External Walls Overview
Increasingly there are a variety of methods and materials used in the construction of external walls. In addition to bringing you the whole range of materials and specialists that might be applicable to external walls we have a vast number of companies listed that provide external wall finishes. Key areas of interest tend to be bricks, blocks, cladding, patent glazing and wall coatings....more
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Brickwork and Blockwork
Brickwork has been the material of choice for domestic housing in the UK for many years. Ranges of bricks are ever increasingly vast from wirecuts to stocks and flettons. Hand made bricks are common place on most superior housing developments and the excellent architectural features can now be incorporated using the range of 'specials' that are available.
The types of specials available are as follows: cants, plinth headers, plinth stretchers, bullnoses, squints, angles, taped headers, taped stretchers, square stop ends, copings and cappings. It is very common for specials to be made of blue engineering bricks thus producing feature courses against a contrasting wall of red or buff brickwork.
Whilst most bricks have a frost proof rating, in wet situations or manholes for example, it is normal to use a class B engineering brick below ground. Class B bricks are also commonly used in retaining wall situations.
Where cavity walls are built the brickwork bond will be stretcher bond. This is sometimes known as running bond. The brickwork is tied to the inner leaf using stainless steel wall ties or 'butterfly ties'. Other brickwork bonds used are Flemish bond, Garden Wall bond, English bond and Herringbone bond.
Contemporary brickwork is often presented in commercial buildings as stack-bond construction which allows standard windows components and thinner wall cavities. Special modular bricks are manufactured for use in stack-bond brickwork.
Blockwork is built from a vast array of different blocks available in the marketplace. Densities, strengths, sizes and configurations vary enormously as do the prices. In domestic situations where thermal performance is often critical, aircrete blocks are often the first choice. Aircrete blocks have a high thermal performance requiring less cavity insulation. Other blocks are typically lightweight aggregate blocks or dense aggregate blocks. These vary in standard strengths of typically 3.5N/mm, 7N/mm and 10 N/mm.
Foundation blocks (trenchblocks) enable a wide single leaf foundation to be laid and give good strength characteristics whilst still being light enough for a bricklayer to lift. The latest very large trenchblocks are tongue and grooved and have hand holds for ease of laying.
In party wall situations, the Building Regulations require a minimum level of acoustic insulation and a dense party wall block is available that will achieve adequate insulation for a sound separating wall. Coursing blocks, (coursing bricks, coursing units) are available for accommodation of lintels, windows and general coursing requirements.
Increasingly in recent years blocks have been used as in-filling in beam and block floor applications whereby a suspended concrete floor can be created in a very short time frame without need for hardcore, binding and wet concrete flooring.
Curtain Walling, Patent Glazing, Infill Panels and Profiled Cladding Sheets.
Commercial structures often employ curtain walling to form the structure of the external wall of the building. Whilst almost every design is unique, the general principle of curtain walling is a relatively slim aluminium frame with a glass or solid infill panel. The aluminium frame is usually anodised powder, coated or treated with other high performance, low maintenance coatings. This framework can accommodate an internal drainage system to clear rainwater, sometimes referred to as zone-drained, compartment drained or rainscreened. It would be normal for the aluminium frame to be thermally broken and ventilated if required both to reduce any risk of condensation and also increase thermal insulation.
Timber curtain walling is not uncommon in smaller scale situations using durable hardwoods and occasionally softwood. Normally the finished treatment would be micro-porous, water based, opaque paints or translucent stains.
Patent glazing encompasses large areas of glazing often not interrupted by any steelwork. Structural glazing has become commonplace whereby thick glass sheets are held in place by stainless steel bolted cleats. Silicone bonded frameless-glazed fixed lights can be used to create external wall structures sometimes with large sliding frameless doors and glass finished designs incorporated.
The cladding panels available for commercial buildings vary from smooth proprietary coloured panels of composite construction (composite cladding panels) to glazed tile panels and terracotta panels. Flat wall steel and flat wall aluminium composite panels have the advantage of creating a highly clean and perfectly flat secret fixed appearance whilst delivering high levels of thermal insulation within the composite structure. Composite cladding panels are often referred to within the industry as sandwich panels and also rainscreen cladding. The flexibility and variety available ensure a wide choice of thermal, acoustic and fire-rating characteristics.
For many years concrete cladding panels have been popular and whilst the exposed aggregate appearance is less modern, these have proved extremely durable and relatively easy to clean with pressure washing only needed after long intervals.
Profiled sheet cladding is mostly used in industrial buildings. This is a cost effective non-structural external wall finish comprising of a profiled steel sheet which has been plastic coated with a coloured finish.