Concrete and Clay

Lafarge Tarmac’s Bill Price has a solution to the brick shortage…

I don’t think that anyone can now be in denial about the upsurge in house-building and its positive effect on builders merchants. But this welcome trend is not without its downside, as increasingly long delivery times for traditional building materials are being reported by some suppliers. Clay bricks are one case in point, as demand is beginning to outstrip supply. Whilst the use of precast concrete wall panels for housing, so popular in parts of mainland Europe, has never really caught on in the UK, there is a concrete based solution that might be more popular. That potential solution is the concrete brick!

Concrete bricks can be used in traditional masonry construction and are available in a range of colours and textures that can blend in with most regional preferences. Let us not forget that the ‘look’ of brickwork often defines the built environment in different geographical areas of the UK.

Concrete bricks can be produced very rapidly and there are a number of UK based manufacturers, thus cutting down on transportation. Concrete bricks are dimensionally stable and particularly resistant to freezing and thawing. Unsightly efflorescence is also relatively rare. If clay bricks are scarce, it is well worth thinking about stocking concrete bricks, either as an alternative, or alongside the clay versions.

Of course, where you have bricks (of whatever type) you have mortar. Traditionally, most masonry mortar was mixed on site from cement, sand and water. This method gives fairly poor control over the performance of the mortar and is relatively wasteful. On larger housing sites, dry silo or delivered ready to use mortar has become common, but for smaller sites, pre-packed mortars are highly appropriate. Pre-packed mortars take the guesswork out of proportioning the sand and cement and give greater consistency of strength compared to site mixing. Studies have also shown that plastic packing reduces waste on site, both in terms of preventing over ordering of materials and reduced spoilage due to being stored outside in the rain.

Some things are just meant to go together such as gin and tonic and of course, bricks and mortar. It’s just that these days the bricks can be concrete as well as clay.

About Guest Blogger - Bill Price

Bill Price is National Commercial Technical Manager at Tarmac’s Cement business

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