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House Building in Brisbane

Updated on August 18, 2018

A timber house on brick base

This is a typical timber house built on a brick base and stumps, it still had all the same features of the old timber house on wooden stumps, but it had also some living space under the house.
This is a typical timber house built on a brick base and stumps, it still had all the same features of the old timber house on wooden stumps, but it had also some living space under the house.

Differen time and places different houses

Typical queens-lander high-set house, it might look cheaper than houses build in the colder part of the world, but they are well suited for the hot climate here
Typical queens-lander high-set house, it might look cheaper than houses build in the colder part of the world, but they are well suited for the hot climate here | Source
In the old continent of Europe and other parts of the world where it is cold and timber is expansive, house are usually masonry built
In the old continent of Europe and other parts of the world where it is cold and timber is expansive, house are usually masonry built

House building discussion

Welcome to my article ((8-G2) (34)), House building in Brisbane;

Dear readers, in this article we are going to describe what we were doing, when we were building houses in Brisbane in the early sixties. We want to do that because houses are important to us, you see, anywhere we go in the world people live in houses, the houses that we live in could be completely different to one another, depending on the country or even the zone we are living in, so, there are many different style and sizes.

Now let me explain what we mean by the name house. A house is any sort of building that are meant for people to live in, it is the universal name that most people accept, but a house could be called by many other names, then their names can give you an idea what sort of house we are talking about, which can be big or small, a standalone house or attached to other houses. But most people see no difference in their name. I know that because when I talk to people that are looking for accommodation, most of them will say that they are looking for a house, even when they might be wanting to rent only a one-bedroom small apartment, they are still looking for a house to live in. So, let us talk about housing accommodation.

Now, before we live in a house we must build them, so, in this article we are going to talk about building houses, including general building work, because this is what I did when I came to Australia in the early sixties. We are going to talk about how we were building houses then, since this will give us the general idea how houses are built. I know that today building houses could be slightly different from then, but not very much, as we will explain as we keep writing.

Anyhow, we are also talking about brick bases under timber houses, and, Working as a brickies labour. Now as you can see we are going to talk about the old way of building house, but it does not matter if it is the old way of doing things, because building houses is building houses and it does not matter when we have done that, as the same way can be used again and again, so, there is still something that we could learn from it; anyhow, we would also like to help those people that are reading our article, in the hope of finding their modern dream home, therefore they are looking also for modern houses, so, we are going to place a few links within this article, just in case they are looking for modern houses, but let us continue our main article about building house in Brisbane in the sixties.

Now what we are going to talk about next, might seem strange to people that live in the old continent of Europe, because over there most houses are made of masonry, since the timber over there is more expensive than in Australia. Of course, there are other good reasons why they are made of masonry, perhaps it is because of the colder climate, you see, the thick walls of a masonry building would absorb the heat during summer and act as storage of this heat by releasing it slowly during the colder months, and perhaps other reasons as well, anyhow houses over there would be built mostly from masons bricklayer and concreters, and the carpenters would only play a smaller part than they do in Australia, as the carpenters would be building some formwork and the roofs only, when the roofs were made of timber, because even the roofs sometimes are made of concrete; but let us go back to talk about us emigrants of the sixties.

Therefore, when we the European migrants that came to Australia in the sixties, we thought this is strange to live in timber houses, and we have to say that we had a real surprise to see that the carpenter played the role of builders, when houses were being built, because in the sixties most houses here were mainly made of timber, we are saying this to compare houses building, between the old continent and Australia in those times, and we are not saying that this was good or bad practice, since we soon accepted the way of life we found and we thought there must be a good reason for it.

So, we all did what we had to do in whatever employment we found, and those of us who ended up working in the building industry, we did what we were told to do then. But as we know about everything changes with time and building timber house would slowly change too, as we will see later, when even this sort of building houses with timber would slowly change. Now that we have made this comparison, let us go back to what I was doing myself in helping to build these new houses; this help will become self-explained as we keep writing what we were doing. Therefore, let us talk about how most houses were being built by teams of workers, because that is how we were building houses in South East Queensland in the sixties, as we are going to explain here under. While I am writing my life story and what I did, since it is one of the best ways to explain to explain how we built houses.

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Modern Brisbane houses

One of the modern houses in Brisbane suburbs, there are many type of houses, just click on the links in this section to see a few.
One of the modern houses in Brisbane suburbs, there are many type of houses, just click on the links in this section to see a few. | Source

Modern house building and links

Modern house building

Dear readers let me add this paragraph, in this article we would like to talk about, my own life story and how I ended up working in the building industry, so, I am not going to say much about new housing, however if you came across this article because you were looking for a modern house, or other ideas about building them, I am going to post here a few links, so that you could find our article useful in this regard also.

New Home Builders Brisbane‎

McCarthy Homes: Home Builders

Home Builders Brisbane - ojpippin.com.au‎

Here are the links as I have said; I hope you find what you are looking for, and now let me go back to my main building story, house building in the sixties.

Building timber framed houses

Still another cheap way to build a house in Queensland was to build a timber house on short stumps, so that there would be some ventilation below to keep cool in summer time and also dry in the wet season, because when it rains it rains for days.
Still another cheap way to build a house in Queensland was to build a timber house on short stumps, so that there would be some ventilation below to keep cool in summer time and also dry in the wet season, because when it rains it rains for days.

House building in the sixties

House building in Brisbane in the sixties

In the sixties and seventies most houses building were done from teams of building contractors, or subcontractors who had their own team of building workers, even if they were only a small team of two or three people, like the team I was working with when I started; which had two tradesman and one labour as myself, as we have explained in the previous article. Now let me go over very briefly what sort of teams were there; first of all there would be the concreters and bricklayers, which usually could be the same team, as we were mostly building small houses that did not have a lot to do with these trades, because the largest amount of work would be done from the carpenters, therefore, there was the carpenter team, then the roof, the electrician and the plumber and the plasters. The work of the builder, which most times was the leading carpenter; because he had the largest job, so, he not only would build the timber frame of the house, but also would organise all the teams in a way that would be appropriate, so that they were not in each other way while they were working, and finally do all the finishing work required.

In those times to be a builder of these standalone houses on an approved block of land was easy, as long as you were a building tradesman and had some knowledge of building and you had the money to build them, or you had a lender that would give you money to build, you had this opportunity to build one of these houses, of course, there were local authority inspections to be had while we were building and at the end of it, but if you knew what you were doing it was easy to pass. So, there were so many house builders around that would hire these teams of building workers as we were.

I need to say that there are good reasons to believe that the building industry in Australia is one of the main driving forces of the economy, since it employs lots of new comers that are willing to do some hard physical work to earn their living, you see, you don’t need to be a very learned person to work on the building, all you need is some common knowledge of things and enough English to understand what is wanted from you if you know what you are doing, or you work with some people that speak your native language and they explain to you what you need to do. The only thing that I have missed to say is that you had to work hard to keep this job, because even then building was competitive.

I believe that in the sixties and seventies there were very good opportunities to work on building houses in the building industry, because the price of the houses was more affordable than they are today. Just looking back at those prices we could say that one of those cheaper houses would be worth about four time the average wage of a person working full time for a year, so, people would be able to afford them, and therefore those builders that were building them were able to sell their houses soon enough at a decent profit that would enable them to build other house.

But, as we know everything changes with the passing of time and there are usually good reasons for them to change, we become aware of these changes, when we look back at the changes that have taken place. So, let us look at what has taken place, in the houses and other building accommodations in the building industry since then.

You see, as we have said, in the beginning houses in Brisbane were mostly made of timber and they were set on timber stumps, then in the sixties because the timber stumps would rot or they would be attacked by white ants they gave way to concrete stumps, and some brick walls under the house. Then from a brick wall in front of the house they changed to a full brick base, and some concrete stumps or steel posts, then came the era of the brick veneer and finally concrete and cavity bricks, today, as I am editing this article I have to point out that building apartments is very different the way they were in the sixties, as they are mostly made of reinforced concrete.

Now that we have said a few things about the history of house building in Brisbane, let us talk about my contribution in the building industry and what I did during the earlier part of my working building houses. I want to describe what I did and how these building things are done, because with my next article I am starting to write a DIY section, so, it is handy to know how buildings are made. So, let us go back to our last article, if I remember right I was talking about how we were concreting the stumps for a new house, and we also had laid the foundations for some brickwork, therefore now, let us talk about the brickwork that we had to do, to build a simple brick base under the house.

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Brick base and columns

A house brick base and columns for a long and narrow house under construction.
A house brick base and columns for a long and narrow house under construction.

Brick based houses

Brick base under timber houses

As we have already mentioned before, there were many type of houses being built in those times and some of them had a brick base or just the front wall under the house built in bricks. So, this was another job that we did with our small team of bricklayer and concrete workers.

In order to be efficient and competitive a small team that lays bricks needs to be made of two bricklayers and a labour, of course there can be any sort of teams and larger teams that can work well with a different number of people, but anyhow this is what was like then and as I said our team had two bricklayer and a labour as myself.

Now that I have explained my position let us start working, so that I can describe how things work out and who does what and how it should be done. It is usually the leader of the bricklayer team that decides from where to start. But if he is not there then it is up to whoever is there to start getting ready where the bricklayers have to start. This is not hard to know because to lay bricks you need to start from the lowest part of the foundation, So, when I was working as a bricklayer labour I would get ready the bricks and the combo boards, at the lowest point of the foundation, so, when the bricklayers had to start I would be ready to go; then, to start them going I was going to give them fresh mixed mortar on these combo boards, and then continue to supply them with brick and mortar as required.

Here I should say, that it is hard work for the bricklayer-labour and also for the bricklayers, because at the end of the day one has to handle so many bricks, since in a day a bricklayer on a normal wall is supposed to lay on average 400 to 500 face bricks, or up to a thousand common bricks, of course this is just wishful thinking and most times we didn’t but we had to try to get there. This is how the team usually works, but now let me break it down and describe to you what the labour does and then what the bricklayers have to do, as I know all this because later I became and worked as a bricklayer for decades myself, but now let us talk about what the bricklayers’ labour has to do.

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A mixer and wheelbarrows

A mixer is required to mix a good batch of mortar for the bricklayer to use.
A mixer is required to mix a good batch of mortar for the bricklayer to use.
General and mortar wheelbarrow
General and mortar wheelbarrow
Flat wheelbarrow used mainly to carry bricks and blocks on building sites
Flat wheelbarrow used mainly to carry bricks and blocks on building sites

Working as a bricklayer labour

What do you do when you are working as a brickies labour?

The brickies labour job is hard work as I have said above, it is also a semiskilled work, since he has got to know how to go about to supply mortar and bricks to the bricklayer at the right time in the right place. It is obvious that he has to have at his disposition a mixer to mix mortar and two wheelbarrows and sometimes other small devises to help him achieve that.

Here I need to point out that to start a new job it is very hard, as the ground on the site is not flat and generally there are hips of dirt around the foundations where the brick or block walls are going to be built, so, the labour needs first of all to flatten the ground a bit, so that the mortar boards and the bricks can be positioned at the right distance from the foundation, usually this is about 60 centimetre plus from the walls that are being built, so that the bricklayers have enough room to move and at the same time they can reach the bricks and the mortar boards without walking; in order to achieve that there needs to be one mortar boards and then one stack of bricks and again one mortar board and another stack of brick and so on, for the whole length of the wall being built. Now that we have made it ready and the bricklayers are going to start to lay bricks soon, let me prepare the mortar, which some people may call cement or combo.

Preparing or mixing the mortar

Here again there are rules to follow how to mix good mortar, so, one has to keep in mind first of all what sort of material is available and can be delivered on the local site, because quantity and quality may vary a bit with the locality. Anyhow let us assume that for this job a load of brickies loam has been delivered on the site; in this case this brickies loam has some lumps in it, so it needs to be screened before or after mixing the mortar, as I have already screened some of it I am ready to mix it now.

So, I start the mixer and put in some clean water, and a small measure of mortar mix (this is a chemical that helps the mortar to be more workable) then I put in say a shovel full of Portland cement and four shovels full of brickies loam, this is how we usually mix mortar to lay bricks, it is one part of cement to four parts of loam by volume, therefore for bigger batches you can have say; three shovels full of cement and twelve shovelful of loam and so on. Of course sometimes these quantities can vary, if for instance it is written in the specifications that the mortar has to be made with different amount of materials.

Anyhow let me go back to this batch of mortar that I have just mixed to the right consistency; Now, I take the wheelbarrow near the mixer and tip the mortar in the wheelbarrow, and then take the wheelbarrow with the mortar near the mortar boards, here I wet the mortar boards before I place the mortar on them and finally I am ready for the bricklayers to get started. From now on I have to make sure that the bricklayers have always enough mortar and bricks, otherwise the bricklayers will we shouting at me Bricks! Or combo! (Or mortar!)

Dear readers if I have missed a few things you just have to use your own common sense to get everything going the right way, you see most things on the building site is just plain common sense.

I believe that I have said enough in this article and although there is a lot to be said about the bricklayer, how they are going to lay the bricks for this brick base, I am going to leave it for next article, which we are going to call, DIY brickwork. In our next article, I will try to explain building with bricks in as many details as I can, starting with how to build a house base with bricks, in fact, we are going to write a group of articles about bricklaying and other building trades, here I hope that I can explain them in such a way, that it would be easy to follow them. Anyhow, see you soon in our next article, DIY brickwork.

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© 2012 F-Menchise

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    • F-Menchise profile imageAUTHOR

      F-Menchise 

      4 years ago from Brisbane Australia

      Thanks for reading my hub and your comment Brian, Thanks again.

    • profile image

      Brian Brown 

      4 years ago

      All work are so beautiful.thank

    working

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