House building, 8

House building in Brisbane 
Welcome to my page 8, house building in Brisbane 
House building

This is a typical low set timber house of the sixties, in those times we were replacing the timber stumps with other materials as shown here.  

House building in Brisbane

Welcome to my page, House building in Brisbane;
In this page we are going to talk again about building work; House building in Brisbane in the sixties; Brick bases under timber houses, and, Working as a bricklayers' labour.
What we are going to talk about next might seem strange to people that live in the old continent of Europe as over there most houses are made of masonry, as the timber over there is more expansive than in Australia. Of course there might also be other good reasons why they are made of masonry, perhaps it is because of the colder climate, you see thick walls of masonry would absorb the heat during summer and act as storage of this heat by releasing it slowly during the colder months, and perhaps other reasons as well, anyhow houses over there would be built mostly from masons bricklayer and concreter, and the carpenters would only play a smaller part than they do in Australia, as the carpenters would be building some form-work and the roofs only, when the roofs were made of timber, because even the roofs sometimes are made of concrete.
Therefore when we the European migrants that came to Australia in the sixties thought this is strange, and we have to say that we had a real surprise to see that the carpenter played the role of builders, when houses were being built, because most houses here were mainly made of timber, we are saying this here just to compare houses building, between the old continent and Australia in those times, and we are not saying that this was good or bad practice, since we soon accepted the way of life we found and we thought there must be a good reason for it.
So, we all did what we had to do in whatever employment we found, and those of us who ended up working in the building industry just did what we were told to do. But as we all know just about everything changes with time and also the building of house would slowly change, as we will see later on even this sort of building houses with timber would slowly change even here. Now that we have made this comparison, let us go back to what I was doing myself in helping to build these houses; this help will become self explained as we keep writing what we were doing.   Therefore let us talk about how most houses were being built by teams of workers, because that is how we were building houses in South East Queensland in the sixties.

During the sixties in Brisbane most house were still being built of timber, on concrete or bricks stumps and a brick basement. 

 House building in the sixties

House building in Brisbane in the sixties
In the sixties and seventies most houses building were done from teams of subcontractors, who had their own team of building workers, even if they were only a small team of two or three people, like the team I was working with, which had two tradesman and one labour as myself, as we have already explained in the previous hub. Now let me go over very briefly what sort of teams were there; first of all there would be the concreters and bricklayers, which usually could be the same team, as we were mostly building small houses that did not have a lot to do with these trades, as the main work would be for the carpenters, therefore there would be carpenter team, then the roof, the electrician and the plumber and the plasters. The work of the builder, which most times was the leading carpenter; because he had the largest job, so, he not only would build the timber frame of the house, but also would organise all the teams in a way that would be appropriate, so that they were not in each other way while they were working and finally do all the finishing work required.
In those times to be a builder of these stand alone houses on an approved block of land was easy, as long as you were a building tradesman and had some knowledge of building and you had the money to build them, or you had a lender that would give you money to build, you had this opportunity to build one of these houses, of course there were local authority inspections to be had while we were building and at the end of it, but if you knew what you were doing it was easy to pass. So there were so many house builders around that would hire these teams of building workers as we were.
I need to say that there are good reasons to believe that the building industry in Australia is one of the main driving forces of the economy, since it employs lots of new comers that are willing to do some hard physical work to earn their living, you see you don’t need to be a very learned person to work on the building, all you need is some common knowledge of things and enough English to understand what is wanted from you if you know what you are doing, or you work with some people that speak your native language and they explain to you what you need to do.
I believe that in the sixties and seventies there were very good opportunities to work on building houses in the building industry, because the price of the houses were more affordable than they are today. Just looking back at those prices we could say that one of those cheaper houses would be worth about four time the average wage of a person working full time for a year, so people would be able to afford them, and therefore those builders that were building them were able to sell their houses soon enough at a decent profit that would enable them to build other house.
As we all know everything changes with the passing of time and there are usually good reasons for them to change, as we usually become aware when we look back at the changes that have taken place. So let us look at what has taken place in the houses and other building accommodations in the building industry.
You see in the beginning houses in Brisbane were mostly made of timber and they were set on timber stumps, then in the sixties because the timber stumps would rot or they would be attacked by white ants they gave way to concrete stumps, and also some brick walls under the house. Then from just a brick wall in front of the house they changed to a full brick base and some concrete stumps or steel posts, then came the era of the brick veneer and finally concrete and cavity bricks.
Now that we have said a few things about the history of house building in Brisbane, let us talk about my contribution in the building industry and what I did during the earlier part of my working building houses. If I remember right in my last hub I was talking about how we were concreting the stumps for a new house, and we also had laid the foundations for some brickwork, therefore now, let us talk about the brickwork base under the house.

 Brick based houses

Brick base under timber houses
As we have already mentioned before, there were many type of houses being built in those times and some of them had a brick base or just the front wall under the house built in bricks. So, this was another job that we did with our small team of bricklayer and concrete workers.
In order to be efficient and competitive a small team that lays bricks needs to be made of two bricklayers and a labour, of course there can be any sort of teams and larger teams that can work well with a different number of people, but anyhow this is what was like then and as I said our team had two bricklayer and a labour as myself.
Now that I have explained my position let us start working so that I can describe how things work out and who does what and how it should be done. It is usually the leader of the bricklayer team that decides from where to start. But if he is not there then it is up to whoever is there to start getting ready where the bricklayers have to start. This is not hard to know because to lay bricks you need to start from the lowest part of the foundation, So when I was working as a labour I would get ready the bricks and the combo boards, at the lowest point of the foundation, so that when the bricklayer had to start all I had to do to start them going was to give them fresh mixed mortar on these combo boards, and then continue to supply them with brick and mortar as required, I suppose that it is hard work for the labour and also for the bricklayer, because at the end of the day one has to handle so many bricks, since in a day a bricklayer on a normal wall is supposed to lay on average up to 500 face bricks, or up to a thousand common bricks, of course this is just wishful thinking and most times we didn’t but we had to try to get there. This is how the team usually works, but now let me break it down and describe to you what the labour does and then what the bricklayers have to do, as I know all this because later I became and worked as a bricklayer for decades myself, but now let us talk about what the bricklayers’ labour has to do.

 Working as a bricklayer labour

What do you do when you are working as a brickies labour?
The brickies labour job is hard work as I have said above and it is also a semiskilled work, since he has got to know how to go about to supply mortar and bricks to the bricklayer at the right time in the right place. It is obvious that he has to have at his disposition a mixer to mix mortar and two wheelbarrows and sometimes other small devises to help him achieve that.
Here I need to point out that to start a new job it is very hard, as the ground on the site is not flat and generally there are hips of dirt around the foundations where the brick or block walls are going to be built, so, the labour needs first of all to flatten the ground a bit so that the mortar boards and the bricks can be positioned at the right distance from the foundation, usually this is about 60 centimetre plus from the walls that are being built, so that the bricklayers have enough room to move and at the same time they can reach the bricks and the mortar boards without walking; in order to achieve that there needs to be one mortar boards and then one stack of bricks and again one mortar board and another stack of brick and so on for the whole length of the wall being built. Now that we have made it ready and the bricklayers are going to start to lay bricks soon, let me prepare the mortar, which some people may call cement or combo.
Preparing or mixing the mortar
Here again there are rules to follow how to mix good mortar, so, one has to keep in mind first of all what sort of material is available and can be delivered on the local site, because quantity and quality may vary a bit with the locality. Anyhow let us assume that for this job a load of brickies loam has been delivered on the site; in this case this brickies loam has some lumps in it, so it needs to be screened before or after mixing the mortar, as I have already screened some of it I am ready to mix it now.
So I start the mixer and put in some clean water, and a small measure of mortar mix (this is a chemical that helps the mortar to be more workable) then I put in say a shovel full of Portland cement and four shovels full of brickies loam, this is how we usually mix mortar to lay bricks, it is one part of cement to four parts of loam by volume, therefore for bigger batches you can have say; three shovels full of cement and twelve shovelful of loam and so on. Of course sometimes these quantities can vary, if for instance it is written in the specifications that the mortar has to be made with different amount of materials.
Anyhow let me go back to this batch of mortar that I have just mixed to the right consistency; Now, I take the wheelbarrow near the mixer and tip the mortar in the wheelbarrow, and then take the wheelbarrow with the mortar near the mortar boards, here I wet the mortar boards before I place the mortar on them and finally I am ready for the bricklayers to get started. From now on I have to make sure that the bricklayers have always enough mortar and bricks, otherwise the bricklayers will we shouting at me Bricks! Or combo! (Or mortar!)
Dear readers if I have missed a few things you just have to use your own common sense to get everything going the right way, you see most things on the building site is just plain common sense.
I believe that I have said enough in this hub and although there is a lot to be said about the bricklayer, how they are going to lay the bricks for this brick base, I am going to leave it for next hub, which we are going to call, DIY brickwork, here I will try to explain it in as many details as I can how to build a house base with bricks, in fact we are going to write a group of articles about bricklaying and other building trades, here I hope that I can line them up in such a way that would make it easy to follow them. Anyhow, see you soon in our next hub, DIY brickwork.


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