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House Building in Brisbane

Updated on April 8, 2020

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

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 discussions

Welcome to my article (35), House building in Brisbane;

Dear readers, today we build houses to live in them, the houses we live in can be different to one another, depending on the country or even the zone where we are living. Now let me explain, any building that are meant for people to live in are called houses, it is the universal name that most people accept, other buildings have different names.

Anyhow, we must build houses to live in them, so, in this article we are talking about that, because this is what I did when I came to Australia; so, we are talk about house building in Brisbane in the sixties. I know that today building houses can be different from then, but not very much. Anyhow, we are going to talk about house brick bases, and working as a brickies labour.

So, we are talking about building house the old way, but it does not matter if it is the old way, because it is building houses, and it does not matter when we have done that, as the same way can be used again, so, there is still something that we can learn from it.

House building in Brisbane in the sixties, was and is different from the old continent of Europe, because over there most houses are made of masonry, timber over there is more expensive than in Australia, and because of the colder climate. You see, thick walls of masonry absorb the heat during summer and act as storage of this heat by releasing it slowly during the colder months. Anyhow, houses over there are built mostly from masons’ bricklayer and concreters, and the carpenters play a smaller part than they do in Australia.

Therefore, when we the European migrants came to Australia in the sixties, we thought this is strange to live in timber houses, and we were surprised to see that the carpenter played the role of builders, when houses were being built, because in the sixties most houses were made of timber, we are saying this to compare houses building, between the old continent and Australia in those times. Now 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. But as we know, everything changes with time. As we will see later, when building houses with timber will change even here. Now that we have made this comparison, let us go back to what I was doing myself in helping to build these 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.


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

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 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, which had two tradesman and one labour (myself). Now let me go over briefly what sort of teams were there; first there were the concreters and bricklayers. When building small houses that did not have a lot to do with these trades, concrete and brickwork could be done from the same team; then 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; not only he was building the timber frame of the house, but had to organise all the teams in a way that was 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 building knowledge and had the money to build them, you had this opportunity to build one of these houses, of course there were local authority inspections to be had while we were building, but if you knew what you were doing it was easy to pass. So, there were many house builders around that would hire teams of building workers as we were.

I need to say that the building industry in Australia is one of the main driving forces of the economy, since it employs lots of people that are willing to do hard physical work to earn their living, you see you don’t need to be a learned person to work on the building, all you need is 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 people that speak your native language and they explain to you what you need to do, but you had to work hard to keep this job.

I believe that in the sixties and seventies there were good opportunities to work on building houses, because the price of the houses was more affordable than they are today. Just looking back at those prices we can 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, most people could afford them; therefore, those builders that were building them were able to sell their houses at a decent profit that would enable them to build other houses.

As we know things changes with the passing of time, we become aware of the changes, when we look for it. So, let us look at what has taken place, in the houses market.

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 just a brick wall in front of the house they changed to a full brick base and concrete stumps or steel posts, then came the era of the brick veneer and finally concrete and cavity bricks. Today, I must point out that building apartments is different from the sixties, 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 working building houses. If I remember right in my last article, I was talking about how we were concreting the stumps for a new house, and we had laid the foundations for brickwork, therefore, let us talk about the brickwork that we had to do, to build a brick base under the house.


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. | Source

Brick base under timber houses

As we have said, there were many types of houses being built in the sixties, some of them had a brick base, or 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 larger teams can work well with a different number of people, anyhow this is what was like then and our team had two bricklayer and a labour as myself.

Now that I have explained that, let us start working, so that I can describe how things work out, who does what, and how it should be done. It is the bricklayers’ foreman 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 must start. This is not hard to know because to lay bricks you must 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, all I had to do, was 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 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 wishful thinking and most times we didn’t, but we had to try to get there; this is how the bricklayers’ team works. Now let me break it down and describe what the labour does, and then what the bricklayers have to do; 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 does.


A mixer and wheelbarrows

General and mortar wheelbarrow
General and mortar wheelbarrow | Source
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 you do, when you are working as a brickies labour.

The brickies labour job is hard work, it is also a semiskilled work, since he has got to know how to make mortar and to supply mortar and bricks to the bricklayer at the right time in the right place. It is obvious that he must have at his disposition a mixer to mix mortar and wheelbarrows, 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 there are hips of dirt around the foundations where the brick or block walls are going to be built, so, the labour needs first to flatten the ground a bit, so that the mortar boards and the bricks can be positioned at the right distance from the foundation, 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, the bricklayers are going to start to lay bricks, let me prepare the mortar, which some people may call cement or combo.

Preparing or mixing the mortar

There are rules to follow how to mix good mortar, so, one must keep in mind first what sort of material is available and can be delivered on the local site, because quantity and quality may vary 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 screened it, I am ready to mix it now.

So, I start the mixer and put in 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, these quantities can vary, if for instance it is written in the specifications that the mortar must be made with different amount of materials.

Anyhow, let me go back to this batch of mortar that I have 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 must make sure that the bricklayers have always enough mortar and bricks, otherwise they will we shouting at me Bricks! Or combo! (Or mortar!)

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

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


© 2012 F-Menchise


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    • F-Menchise profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Brisbane Australia

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

    • profile image

      Brian Brown 

      6 years ago

      All work are so beautiful.thank


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