Masonry construction – durability, style, comfort and value

Masonry construction – durability, style, comfort and value
February 10, 2015

Choosing a design for a new house can be an exciting time for new home builders with so many things to consider … contemporary or classic, size, roof structure, cladding … the list goes on.

But one of the first decisions a new home builder and their architects will have to make is whether to choose a timber, plaster, brick veneer or a structural masonry/plaster style design. Warren Pointon, Managing Director for Town and Country Residential Limited, talks a bit about why his company predominantly builds masonry homes and how he has built a reputation in this market.

“I started my career in the 1970’s – that’s a while ago – as a brick and block layer and by the 1980’s wanted a change so started building houses instead as my father was a builder. Around 1997 Firth developed HotBloc. I was one of the first builders to come on board using HotBloc structurally in residential houses. I have had a very strong association with Firth ever since.”

By April this year Warren’s company will have completed 61 masonry homes throughout Auckland. “We did build timber framed homes initially but I firmly believe that a masonry home offers durability, style, comfort, reliability and value for new home owners. I choose to live in a masonry house. We are now in our third masonry home.”

So what is it about building masonry homes that has so much appeal?  “When we first started building in masonry in the 90’s the newspapers were full of stories about home owners with rotting houses,” says Warren. “The leaky homes problem had only just started to surface.  I can honestly say that I have never had one leaky home.”

Most of Warren’s builds are two to three levels. It’s not just the structural block construction that has the appeal, says Warren, but the RibRaft floor slabs and the concrete mid floors which are 180mm in thickness vs 250mm for a timber floor structure. “A lot of the homes we build are high end and have very large floor areas,” adds Warren. “Building in timber over such large spans is quite involved but in concrete, with uni spans and ribs, it’s much easier. And concrete floors have a much higher fire rating with noise between floors hugely reduced.”

Warren recommends the use of Firth’s HotBloc where appropriate as it provides insulation and gives the home thermal advantages with more even temperatures vs the extreme heat and cold of timber construction.

What about the cost of building in masonry vs timber? “Over the years I have worked through all the cost comparisons of timber, plaster, brick and structural masonry and if you work closely with the architect to get the right design, the costs are comparable,” explains Warren. “Although we mainly build high-end, one-off homes, we recently completed a smaller 230m2 house at a cost of about $650,000 – which is pretty good for the standard of home they ended up with.”

At the end of the day Warren explains that workmanship and experience counts for a lot. “We only use quality blocklayers and pride ourselves on our workmanship. The standard of home you get is a result of good design and trades people who know what they are doing. Ensuring the block walls are completely water-proof comes from working with companies like Firth and getting the right water proofing agent used in the block fill. Also using specially designed water-proof grout and even the quality of the paint and the painter so as to not stretch the paint when applying it.  It all goes into producing a quality product. I am happy with what we have learned over the years working with companies like Firth, who often ask us to test new products, and I absolutely stand by our product.  For anyone looking to build a plaster style construction I would recommend masonry over timber construction any day.


Masonry design using NZS4229

To learn more on how to design using NZS4229  – Structural (non specific design) – Warren Pointon, Managing Director for Town and Country Residential Limited, will be joining Ralf Kessel from CCANZ, Firth, Block Layer and Brick and Block Layers Federation President, Craig King at a two hour workshop at the Home Ideas Centre in Parnell, Auckland on Wednesday 25 February 2015.  A registered CPD event.

Call 0800 Firth1 to register your interest.


 NZS 4229:2013 Concrete Masonry Buildings Not Requiring Specific Engineering Design

Sets a minimum standard for the design and construction of reinforced concrete masonry buildings. When applied by architects, designers, builders, engineers, apprentices, building consent authorities, and building industry regulators, NZS 4229 provides these users with a cost effective means of compliance and practical guidance for designing and building to meet New Zealand Building Code requirements, without the need for specific engineering design.

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