Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Building a brick veneer

Welcome to our blog, Menfranco general blog
and this post, building a brick veneer
This post may be helpful to a do it yourself builder that his building his own brick veneer, because he could check if is way is the only way how these things are done.

A typical brick veneer being built. In this case it seems that the insulating paper has not been fixed to the wall.

Brick veneer, in this photo it shows how most times the insulating paper has been already nailed to the walls, before the bricklayers come to lay their bricks.

Building a brick veneer
As we have already mentioned that the difference in the construction of the base between a timber house and a brick veneer house is not that much, as it affects only the outside of the house and possibly the floor space of the house if the extra space needed for the bricks is not taken into account. But how we proceed to build these two types of building on a similar brick base is this: If the outside of the house is going to be timber, the outside of the timber bears and the entire timber frame is placed right at the outside edge of the brickwork, but before we do that on top of the brick walls a galvanized ants capping will be fixed, then the timber bears and the house frame; but if it is going to be brick veneer then the reverse happens and the timber bears and frame is set back about 6 inches (150mm) this is to give space for the bricks and leave a cavity between the timber frame and the bricks, the ants capping goes inside or at least under the timber bears.
Now just because we are going to build a brick veneer house, the carpenters have placed the house frame back to allow for the bricks to be laid outside, in the cases of brick veneer the carpenter’s foreman should have also instructed his carpenter team to try to work with the bricklayers and set the opening of doors and windows in such a way that would help the bricklayers; now, let me explain here what are the problems that the bricklayer could encounter if both teams don’t work together. For example, there is a short wall that has a door opening in the centre, if the door opening is placed exactly in the centre, then the bricklayers might have to cut the bricks on both sides of the door to make them fit the length of the remaining wall beside the door opening, this not only will add extra work for the bricklayer, but is also could be a bit of an eye sore if the walls are face brick and therefore these sort of things should be avoided, wherever one could avoid them.
So, what could be done one may ask? What could be done here it to move the door opening a bit to one side, so that at least one side works to the bricklayer advantage and if he is lucky both sides could work with a full brick, therefore no bricks need to be cut shorter to fit in the wall between the door and the corners? This same principle applies in other parts of the brick wall, when there are two openings, the carpenter wherever he can should move the openings of the windows and door to help the bricklayers. You see when the bricklayers work on these brick veneer, usually there is a lot of extra work that the bricklayer does instead of just laying bricks and this is no good for him, because these extra jobs don’t make any money for him.
The bricklayer part
Now that we have explained what the variations for the carpenter are when he sets up the timber frame for the brick veneer, we come to the bricklayer part and what he usually does when he works on a brick veneer house, because there are many other demanding small things to do in between while he is laying bricks; these other things need to be done as well if the house is going to be well built, as we have already mentioned above.
Apart laying bricks as usual, the fist other job that the bricklayer may encounter is that he has to place lintels over the opening of doors and windows of the brick base, if they happen to be at that level and most time they are, these lintels for brickwork are an Angle made of steel that would span over the openings, they come in various size and they are used according to the span they have to bridge. So when there are openings in the base brickwork, the bricklayer places this steel angle over the openings and then lays the bricks over them making sure that everything looks and is okay, he has also to lay some brick reinforcement in next course of bricks above the openings, or even all around the brick base, this reinforcement is in the form of a light galvanized mesh as we have already explained in our previous articles.
But this is not all, because in some cases when it is specified he might have to nail the rat-proof wire, or vermin wire (this is a wire mesh with holes too small for a rat and vermin to go through), so, the bricklayer first of all nails one side to the timber frame and the other side is laid in the joint of the bricks, thus a barrier is formed and no rat or vermin can enter into the cavity between the bricks and the timber frame. But that is not all, because there might also be the need to lay a damp-course, this again would be like the rat-proof wire, one end is nailed to the timber frame and the other end is laid in the brick joint.
At least this is how it was done when we were building brick veneer houses or apartments in the sixties and seventies; so we had this problem there to solve while we were laying bricks, I guess that at this point of time one might even ask, but if the bricklayer has to do all these extra small jobs, how and when he is going to lay bricks? These jobs should really be done from somebody else and let the bricklayer do his job and lay his bricks. Having said that we have to agree that those small jobs should be done from a different person, but there is a problem there also; those jobs need to be done when the wall reaches a certain height, so it is very hard to have somebody there that would do that job for us bricklayers. So we were forced to do it ourselves whether at the end we were compensated or not. You see, this is one of the main reasons why when we work on a brick veneer the bricklayer lays a lot less bricks per day than he usually does on a normal wall, but there are still more annoying things for the bricklayers to do as we will write here under.
Other things that the bricklayer does

We have already mentioned many things but there is more to say here, sometimes before we even start to lay bricks in the veneer part of the house, we bricklayers need to nail a sort of special building paper, this paper is just another layer of insulating material that is nailed on the outside of the timber studs that form the external timber frame; in reality it is the carpenters that should do this work, and if they are around once we have build the scaffolding in order to lay our bricks, the carpenters are very likely to jump in and nail this insulation paper for us, but it is very likely that we have to do it ourselves.
Other things that we need to do while laying bricks on the brick veneer, we need to nail to the timber studs brick veneer ties every three or four courses of bricks; These are L shaped brackets that attach the timber frame to the brick wall, we have to lay this wire reinforcement every so often, we have to nail the damp course under and above openings and other few things that need to be done before and while we lay bricks.
Once we finish building our veneer walls, most likely the last job is to lay these bricks for the windowsills. The windowsills take a lot of time and patience, usually we need to cut every brick in a special way and then lay them making sure that the joints are all even; in order to achieve that we use a gauge rod. Sometimes we are lucky and the same gauge rod that we have used to build the entire house works for some windowsills; if it does not then we have to work it out how to make this windowsill, we could make smaller joints or larger joints, as long as the outcome looks acceptable.
The cavity brick house
The difference between the brick veneer and the cavity brick house is this: in the brick veneer house all the walls are made of timber, and the timber frame is just like the complete timber house with the exception that the outside is veneered with bricks, so that the building looks is if it is made of bricks, but in reality the timber walls are the load bearing walls and they can stand on their own, if you cover them with something else other than bricks. But the cavity bricks is different, all the walls in the cavity bricks are made of bricks or blocks, or at least the external walls are made of two brick walls one beside the other with a cavity between them, these two external walls are tied together with cavity ties, in a way it is very much like the brick veneer where the timber external walls are tied together with ties to the veneer brick wall.
For the bricklayers the cavity brick house is easier to build, because he can set everything to suite his face brick walls, so this is an advantage for him. But in this case if there is no builder of foreman around the bricklayer needs to work out where the opening of doors and windows are and put them in place; this needs to be done because the door frames and the window frames need to be tied permanently to the brickwork while the work is in progress. So we should admit that this is not for the beginners, as it would take a good tradesman to do that.
There are a lot of other things that need to be done, some of them are just like what we have described for the brick veneer, but one thing in particular is different here; because the brick walls are load bearing walls and whatever goes above them need to be tied the wall properly, the bricklayers has to make sure that there are ties that are able to tie down the roof of the house permanently; this could be achieved by steel rods that start from the concrete floor or from the foundations. In some cases where there are not enough steel rods from the concrete below, the bricklayer can add some special made brackets several courses of bricks below the top, this is also good, but not as good as the steel rods that start from the foundations.
I believe that I have covered the most important things in building this imaginary house, so I hope that this article could help someone that is building his own house.
So see you all in another post about building soon.

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Menfranco general blog
Building a brick veneer
Next time with, another building post  
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