March 19th 2021
There's more to building a brick wall than simply putting one brick on top of another.
Did you know there's a number of different ways to build the walls of your building project?
Even if someone else is laying the bricks for you, it's good to know what type of wall you're getting.
Most buildings these days follow one of three different wall types, depending on the respective needs of that building.
We're not talking about brick bonds; that's a subject for a whole other post.
This is everything you need to know about the different types of brick masonry you might find in your building.
The first distinction that needs to be made is whether the brick masonry is load bearing or non-load bearing. All brick walls are one of the two.
Load bearing walls are an integral part of the building structure. They carry the weight of the building and as such need to comply with regulations to make sure they keep it up.
Most load bearing walls are on the exterior but are less common these days as there are now easier, more economical ways of providing the load bearing part of a structure.
Non-load bearing walls only need to support themselves and the weight of whatever cladding is on them. They are not required to carry the weight of the structure.
These are often used as partition walls to divide the rooms of the building and can be demolished without causing any structural damage.
Equally, as per the point above, you could have a non-load bearing wall on the exterior if the structure is supported by an interior wall or veneer. More on that below.
Knowing whether a brick wall is load bearing or non-load bearing isn't always that simple to find out.
But if you're thinking of knocking a wall through, you need to make sure you've got it checked to ensure it isn't load bearing. To do this you'll need to call in a surveyor or structural engineer.
Even if the interior or exterior layer is not load bearing, the other layer will likely be, so it's best to make sure you have extra support in place before doing any work.
In most buildings today the structure will comprise of one of these types of brick wall.
Some are more popular than others for reasons we'll go into below.
Solid walls have two or more layers of brickwork which are held together with metal ties or header bricks.
These header bricks lie perpendicular to the plane of the wall, creating a load bearing result. Without them there is only so high the adjacent layers could go before becoming unstable.
This is the most reliable and long-lasting type of brick masonry because it creates a thick, sturdy wall, assuming durable bricks and mortar are used.
Many older brick buildings will have solid walls, but due to the sheer number of bricks required, newer residential buildings will have one of the following.
First used in the mid twentieth century, this is probably the most popular form of masonry in use today.
Cavity walls involve 2 outer layers of brick with the inner layer usually being the load bearing or support layer. (Not all cavity walls are necessarily load bearing)
The inner support could be another brick wall, concrete blocks or poured concrete. There has to be at least 2-4 inches between the layers to create the cavity.
Cavity walls are popular for a number of reasons including their propensity for water prevention, the air space between the layers acting as a water barrier.
Because the inner wall does all the hard work when it comes to bearing loads, the outer wall has a more aesthetic purpose. This is where you can get your nice brickwork done.
Wall ties are inserted at regular intervals into the mortar beds to maintain the rigidity of the transverse layers.
Veneer walls have a single layer of brick tied to steel or wooden studs which comprise the load bearing structure.
Like the cavity wall, the exterior layer serves a purely aesthetic purpose and is not load bearing. This single wall therefore has low insulation value and insulation material is generally attached to the studs and not incorporated in the masonry.
These are pretty popular for their low cost and relative simplicity to build. The exterior also provides a lot of aesthetic flexibility.
So, there you go. Hopefully you feel like you know your walls a bit better.
If you have a preference for a particular kind of construction, whether that's based on price or style, you should have a better idea of what you're looking for.
You know about brick walls, but what about the bricks to build it with?