite quickly and we are hoping that the builders can start tiling the floors on their return after the New Year break. Often chosen for infill, lightweight blocks offer greater savings in time and cost, but are less strong. They are also highly sustainable due to their ability to sequester carbon, but are yet to become common place in the UK building industry. Thermalite Hi-Strength Smooth FaceHanson’s Thermalite blocks are lightweight, meaning they can be laid more quickly.
The sheets can be bought as plain galvanised or painted or plastic coated with the price and durability increasing accordingly. Aerated concrete blocks have commonly been used in the UK since the 1960s and provide both structure and insulation. They are produced by adding aluminium powder to the mix, which allows a chemical reaction to occur, producing air bubbles in the concrete.Walls usually make up the largest surface area of a building, so ensuring good thermal mass and low U-values is important. The use of block work offers the potential for high thermal mass, especially if used to create not just the external walls, but also internal partitions.Concrete has long been criticised for its environmental impact. However, the industry is making improvements; through encouraging the use of alternatives to cement, the environmental impact is being reduced.
Ground granulated blast furnace slag (GGBS), can typically be used to replace up to fifty per cent of the cement in a concrete mix. Another common alternative is pulverised fuel ash, a waste product of combustion in coal fired power stations. For optimum strength, this can replace fifteen per cent of the cement in standard blocks, and up to fifty per cent in aerated blocks.
For structural stability concrete must be poured into the cavity, surrounding steel reinforcement bars.



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