Timber vs. Masonry Construction
A builder normally starts life in another career, normally a trade, before deciding they want to do more. In Queensland and Northern Territory, most of our builders have carpentry background, and are therefore more comfortable with timber construction. Most of the southern states however are much more likely to have builders with a background in masonry construction rather than timber. Every time you hear ‘comfortable’ or ‘familiar’, think more cost effective. When you ask a builder to do something they’re not comfortable or familiar with, they charge you more for the risk they are taking on. The more familiar they are with the product or construction type, the more they understand the risks and the less cost they need to put towards these risks.
Most housing projects are either timber framed construction or masonry construction.
Types of Timber Construction
- Timber frame (typically 90mm frame plus plasterboard)
- Single skin VJ wall (in Queenslanders)
TYPICAL TIMBER STUD WALL
Types of Masonry Construction
- Brick Veneer (typically 250mm)
- Cavity Brick (typically 270mm)
- Blockwork (starting from 190mm)
TYPICAL BRICK VENEER WALL
Most project homes look masonry, but very few of them technically are masonry construction. When we look at brickwork, there are two ways to do it. Brick is simply a cladding, like weatherboards, and it’s only job is to keep the rain out. Even that it doesn’t do very well, as brick is porous and has to have a cavity behind it to drain the water! The structural load isn’t carried by the brick that you see. There is a secondary line of the wall on the inside of the house, and this is what carries the structural load. This internal line can be a second line of brick, in which case with have a double brick wall, often called ‘cavity brick’. More commonly however, the internal line is a timber stud wall, and this is call brick veneer. The internal stud wall carries the structural load of the house and has the plasterboard attached, and then there is a 50mm gap between the stud and the external line of bricks that keeps the rain out. The easiest way to pick between cavity brick and brick veneer is to look at the internal wall sheeting; cavity brick has the solid masonry rendered or plastered, and is cold and solid to the touch. Brick veneer has plasterboard on the internal wall sheeting and will sound hollow when you knock on it. The big benefit of brick veneer is that you can hide all sorts of things in that stud wall, such as electrical cabling and insulation. Timber is also easier to modify, whether on site during construction or in the future for future renovations. Masonry is a lot harder to modify and much more limiting.