December 22nd 2020
A white Christmas.
It's been a long time since we had one of those in the UK.
And it doesn't look like it's going to happen any time soon.
But the winter is far from over. Maybe as a little treat after 2020 we'll get a dash of snow. Well, if this article's going to be of any use, hopefully a bit more than a dash.
As it's Christmas, we thought we'd do something a bit different and talk about a different kind of brick to what we're known for.
And more specifically, what you can build with them.
If you're actually in the building trade or in the middle of a project you'd probably rather it didn't snow.
But we all need a break sometimes so if you've got kids and the snow comes, this is maybe something you could try with them.
Here's how to make a snow fort or igloo.
Building with snow bricks has a few similarities to building with real bricks.
We know a thing or two about that. If you want to find out more about bricklaying, head here.
Many of these tips follow the same principals as bricklaying so you DIYers will have no problems.
You can use these tips for a simple walled fort or an igloo but there are also some specific igloo tips below too.
Building with snow is easy. In theory.
The material is just sitting there after all.
However, to make these structures work, you do need a lot of snow!
Possibly more than many in the UK will see for some time. So perhaps this article is even less useful than we thought. Sorry to burst your bubble...
But assuming you do have a thick sheet of snow, you need to make sure you're picking the right stuff.
With normal bricks, the type of clay you use has an impact on the finished product.
Likewise the best snow for building with is the moist, crunchy stuff, that compacts easily when you press it together in your hands.
Powdery snow just won't cut it and is not going to be as strong when you turn it into bricks.
To make any brick, you need a mould.
To create a good snow brick, get a square bucket, plastic storage box or even a foldable crate that you don't mind getting wet. Then shove it full of snow.
Pack in the snow to make sure it's all compacted together and then use a stick or ruler or something similar, to loosen the sides.
Turn it over and give it a tap to slide the brick out.
This is even how they do it in Lapland, the home of Santa himself, for their snow structures!
Like with clay bricks, how they're laid is very important to the overall integrity of the structure.
For a simple fort or snow wall (to protect you from incoming snowballs) you're best using a staggered stretcher bond.
This is where the bricks in each subsequent course sit half away across those below it. That way you're not just stacking them on top of each other but instead make a bonding effect.
After you've laid each brick, use some spare snow, to fill in any gaps and spread it over the joints to make sure they stay put.
For both a fort or an igloo, you'll want to make sure it stays put for a while, so you can make use of it.
There are a few things to do.
Once the structure is up, carefully use a stick or spade to scrape away some of the snow from the higher parts of the wall. This way there is less material at the top and more at the bottom, so the structure isn't carrying too much weight.
Another thing to do is to carefully cover it in water. This will freeze over the top, acting almost as a glue to harden and support the structure.
The only thing bringing this thing down now, is the sun.
Now Igloo's are understandably a bit more of an undertaking than a simple fort.
It's best to not set yourself too much of a challenge.
The bigger your starting diameter the harder it's going to be to complete. 2 meters max is probably best for something that you'll actually be able to go inside.
Think about marking out your circle before you start building.
To create an actual incline on the walls, you will need to cut that into each brick that you lay as you go around.
Again, make sure to freeze water over it, to make sure it stays intact. Being inside an igloo if it collapses, can be dangerous, so exercise caution.
So, there you go, if you ever find yourself ankle deep in snow, this winter or next, you'll know how to build a structure that you're proud of.
If you want to build with real bricks, we can definitely help you with that, whatever the weather.