The worst brickwork?: A new contender.

The worst brickwork we’ve ever seen.

Norwich New Build

Norwich New Build

Back in July we were called to carry out a snagging inspection to a David Wilson Homes site in Norwich, which had the worst brickwork we’ve ever seen. Our clients had signed up to buy a new build ‘off plan’ but started to have grave concerns relating to the quality of their potential new home as they watched the build progress. Our initial discussion related to the fact that the brickwork colour was mismatched and that the developer had employed someone to tint the bricks to match; when I arrived on site to carry out the snagging inspection the specialist was at work  painting individual bricks with a pot of red tint solution and a paint brush, a quite laborious task as you can imagine.

We’d agreed to inspect before the build was complete because our discussions with the client, and indeed pictures sent to us, gave enough cause for concern that this was necessary.  The following image slider will give you a feel for the quality of the work and the sheer volume of defects we encountered. Please view the slider on full screen to fully appreciate the illustrated defects.

Would you have bought this house?

Norwich new build
The worst brickwork
Bridged polyethylene DPC
Oversailing brickwork
Cracked bricks
Failed mortar joint
Poor pointing
Cracked bed joint
Poor standard of pointing
Protruding perp weeps
Poor setting out
Perps out of alignment
Overly wide mortar perp
Inconsistent mortar joints
walls out of plumb
Smeared pointing work
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Significant Defects

As you can see the defects were significant and we commented in our report that we found it difficult to believe that this brickwork was completed by a fully qualified brick layer. Of particular concern was the incredibly poor setting out, failed mortar bed joints, inconsistency in width and depth of mortar joints and last but not least, walls that were significantly out of plumb, well beyond the 8mm maximum allowable NHBC tolerance. As often happens in these cases it was relayed back to us from our client that the developer didn’t agree with our report and that a site manager of 20 years experience knows more than us and his view is that the brickwork was perfectly acceptable. I thought it may be useful to balance the Chartered professionals view with a second opinion  from a master bricklayer and obtained the following commentary from an acquaintance who is also a master bricklayer…

The master bricklayers view

“My name is Bill XXXXXX and I have been a brick layer for the last 30 years.  I have City and Guilds  NVQ level 3 in brick laying  and NVQ level  6  in site management. I’ve been asked by Joe Malone  for my opinion  about the workmanship of Plot XXX in Norwich.

There seems to be wide and inconsistent perpendiculars and significant variation in bed joints.

The pointing is of a very low and poor standard i.e. holes and not perps not ’top and tailed correctly’

Weep holes are protruding out of the brick work and should be flush.

Also bricks have been laid upside down allowing moisture to catch on the face leading to premature failure through ‘spalling’ aka frost damage.

The walls are significantly out of plumb. Variation in plumb should on good brick work be a maximum of 4l mm out of plumb one way or another. Brick courses seem to wander. Chipped bricks have been used rather than discarded. The Brick work is over sailing be 10mm in places below the DPC

There are large gaps around some windows which implies poor setting out.

Some bricks are cracked and should have been discarded. Two failed bed joints are apparent.

The brick work has not been washed or cleaned down.

The mortar colour varies implying it has not been ‘gauged’ and makes the building look patchy.

The damp course is protruding through the mortar.

Back straps for the garage have been missed. Roof ridge work is poorly finished and there appears to be no mechanical fixings

The brick work does not appear to be ‘fair faced’

In all a very poor standard of work has been delivered with a significant amount of snagging already required.

On a site managed by our company this work would be condemned and the brick layers replaced or forced to do the work again to our own companies’ standard.”

The only point on which we don’t agree with on this second opinion is with regard to the DPC being pointed over. DPC’s should not be pointed over, they should be exposed and clearly visible and if they are not then they are bridged.

The worst Brickwork

Our clients reached something of stalemate with their developer, because they were insisting that sections of the building were taken down and rebuilt, whilst the developer was offering minor remedial works that fell well short of dealing with the significant defects in this build. Their complaint was ultimately elevated to the managing director of David Wilson Homes and our client eventually informed us of the following outcome, “We have decided not to proceed with the purchase of the house. I think we always knew this was the outcome deep down. I have received a reply letter from the MD of David Wilson East division offering to rescind the contract and contribute towards ‘reasonable’ conveyance costs.”

When we last spoke our clients were looking to purchase an old traditional property and we completely understand why, moreover, we believe that they made absolutely the right decision to withdraw from this contract. A brave and sensible decision, especially when you consider that many clients purchase with their heart rather than their head.

 

 

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9 Comments

  • Nigel Morgan

    I had a similar case 15 years or so ago – which came to light on re-inspection for release of mortgage funds to allow completion a few days later. I refused to ok the building as satisfactorily complete which unsurprisingly caused a furore. I took the view that, over and beyond performance, the poor visible appearance also impacted on value.
    But after initial denials, the developer sent someone from head office (Wilcon I think) who rang me when he got back to say they had terminated the contract of the bricklayers and that he had given instruction for the outer cladding to be taken down and rebuilt. I don’t remember anything after that so do not know if the buyer went ahead. What, I wonder, would the inner skin have looked like??

    • Joe Malone

      The buyer was brave enough to pull out of the contract and as I said, their MD offered to refund their costs but I did hear that they subsequently sold the property for circa £20k more, though I can’t confirm this. What interests me in particular about your comment Nigel is the point you make about the property value because its one I completely agree with. On the last two properties I have inspected that were built this poorly (both blogged here), I commented in both cases that I believed property values would be significantly reduced as a result of the poor quality masonry work.

  • Raymond Golding

    Very few trade bricklayers these days and the good ones are hard to find.

  • Just came across your article.

    I totally agree with your observations on the quality of the brickwork, i suspect there would be many other quality issues throughout the entire house build.

    I work as a project manager in the construction industry and am very sad to say that i have seen alot worse.
    Companies are just accepting this poor standard of workmanship.

    Many of the managers responsible for controlling quality on a day to day basis have no clue what is an acceptable standard and this is true of other trades on most sites.

  • Wayne B Kerr

    The arse was ripped out of our industry, from the late 50`s and early 1960`s.When piece work and the lump came in.

    Gradually, over time people became less concerned with quality and more about the number of bricks people could lay per day.
    Trades foreman, and supervisors disappeared, self employment became the norm……………..and suddenly everyone is a “Subie” and its all Bish-Bosh-Bang….I`m a subie now and I`m going to earn a shed-load.

    Running parallel to that apprenticeships and proper craft training went down the swanee……The Bean-counters took over, price became the key indicator over-ruling quality and decent workmanship.
    And now our industry is flooded with European clowns, most of whom wouldn`t know good work if it bit them on the ankle.

    There are craftsmen, and quality around….but its damn difficult to find in amongst the clowns, buffoons and dross that populate our industry.

  • Max

    I’m a fully trained bricklayer working for XXXXXX homes, I have two apprentices I’ve had for four months and our construction director wants them to team up with another two lads and build their own plots unsupervised! That’s the attitude of higher management to the skill of bricklaying and the respect they have to customers. There’s no wonder people are unhappy with their new house!

  • Bob

    Bob
    Looking at the brickwork I would say he/her is a good bricklayer bricks look flat and to the line taking into consideration this will be price work, the type of brick used vary in length some times up to 7mm if you lay four bricks that are 5mm short and you want to keep straight perps you will have three 15mm joints. my personal and professional opinion to the bricklayer would be to avoid price work or except a price that is suitable for you to be able to make a wage and produce a quality job.
    If construction company’s wanted quality and care they would pay an hourly rate or offer a price that allows most bricklayers to take pride in there job and produce quality work.

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