January 25th 2023
There's more to building a brick wall than simply putting one brick on top of another. And 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 the structure: solid, cavity and veneer.
This is everything you need to know about the different types of wall you might find in your building.
The first distinction that needs to be made is whether the wall is load bearing or non-load bearing. Load-bearing walls are an integral part of any building. They carry the weight of the structure and, as such, need to comply with regulations to make sure they keep it up. Traditionally, most load-bearing walls were on the exterior of a building, but these days as there are 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 often used as partition walls to divide the rooms of the building and can be demolished without causing any structural damage. Equally, you could have a non-load bearing wall on the exterior if the structure is supported by an interior wall or veneer.
Finding out whether a brick wall is load bearing or non-load bearing isn't always that simple. 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.
You'll find at least one of these types of wall in most buildings:
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, adjacent layers can only be built so high before becoming unstable. This is the most reliable and long-lasting type of 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 either cavity or veneer walls.
First used in the mid-20th century, this is probably the most popular form of masonry in use today. Cavity walls involve two outer layers of brick with the inner layer usually being the load-bearing or support layer. 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 make up 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 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 them with?
If you need help choosing the right type of brick for your winter masonry project, our free Brick Selection service could be just what you need. Or if you'd prefer to browse bricks for yourself, we have more than 3,600 options to choose from in our Brick Library!
Plus, our expert Brick Advisors are standing by to help you figure out how many bricks you'll need to buy for your project, then source them and find you the best price - we'll even arrange delivery too.