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Types of Construction

Concrete Homes
Concrete constructions are still the main method of building a house in Ireland. Traditional concrete buildings still dominate at least 85% of all new houses built in this country. The reason for this could be the lack of experience of other methods of construction within the building industry. There are obviously advantages and some disadvantages with every method of construction and this also applies to concrete homes.

Concrete buildings are mainly made of  a cavity wall made of blocks with rendered finish for the external walls and a masonry built partition walls for the internal walls.

As far as the construction time of this type of building it must be considered that it will not be as fast to construct as Timber Framed buildings but you should take into account that with Timber Framed buildings, the same amount of time will be taken back at the manufacturing location to construct the frames.

Advantages of Concrete Homes

  • Better known method of construction to the builders in Ireland so in some ways less problems.
  • Durable and fireproof.
  • Concrete blocks act as heat storage, therefore when the house is heated it will take longer before the heat emitted through the walls.
  • Solid walls for putting up things like kitchen cabinets or shelves.
  • Overall, a more quieter house as the sound does not travel well through concrete blocks.

Disadvantages of Concrete Homes

  • It takes longer to construct on site than a Timber Framed house.
  • It will take longer to heat up than a Timber Framed house.

Insulated Concrete Form
Insulated Concrete Form is the solution to taking advantage of the strengths of Concrete and to eliminate it’s disadvantages. The Irish building industry now has the ability to construct environmentally friendly buildings taking full advantage of the strength of a reinforced mass concrete monolithic structure using Rewards “iForm” and achieve a Calculated U-value of U = 0.24 W/m2*K. while at the same time producing faster builds. The ability to Pour up to 5 Metre lifts vertically at a time means a watertight building shell can be constructed quickly allowing internal services and finishes to be run independently of the external cladding eliminating delays to follow-on trades

Timber Framed Homes
Timber Framed constructions have been used very successful around the world for a long time and it is one of the main methods that is gaining popularity with the self builders of Ireland. As far as the look of a house you will not be able to differentiate between a Concrete Home and a Timber Framed home as they both have the same appearance on the outside. Both constructions have a similar type of finish for the external walls.

Timber Framed houses are mainly made of a softwood panels (Stud Walls) for internal walls and in most cases masonry construction for the external wall. The internal walls are made of the wooden panels with heat and sound installation inside.

Timber Framed houses are known to be popular due to the facts that they are more environmental friendly and energy efficient.

 Advantages of a Timber Framed Homes

  • Very fast as far as erecting the construction on the site. The inner shelf and roof trusses can go up within 2 to 3 days.
  • They can be bought as a package through specialist suppliers, in most cases with predesigned plans.
  • More environmental friendly.
  • If constructed properly, more energy efficient.
  • Easier to work with as far as internal plumbing and electric’s

Disadvantages of Timber Framed Homes

  • Construction time to build the walls to the specification at the suppliers.
  • You must decide about the location of all your units and shelves at design stage in order for placement of studs in the walls to support them.
  • Slight chance of dry rot or wood worm if the timber is not treated properly in the first place. Make sure that you choose a proper professional company.

Brick Construction
Through out the early part of the last century some houses in Britain and Ireland were made solely from brick. In the past thirty years or so this has turned to brick and block. We have all seen the rows of former council houses and tied cottages all over Britain from the early 1900. A lot of these houses have fallen into disrepair simply because the original owners never looked after their tenants and the tenants never thought they would own the house so they did not take care of the property either.  Most of these brick houses were built with no foundation and no damp course so the suffered from raising damp and Mould.  Not having any insulation between the walls left the houses hard to heat.  This is why a lot of old people like to live in the middle terrace house as they get heated from both side from the other tenants.

Today you can buy different types of brick depending on your requirements. Very few houses these days are built with two layers of brick most have block as the main wall and the a facing of brick.

Facing Bricks

The most commonly used brick today are facing bricks.  They come with different texture finishes and in a large variety of colours and quality.

Wire Cut Extruded

These are one of the most commonly used bricks used for facing.  The wet mixture is pressed into a large Mould and the compacted result being cut into shape by a large wire     ( similar to cutting cheese ). These are then baked in large batches that keep the cost down.

Stock Moulded/ Machine Moulded
These are made of soft mud clay, moulded into a box and dusted with sand.  They are not the most evenly square of bricks but they are durable and add character to the property. The are usually more expensive.

Water Struck Moulded / Slop Moulded
These are made from natural clay, they are soft mud moulded but not finished with sand.  They look like you would have on an old cottage front.  If you are building in an historic are you are more likely to get planning permission using these bricks. They are quite expensive.

Hand Moulded
These are similar to stock moulded bricks as they are made of soft clay, but these are moulded by hand. If a match is needed for a renovation job this is usually the root that is taken.  Because of the skills that are required to produce these bricks the cost is relevant but quite often worth it.

Pressed Moulded
This is a Victorian method of production, stiff clay is forced under great pressure into a box moiled by a machine. These bricks are for extensions and tend to be made in imperial sizes.

Clinker Bricks
Irregular in shape these are hard and durable bricks.  They get their name from being over burned in the kilns.

Common or Building Bricks
Being one of the cheapest  bricks they have many uses. They can be purpose made just for a single project.  Most of the time these bricks are used for work below the ground or for chimney walls.

Cored Bricks

These are made with two rows of five holes extending through their bed to reduce weight. There is no real difference between the strength of a wall built with cored bricks and those constructed with solid brick.

Engineering Bricks
These are solid non-perforated bricks and have a lower water absorption than most others. Because of their strength and durability they are ideal for most construction jobs.

Glazed Bricks

One surface of each brick is glazed usually in a white colour but other colours are available. A mixture of minerals fused together form a ceramic glaze with a glass like finish, this occurs during the burning process.  These bricks are ideal for hospital walls, dairies and laboratories where cleanness and easy of cleaning are necessary.

Fire Bricks

Manufactured from fire clay these bricks are used in the construction of products that reach high temperatures and have to maintain them like pizza ovens.  These bricks are Semi Dry Pressed. You can buy them from most brick yards in full or 1/2 sizes ( which are called spilits ). These bricks are usually hand made and are larger than a structure brick.

Straw Bale

Straw Bale building may sound like something from the past but it has started to be taken up by the self builders once again. There is quite a lot of information available on the subject and you can even go on courses and work shops to learn how to build a Straw Bale house for yourself.

The definition of a straw bale construction is as follows:

"Bales of rice, wheat, or oats straw are laid in a running bond pattern (like bricks), tied together with pins and then plastered with earth, lime, or cement stucco."

This type of structure is very warm as the bales work as insulation. Windows and doors can be added in the normal way and when the structure is complete it would look like any timber framed, steel framed or block built house.

Cob Construction
Cob construction uses sand, clay and straw.  Mixed well this special mud is applied to the foundation in continuing layers. Each layer must dry so that it can support the next, and the wall is tapered in as you build up.  When it is dry, the walls are very hard and load bearing. The roof is built directly on to the walls, as the walls themselves are the support structure.

This technique requires almost no money or skill , and involves very little environmental destruction while at the same time allowing for creative and organic designs which blend into the surroundings.

Cob allows itself to be shaped and moulded while you build, allowing bas-relief, shelves, alcoves and even furniture to be built right into the walls. Cob being earth, is totally fireproof, so even a fireplace can be built into the design.

Regular working windows and doors are embedded in the cob along with their lentils while you build the layers up. If you want a fixed window you can use any kind of glass embedded directly into the cob. This allows for using broken windows ( you cob over the broken part) or creative things such as glass bottles or a car windshield.

These buildings are incredibly durable and don’t worry as they do not wash away in heavy rain.  Usually an aesthetic earth or lime plaster is applied to the finished cob.  There is no joint or seams.  Cob houses have been known to last for centuries.

Because cob walls are between 1 and 2 feet thick they are nice and warm. The cob has a high thermal mass which allows it to absorb the sun’s energy during the day to keep the interior cool and radiate the energy back at night to keep the interior warm. In this way cob acts as a temperature regulator. Because of this a cob house needs very little additional heating in winter. As cob is fireproof one of the older designs inside the house is a cob seat or bed heated up by the flue of a wood burning stove.

Adobe Construction

Adobe is one of the oldest materials used for construction known to man. Basically adobe is just dirt that has been moistened with water, sometimes chopped straw or other fibrous material is added for strength and then allowed to dry in the desired shape.

It was found that by shaping the material into bricks shaped blocks a more uniformed shape could be formed, but the adobe can be simply piled up over time to make a structure. The trick for mixing adobe is not to use too much clay, the recommended amount is between 15 and 30%. If too much clay is used the building could crack as the clay shrinks but use too little and the material could fragment.

A more modern way of making adobe is to add a small amount of cement or asphalt emulsion to help stabilise the mixture and keep it intact where the weather is bad.

Adobe buildings have large eaves (over hanging edged of roof) this helps to steer the water away from the walls and foundation.  Some houses are plastered with cement on the outside in an attempt to protect the adobe, but it has caused problems when moisture finds its way in through the cracks in the cement and there is no where for it to evaporate.

Although adobe is a good thermal mass material it is not a good insulator, this means that another means of proven insulation is required, this can be done by creating a double wall, with an air space (a bit like double glazing) or by putting some sort of insulating material on the outside.

Cordwood Construction
Cordwood construction uses short, round lengths of wood similar to what we would consider firewood lengths (18 to 24 inches).  This makes this method of building very resource efficient, as the wood might not have any other value.

The logs are laid at 90 degree angles to the footer to which a course of mortar runs parallel to the footer at each end of the log, leaving the middle uncovered. Sawdust to used to fill the spaces between the mortar runs and the next row of logs is laid on top.

This type of building produces a structure that both insulates from the wood part of the construction and has thermal mass that comes from the masonry mortar that is used to cement the logs together.The resulting structure looks rustic and has a beauty of its own.  The outside looks similar to pebbles laid in cement but shows all the layers of natural wood.Cordwood construction is very versatile and can be used to make a building just for a sauna, to a full size house with windows and doors or is a great way to build the children an inexpensive play house.

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