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chronyx

Why Are Houses Built The Way They Are?

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As in, to 'work on' - everything is a ball-ache.

Customer today wanted downlights fitted. So that involves lifting carpet, chipboard floors (Worse than floorboards) and drilling loads of joists.

Or, smashing the ceiling to bits, installing the cables, measuring positions, writing them down, putting more plasterboard up, measuring again, cutting holes, and finally getting around to putting a goddam light in place.

Lots of labour, mess, and hassle.

Compare to offices:

Lift ceiling tile (generally the hardest part if the grid has shifted or there's loads of crap on top). Cut hole in tile or slot grid fitting in place. Plug into lighting Kilk box.

Or, raise lifted floor. Put cable in. Put floor back down.

Seems weird that as people want to customise their houses more and more they still build them the same way they did 70 years ago, from my point of view anyway. Lathe and plaster ceilings not included, now they really suck

Edited by chronyx

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I think it might have been George Orwell who wrote about the 'tyranny of the wet trades'. He was making the same point as you.

Building a shelter needn't be a skilled job, because mankind had been doing it for tens of thousands of years before architects and planning regulations came along.

Orwell would have said that house building is deliberately made difficult to limit supply and make the jobs higher skilled and higher paid.

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I think it might have been George Orwell who wrote about the 'tyranny of the wet trades'. He was making the same point as you.

Building a shelter needn't be a skilled job, because mankind had been doing it for tens of thousands of years before architects and planning regulations came along.

Orwell would have said that house building is deliberately made difficult to limit supply and make the jobs higher skilled and higher paid.

That shanty town skyscraper in HK managed to stand long enough...

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|=aulty memory. It was this man. Walter Segal.

I had to repair a leaking shed roof a couple of weeks ago, and I noticed that the pricey felt was guaranteed watertight for only 5 or 10 years. It baffled me why we try to stick stone chips and bitumen sheets to a roof when it will only last a few years before perishing or being blown off by the wind. I stuck my old car bonnet over the hole, instead, as a giant shingle.

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I think it's particularly daft that we are forced to use bricks these days. Why the feck would you use bricks to build a house? It's not like we don;t have much better, cheaper and higher energy efficient materials these days. I quite like the idea of the cast concrete they use in the EU and wooden houses the knock out in America for next to nothing.

To me bricks seem like part of the ploy to hold the country in the 1950's.

The brick Victorian tetrrace we lived in was falling to bit's because the cement between the bricks had crumbled. I pitty the new bank renter.

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As in, to 'work on' - everything is a ball-ache.

I guess offices (deep plan) have to be designed with cable management in mind - usually a raised floor but can be via the ceiling and poles - as everything still seems to be hard-wired:

office_2674324b.jpg

Narrow offices can be serviced through perimeter trunking so no raised floor, but air conditioning is much easier with a suspended ceiling.

Houses would need to be taller if they had raised floors and suspended ceilings, so not popular (this puts the price up as well).

So, time to get the fishing tackle out!

http://www.screwfix.com/c/tools/cable-access/cat831004

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I had the problem that when I wanted an extension built using SIP (structural insulated panels) I couldn't find a local builder who would touch them.

Every single one was "never used them mate, been building with bricks and mortar since Romans, can't go wrong with it" and quoting 3 months to build a single room. They can put up entire houses in Germany using SIPs in 2 weeks.

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I've had a flat fitted with skirting that takes pipework and cabling like in an office after the under-concrete-floor microbore pipes started furring up.

Had a few quotes for new windows in my house (French). 3 patio doors, 2,500 euros fitted, each door! Everyone wants to replace the old wooden doors with uPVC kits that clip over the old frame but you lose loads of light if you do that. They all came up with BS about how it was impossible to remove the old doors... one guy was getting more and more desperate and told me me "window frames, theyre structural innit". When I mentioned the windows looked like standard sizes they all had the same song "there are no standards in windows". As if a builder who is throwing up an estate of houses is going to use custom designed windows.

So I digress. I measured the windows. Standard 120x215 units. I looked closely at how they were fitted - 9 big screws wall plugged into the walls. I undid the screws, gave the frame a tap with a large hammer and it dropped out. Slotted in new frame with doors in-situ to make sure it was square. Re-wall plugged surround and refixed. Easy. Like lego. However I'm sure it could be made easier still with a bit of ingenuity.

> They can put up entire houses in Germany using SIPs in 2 weeks.

a good brickie can build a house with bricks in 2 weeks as well; a brickie can lay 800 bricks a day for a 10,000 brick house. Bricks don't insulate well so best used as a "decorative" facing these days.

Edited by davidg

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Depends on the finish you use for the house. If you are furnishing the place with cheap floor boards and carpet, then you're going to have fun retrofitting anything. If you've used decent floor boards, you don't need carpet (filthy stuff), and retrofitting is easier.

I needed to drop a network cable into the utility room for a wireless AP, unscrewing 3 floorboards gave me access to the full width of the house, took about 2 hours in total, including re-plugging the screwholes in the boards.

People don't want raised floors and drop ceilings because they look pants, and take up a huge amount of space.

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It's perfectly possible to build prefabricated housing units (in China, even) and ship them to the UK, with only assembly workers and foundation/grounds workers required on site in the UK.

Prefab, bolt-together technology has much improved - a lot of the problems came from using it in high rise buildings (eg, the Ronan Point disaster of 1968). Low rise prefabs, such as those bungalows built after the war, can work very well - some of those bungalows are still in use.

There are many reasons why we don't do this: the British consumer is innately conservative, and thinks 'bricks and mortar' are a better investment. The banks also think this and won't lend on houses that they think won't be a good security on the debt - this is why, for example, you can't get a mortgage on a houseboat (or its very difficult to). I'm not sure but I suspect council planning departments are less likely to approve pre-fab schemes also, on H&S grounds.

Also, in comparison with the price of land, hand-building a bricks and mortar house is pretty low and there isn't a great deal of difference between that and pre-fab, which still require on site assembly, ground work, utility installations, sewage etc. There's also a lot more prefab stuff going on even in 'traditional' building these days that used to be done by hand - Upvc glazing units, bathroom pods, drylining etc.

Basically the problem is not the cost of house building, it's the cost of land, and the stranglehold of planning permission. Otherwise most of the housing 'shortage' could be solved overnight by allowing year-round living in static caravans and residential mooring of houseboats.

Edited by Austin Allegro

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Been watching an old bungalow (60's) being renovated near me. Huge extention is largely timber frame and that Colotex insulated board. The Celotex was also applied to the external brick walls of the existing structure too.

Some new homes near me in a former vicarage garden, are basically the same. Timber frame construction with the bricks little more than cladding.

The US seems to be built on timber houses, but I guess in the UK bricks make a property more saleable

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this is why, for example, you can't get a mortgage on a houseboat (or its very difficult to)

The majority of the boats in my marina seem to be on marine mortgages, I'd have thought a houseboat was a safer bet for a lender than a Solent gin palace or a fragile racing yacht with a WAFI at the helm (wind assisted fvcking idiot).

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No-one's forced to use bricks nowadays. It's just that people feel more reassured buying something built by the third little piggy.

Near me, they were building some social housing that got christened "scumbag villas". All done pre-fabricated, craned in (including complete roofs). Went up in days rather than weeks. But with the brick cladding they look just like a normal house and must be costing pennies to heat.

In contrast my conventional brick built house is less than 20 years old. A neighbour, who was a builder bought off plan and kept an eye on the house being built. Or so he thought. Soon after moving in he decided to take out a window and replace it with french doors. All that was holding the old frame in place was a 4" nail hammered into the blockwork at each side. So much for bricks and mortar being more secure.

.

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No-one's forced to use bricks nowadays. It's just that people feel more reassured buying something built by the third little piggy.

Near me, they were building some social housing that got christened "scumbag villas". All done pre-fabricated, craned in (including complete roofs). Went up in days rather than weeks. But with the brick cladding they look just like a normal house and must be costing pennies to heat.

In contrast my conventional brick built house is less than 20 years old. A neighbour, who was a builder bought off plan and kept an eye on the house being built. Or so he thought. Soon after moving in he decided to take out a window and replace it with french doors. All that was holding the old frame in place was a 4" nail hammered into the blockwork at each side. So much for bricks and mortar being more secure.

.

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I think it's particularly daft that we are forced to use bricks these days. Why the feck would you use bricks to build a house? It's not like we don;t have much better, cheaper and higher energy efficient materials these days. I quite like the idea of the cast concrete they use in the EU and wooden houses the knock out in America for next to nothing.

To me bricks seem like part of the ploy to hold the country in the 1950's.

The brick Victorian tetrrace we lived in was falling to bit's because the cement between the bricks had crumbled. I pitty the new bank renter.

The idea is that you repoint the mortar when it gets to that sort of state--it's meant to a sacrificial element to protect the brick. And people generally underestimate, or just ignore the fact that all buildings need periodic maintenance. Lime mortar (ie the type they used to use) is an incredibly clever material, and perfectly suited to holding bricks together. It's breathable and hygroscopic, and the fact that it never truly 'cures' means that it rests and 'melts' back together when buildings settle over time. Compare this with cement mortar used today--incredibly tough, but unfortunately harder than the brick in between--so instead of your mortar resetting, your bricks will crack and need replacement which is a much more involved process. This is part of reason today's masonry structures are built with such deep foundations, as they can't handle movement, a denial of the processes of nature that older buildings work with.

There's also the poetic fact that it absorbs CO2 through its cycle and eventually returns to the same chemical composition as the CaCO3 it was forged from--your houses are literally held together by limestone.

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British houses may be amongst the smallest in the world, but basically they last the longest...they are designed for centuries.

Americans are rather surprised that we build our houses twice, once with brick and again with block. But then again they demolish their houses every forty years or so.

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British houses may be amongst the smallest in the world, but basically they last the longest...they are designed for centuries.

Americans are rather surprised that we build our houses twice, once with brick and again with block. But then again they demolish their houses every forty years or so.

Why not pull them down every 40 years? It saves full renovation every 40 years. New windows, wiring, heating roof etc. the only part which lasts is the bricks and perhaps the joists and floor boards if the don't rot/ get woodworm.

I would gladly demolish 1/2 the UK housing stock as it's in such a state it's not worth renovating.

I would have gladly had my old house pulled down and rebuilt from something with good insulation properties, rather than bricks with an infill of 1900's shite in the middle.

You may as well say that there was nothing wrong with Henry Ford's model T and we should have kept them all on the road and not bothered improving vehicle design.

Edited by Wurzel Of Highbridge

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A lot to be said for the older building techniques and materials used in the uk. The buildings are very repairable and the materials far more reusable. The stone, brick, timber, roofing, even sand and lime, in some old houses was not always freshly produced for that building and could have been used in one or more previous buildings. Modern houses are of a more disposable nature, which seems wrong considering the vast amounts of energy that go into producing building materials. They will also be a pain to dispose of when no longer viable. I suppose buildings describe how relative values of energy, materials and labour costs have changed over time.

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The idea is that you repoint the mortar when it gets to that sort of state--it's meant to a sacrificial element to protect the brick. And people generally underestimate, or just ignore the fact that all buildings need periodic maintenance. Lime mortar (ie the type they used to use) is an incredibly clever material, and perfectly suited to holding bricks together. It's breathable and hygroscopic, and the fact that it never truly 'cures' means that it rests and 'melts' back together when buildings settle over time. Compare this with cement mortar used today--incredibly tough, but unfortunately harder than the brick in between--so instead of your mortar resetting, your bricks will crack and need replacement which is a much more involved process. This is part of reason today's masonry structures are built with such deep foundations, as they can't handle movement, a denial of the processes of nature that older buildings work with.

There's also the poetic fact that it absorbs CO2 through its cycle and eventually returns to the same chemical composition as the CaCO3 it was forged from--your houses are literally held together by limestone.

Also known as spalling.

I've seen the consequences on some houses which have been repointed, where they've used too hard a mixture/cement vs the original softer lime mix. (I personally don't know what mix or mortar to use). The bricks have no room to 'move/expand etc' in the different elements/temperatures.

As for the guy who put old car bonnet over leaking shingles on shed roof, I considered supergluing sticking 2p coins over the worn shingles of a relative shed, but never did. Not sure if it would have worked. I like the way olde copper roofs have blue-green patina, and the run off from water totally prevents moss.

Not got much building experience. I would prefer to see affordable easy-to-build homes that are cheaper than brick, that look good - simple to heat, and easy to maintain and change, - but that's not how the market is. Just lots of standard ugly newbuilds at painfully high prices.

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