A self build house project diary
by Oliver Cannell
Saturday 31st May 2014
(published/edited Sunday 1st June 2014)

Brick by brick… and the boundary wall takes shape

Brick hunting at the builder's merchant, a surprise decision by the Planners and progress with the boundary wall.

The problems

  1. We need to get the public footpath open again within about 5 weeks, otherwise the Highways people are going to be on our case.
  2. The structural engineer has dictated that he wants a brick wall, rather than a wooden fence, on top of the retaining wall, to add extra weight (for balance and strength).
  3. We need to use as a cheap a brick as possible, otherwise it's going to cost a small fortune to build the boundary wall.
  4. We need about 5500 bricks to be in stock right now, to make sure we meet the deadline.

So, in a hurry, I decided to visit the builder's preferred merchant, to choose a brick there and then. I could choose a suitable style and colour, find out what stock they had available and also what price we could get them for.

Choosing wisely

On the brick reference websites, there are literally hundreds available. Who knew there could be so many?! But thankfully the builder's merchant 'only' had about 40 to choose from! It took me a good hour to browse all the bricks in their yard and then come up with a shortlist and get some prices. Of the six I chose, there were two which were of an okay-ish price. The cheapest bricks are normally around the 40p/brick, but they are mostly in the 60p-70p region. I found a really nice one, for about 41p but they wouldn't able to get any stock for a minimum of 20 weeks!

So I had to settle for a nice-ish red brick for about 51p each. I grabbed some samples and brought those back to test on-site (see photo). They were a little more cottagie-looking and redder than I'd like but needs must. If only we had more time to make these decisions. My ideal choice though, would be to use the same blue engineering brick, that we've already used around the base of the retaining wall. I think it would super-crisp, with the style of house we're building and the colour isn't as loud as the red or red-mixes. But it still has a certain something about that says 'quality' and 'style'.

Apparently there is a national shortage of bricks at the moment, so prices are on the increase too. I was told (by the builder) that the blue engineering bricks were about 40p a brick, so that would be an ideal choice too. He suggested I try asking the Planners to see what they thought. We thought it unlikely that they'd go for it - seeing as there are no other walls in the area like it - but worth a go. I sent them an email and a website link to show a sample, emphasising that it would look very smart and would compliment the style of house and expected to be turned down point blank.

What a surprise, they agreed that it would be a good brick to use and would be very suitable! Brilliant. A great looking brick and at the right price.

That is.... until the builder started to source it from his suppliers, only to be told the price of these is now more like 75p each!!! What the?!! We don't really want to have to mess the Planners around and go back with another choice - but thankfully we've managed to source them for about 65p each. It's still going to cost a small fortune after all to build this boundary wall!

Let's build a wall

So we had a delivery of a couple of thousand blue engineering bricks about a week ago, to get the ball rolling. The builders have been cracking on getting things underway and we have ourselves the start of a lush looking wall. I love it already!

To keep the structural engineer happy - as we're only building it one brick thick instead of two - we're having to put reinforced columns along the length, every 2-3 metres. This is going to add a lot more strength - but then this also means more cost.

I know I'm going to be REALLY happy with the wall when it's finished.... coz I think it looks great already... but it's eating into the house budget massively more than I intended. I swear if anyone ever graffitis it... there's going to be hell to pay!!!

Next entry: Planning permission for design changes granted (Thursday 5th June 2014)

Previous entry: Choosing a new kitchen (Tuesday 20th May 2014)

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