Floors at Ground Level

It was only about a week later when I next saw the 'job' and it was exciting to behold. The whole building site had been levelled to a tolerance of 1" to an adequate distance outside the walls in all directions. The footings had been excavated and poured and two courses of standard baked bricks had been laid on them around the perimeter of the building as a base to receive the mud bricks that Robyn was about to lay. These two courses of fired bricks set in cement mortar laid in two rows set one inch apart is the ideal way to start the work because it provides a level base for the mud bricks and forms a shallow tray within the external walls to receive the flooring of the building. It also protects the lowest course of mud brickwork from damage both inside and out and removes the necessity of using skirting boards.

When I started building environmental constructions back in 1947, I immediately realised the advantages of keeping the floors on ground level no matter what material or finish was decided upon. In the first place, it saved at least 1'6" or 450mm. of brickwork throughout the job as well as obviating steps out of doorways and the cost of raised up verandahs and terraces. It also brought the house and the land into one indivisible whole, both in appearance and in fact. It allowed for all the rooms to have access to the outside through glass doors set in the external walls and aligned with the windows which generally extended from floor to ceiling.

The essence of good design in building is never to use two things where one will do. The fewer and more constructive elements involved in the work, the more positive the result, especially for those who are building their own houses.

These factors emerged in the mud brick revival that began in the 1940's when there were practically no manufactured materials available. Time has refined, but never altered, these basic principles. Setting the window walls on the prepared brick base requires that one course is left out at that point if it is decided the window sill is to finish level with the internal floor. We placed the window walls on the internal line of bricks so that they were flush with the internal walls. At the same time it permitted a brick threshold externally which would relate exactly with any verandah or terrace.

The window walls were then correctly plumbed and securely braced. Mud bricks weigh about 35 to 40 pounds each and when they are pushed up against them in the laying to blind the daylight they can shift the window mullions from the vertical. For this reason it is good practice not only to brace the windows diagonally when the job is under construction but also to fit noggins horizontally to maintain the frames true and upright at all times.


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