Firth Architectural Masonry – low maintenance and stunning

Firth Architectural Masonry – low maintenance and stunning
October 14, 2015

Main Contractor: Russell Gordon Contracting
Block layer: A J Russell Bricklayers
Block honing/Waterproofing: Surface Matters – Jin Moon
Products: Firth Architectural Masonry, Standard 20 series and Certified concrete

When the owners of a new masonry home in Bucklands Beach initially considered design options for their new home that would eventually overlook the Waitamata Harbour, the first item on the brief for architect, Feng Zhan (Director of Woodhams, Meikle Zhan Architects) was that the house had to be contemporary, solid and low maintenance.

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“Creating a beautifully designed, low maintenance home with a view over the water were the main points in the brief from the clients,” explains Feng. “The house had to be low or no maintenance, so weatherboard and many light-weight cladding systems were out as the owner did not want to have to repaint regularly.”

When block options for the exterior were investigated, the use of a standard block at 290 high x 390 long was initially considered but ultimately ruled out as being too large a profile for such a sizeable area. The use of bricks was also considered, but it was decided they would be too busy and their profile too small.

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“Then I came across Firth’s Architectural Masonry half high blocks which come in two great cool grey colours which I think work well in that location with the tones of the sea and the sky. The long look profile of the half high Architectural block – 90 high x 390mm long or 1:4 proportion – turned out to be just right,” explains Feng.

“I also used 20 series Architectural Masonry full block (390x190x190mm) on the ground floor with special grout and stack bonded to create some visual contrast to the half-height block veneer.”

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“We were asked to help with colour samples for this job in Architectural Masonry 90 x 360 x 90mm ‘Stone’,” which was also used as a feature wall in the entrance and up the stairs,” explains Bernice Cumming, Architectural Manager for Firth. “In the early stages of design Firth’s Technical Masonry Engineer, Graeme Bigham, worked with the architects to discuss how the different materials would work together.”

Feng had previously seen standard, stretcher or stack bonded blocks with the use of flush vertical mortar joints used with raked horizontal joints that, when viewed from a distance, looked like weatherboard. “This is a very effective technique and was used by Frank Lloyd Wright over 100 years ago,” explains Feng. “This lineal look adds an interesting texture wrapping around the whole building. To complete the finish, the blocks were lightly honed and then sealed.”

To break up the block work Feng used a contrasting aluminium composite cladding system on the middle section of the house. “These panels are a great contrast to the blocks. Together the overall look is very effective,” adds Feng. “We also polished interior concrete floor which is made from a 19mm pump mix with no oxide included. This provides passive heat storage from the sun through the large windows, helping to provide a comfortable environment for the owners.”

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“Bernice from Firth was really helpful on the whole project and helped with the blocks for the boundary wall and the coloured concrete for the driveway. The colour we used was ‘Atmospheric Mist’ with a broom finish which was later cut,” he says.

“Both the client and myself are very happy with the end product,” he continues. “The Firth half height block with the aluminum panels has brought the overall look together so well. The client couldn’t be happier and I am pleased to add this to the firm’s portfolio of work.”

For more information on Firth’s Architectural Masonry series click here or contact us at or 0800 FIRTH1.

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