We recently bought an old timber house with the idea of doing some renovations for eventual re-sale. The weather boards are pretty dilapidated with previous attempts to tidy them up peeling off. They would need completely stripping back to bare wood before paint would do it's job again. Some areas needed replacing too as rot had set in. We made the decision to convert the house into a brick house and considered some of the options. We are on a tight budget as many handyman projects are.
The house is old so new brickwork would probably look out of place and it only has a 12” eve around it so standard brick veneer would look funny too. Normal brick veneer has 2” cavity which would only leave a few inches of eve. I decided to brick it right out to the fascia board leaving no eve at all. This would mean a brick return back into all windows and doors giving the house a thick walled look similar to mud brick etc. I decided too to render and bag the bricks and then paint the finished project.
As the bricks were to be rendered over there was no need for fancy bricks. After I priced 2nd class bricks at the local brick works I decided to try and make my own. The cheapest of bricks was still going to cost several thousand dollars. The first job was to pour a concrete footing right round the house. I set to work and dug this out over a couple of days. I made up a brick course rod and tried to put level pegs in the trench for concrete height to make it suit bricks. This turned out to be a waste of time because my bricks were all sizes in the end and the starting height turned out to irrelevant. I laid two lengths of reinforcement rods right round the trench and tied them together with wire. Then I filled the trench with concrete over a couple of days too.
At this stage I should mention that I bought a concrete mixer to make all this work easier. Now came the unknown part, the making of bricks. After much thought I decided to make a mold from half inch ply. The plywood came in 8' sheets so two lengths of that with partitions for brick sizes made 18 bricks in total. Much trial and error came next with different mixes and mold pouring configurations. I settled on the most satisfactory method of pouring my mold straight onto the ground on top of a sheet of plastic. The mold had no bottom and was just the open shape. I can pour the eighteen bricks with a relatively stiff and dry mixture and level off the top with a wood float. Then, with a wriggle on both ends the mold lifts off and the eighteen bricks sit there on the plastic. The mold goes back down again on the plastic and another eighteen are poured.
One could go on all day doing this and making an infinite number of bricks. I just filled the sheet of plastic with about 100 bricks each pour, about an hours work. I found in the summer time I could lift the bricks carefully up next morning and stack them to one side and then make another hundred. Winter time, the bricks need a couple of days to set hard enough to move. By doing it this way I could make my 100 bricks in the morning and lay 100 bricks in the afternoon with a couple of days old bricks. That may not seem like many but by plugging away I soon had one wall complete without damaging my poor old back. When I reached the top I cut pieces to fit on the last course to finish just behind the fascia board.
I should mention here that because there was a full brick return to each window there had to be something there for the brick to sit on. So as I came up each course I brought up a brick pier at each side of each window. This allowed me to return the first window brick into the window and give it something to sit on. Every few courses too I put in brick ties to attach the brick wall to the house. Because we had such a large cavity the standard brick tie was too short so I bought a roll of steel strapping and cut brick ties to suit. These are attached to the weatherboards every few courses and sit in the mortar joint to make everything safe and secure.
Now was time to experiment with the cement render. I settled on a standard render mix of sand and cement and used a steel trowel to smooth this over the bricks. Because I was after a rustic effect it didn't matter how rough it was. This was only a thin skim of about half an inch so it didn't take much to go a long way. I hosed done the wall before I started so it was wet making it easier for the render to stick to the bricks. While this render was still wet I took a sponge and a bucket of water and swirled the wet sponge over the render giving a bagged effect. I was not fussy as to bumps and lumps as the look we were after is that mud brick rustic style.
After this was all complete and dry I sprayed a trial coat of paint in a rustic deep yellow and it has come up really well. The bricks go up past the top of the windows leaving the space over the windows still weatherboards. This is painted the same color as the bricks and blends in well. These sections still have the full eve and gives the effect of being a natural occurrence instead of a renovation. Encouraged by this first wall I am soldiering on to the rest of the house. I happened across some second hand bricks free and got enough to do the second wall. I am now half way around and toying with the idea of buying some cheap bricks or making some again. The local brick works has reject and broken bits for $25 a trailer load which would probably do as the render will cover them. That may work out just as cheap as buying more gravel and cement and making my own again.
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