Poor brickwork or overly high expectations?

When carrying out new build inspections you will inevitably venture into areas of subjectivity when it comes to judging whether building aesthetics meet a reasonable standard. 

With regard to brickwork it is reasonable to expect that  bricks are of a consistent batch, that brickwork is clean and free from major chips or cracks, that bed joints are level and perp joints are plumb. Mortar joints should be evenly spaced, neatly pointed and mortar should have been carefully gauged to ensure a consistent colour match. The physical damp proof course should also be visible where it overlaps the bed joint by around 5-10mm, if it is not then it has not been installed or it has been bridged.

Interestingly masonry walls are generally stronger when built with thin joints and as a general rule of thumb we expect to see mortar joints of around 10mm thickness in the UK and even less for thin joint construction. Overly wide mortar joints are susceptible to cracking and weaken the structure.

The title of this blog came from a conversation I overheard whilst I was inspecting the brickwork on a Bovis site in Long Buckby, Northamptonshire.  An employee of this particular large National developer was explaining to the resident how the problem with surveyors like me was that we often  had overly high expectations and these expectations needed to be tempered.  The brickwork on this particular property was possibly the worst new construction I’ve seen in 20 years and I’d describe the build standard as careless  and amateurish, but perhaps my expectations are too high, which is why I’ve posted a series of images detailing what I see as an unacceptable standard of construction.  I’d be interested to know if readers of this blog would accept this standard of construction on their new property?

 

Quality Brickwork?

  • Poor pointing to canted soldier course

35 responses to “Poor brickwork or overly high expectations?”

  1. Christopher Finch avatar
    Christopher Finch

    If I was inspecting this brickwork in a contract administration role I would certainly not sign it off. This said, it is an awkward discussion if the builder has been left to comete their work and then the issue is raised. The issue of the non uniform bed and perp joints should have been picked up during construction and by now, would have most probably been paid for by means of interim payment and thereby accepted as a suitable standard. This would be the same for the poorly constructed hip tiling and again, I think that it may be too late in the game to fairly be asking them to change it. This is a different matter however if the issue was raised during construction and they have made no attemp to correct the defects or take steps to raise the quality of their work. In that instance, they should rectify the defects.

    1. admin avatar
      admin

      The problem is Chris that there was a typical poacher/gamekeeper situation. The developer is building these for the open market using their own bricklayers and they are in effect their own client. I doubt that anyone is really managing the site beyond the extent of driving down cost and increasing productivity. There is clearly no quality control on site at all.

      1. David Pope avatar
        David Pope

        There is always someone higher up the ladder who can stop or instruct the Operatives (in this case Bricklayers), to either up their standards or face being sacked for non-complying work!

        1. Scott Taylor avatar
          Scott Taylor

          During my experience in this industry, 25 years laying bricks and 18 months limited company, ive seen the standards of quality bricklayers go downhill. The work they produce is always correct and meets regulations but nowadays its dog rough. This is down to the prices they are working for.
          Regulations are tighter and house building authorities focus more on what you dont see, ie cavity trays being spotless and ties free of mortar etc. So now men spend more time doing that as well as keeping work aesthetically pleasing but they don’t feel the prices dont reflect that. Corners are cut to make more money. Not only by bricklayers. Agents and project managers are under pressure to produce so sometimes they may turn a blind eye and take chances.
          Unrealistic targets are sought after when, if building a house properly, it takes longer to build one.
          The shortage of properly trained bricklayers is not helping, the massive demand for social housing has brought every chancer in england out of the woodwork,
          I feel that house buyers see the house as a unit with nice windows and doors and dont look at the brickwork so much.
          Architecture is not as it once was when we look at the grand public houses and theatres and rows of terraced houses, built in flemish bond, with beautiful arches over the porches. Nowadays you tend to just build a basic square box.
          The trade is in a state which would have the well respected bricklayers of the 30s turning in their graves.

          1. Joe Malone avatar
            Joe Malone

            Hi Scott,

            I don’t believe a skilled bricklayer would walk away from a job leaving brickwork of the type seen here, irrespective of pricing. Construction has been simplified to a square box, with little or no architectural detailing, because very few now have the skill to build those intricate details. Even leadwork is being phased out because few have the skills to correctly shape and detail lead.
            It is incredible to me what the average new home buyer is prepared to accept, in terms of quality, but as you say, looking at things as a whole can obscure the plethora of issues relating to build standards. Thanks very much for posting.

            Regards

            Joe Malone

  2. Christopher Finch avatar
    Christopher Finch

    Hi,
    In which case if you are carrying out a pre purchase inspection, the defects should be noted and the purchaser be informed. That is all that can be done.
    The building has defects which are not acceptable.
    Good luck

  3. Danny Fisher avatar
    Danny Fisher

    The sad thing here is that someone will always buy the property no matter how bad the workmanship so there is no incentive for the developers to keep standards up and giving the lack of training and skill we know have in the industry things are only set to get worse!

  4. P. avatar
    P.

    I know the site your talking about..
    Bovis used a Brickwork sub contractor. I know who this was as well. They changed site management on this site.. twice if I remember correctly. And most if not all plots were built on price work.
    The way bovis see things..
    We sell houses..
    We need them built a cheap as possible..
    Let’s put it out to tender.
    We have a point of contact with the price work gangs of bricklayers..
    Get them up..
    NHBC will attend check plots on dig, joists, pre plaster, final inspection The CML witch is basically house is good to go..

    The management..
    Not bricklayers.. not carpenters either..
    They have no trade.. Don’t know what they are looking at..
    Just a NVQ in man management. You go do that. Oh it’s wrong.. why is it wrong.. ok what are our options.. Do that then..
    We have a massive shortage in bricklayers. 40% on sites are Eastern European..
    Brickwork apprentice was 7 years, then 5, then 3, Now a 6 months course.
    We have gone from sand and cement to a silo filled with powder, just push button to add water. The face of the mortar flakes away.. when Brickwork is jointed..
    We are no longer using proper wood joists.. We use TDI mainly.. witch is basically 225 mm X 10mm wood chip board with roof batton glued top & bottom. We no longer use copper pipe. Just a few inches behind the wall is plastic push together pipe..
    All the builder is interested in is the CML..
    If anything is wrong after.. NHBC checked it. And signed it off..
    Guess what… They aren’t bricklayers either..
    Where did all these problems stem from..

    They cut down apprentice time to save money. As most were government backed.
    The government stopped giving a % or money/tax benefits to teach..
    Wasn’t worth teaching.. Tried YTS.. didn’t work.. As no experience.. Who wants a bricklayer who is not up to it.. We need it built fast..
    Now is collage.. pay for a course.. The course is 6 months. And you get NVQ level 2 award.. You can’t fail the course.. your a bricklayer. Loads of these on site too..
    Most.. who were time served got out. Because of the ressions we had. Or due to injury and being self employed have families and mortgages need to pay the bills. First thing with a ression they stop building houses.. So what can the man do..

    The real reason the Brickwork is of such poor quality.. There are no tradesmen left..
    The last time served apprentice would be around the age of 46 years old.. Or older.

    If younger.. He won’t have the Pitman Or the city in guild.
    Just the N.ot V.ery Q.uallified.

    Who’s fault.. Government..
    And they will never except responsibility..
    There are a lot of body’s on sites.. All think they are building.. Because NHBC signed it off.. The fact is.. No tradesmen due to previous 2 ressions. The blind leading the blind.. lol

    I just feel for the people buying.. As the builder, On this site was bovis would say it’s all checked by NHBC..
    Witch most don’t know it’s a structural warranty..
    Min depth concrete.. 225mm
    No holes in blockwork.
    Cavity wall ties spaced intermediate.. 150,225, 750, & 900 on party walls due to sound transfer..
    Insolation fixed Or blown it.
    Lintils, beded down, have dpc, turned up & weepholes 450 max apart..
    Beam filling on joists..
    50 N brick under any steel. 300 mm depth..
    Truss space 600 centres
    Air test results..
    Air vents below documents not obstructed.
    Reportable items rectified..
    That’s about it. Here’s your CMl sell it..

    So the builder sold the houses.. Thinking he did not do wrong..
    If you visited the builder. There would not be a bricklayer or carpenter in the office..

    You would find: servayors.. Accountants, land buyers, secretarys.. managers.. probably there own legal team too..

    It’s business.. And the Government is far from stupid. And knows the truth..

    1. P. avatar
      P.

      Your photos:
      Are the industry standard of today..
      And what is happening on sites all over the country..

      Now my personal opinion..
      I have looked at all the big contractor firms. I feel it’s a shame it’s all about money not delivering a quality product. They live for today. And put nothing back.
      The bricklayer of today knows no better. As he has no example been set by older generation.
      And the people checking are not really qualified.
      We had a saying.. Before you can tell me what I should be doing.. you need to be able to do this yourself..So you know what you are taking about. As I highlighted before.. It’s money.. Lack of training..
      Another thing is.. They don’t really listen today.. And too many do good people have opinions on what’s not really there consirn..
      I am writing this while in a van on site. Standing in front of the van is a site manager who has no trade.. And isn’t English.. talking to NHBC. The NHBC man is around the age of 25/30.. Fresh from college read a book.. looked at the diagrams of what it should look like in theory.. Issuing CML’s
      The blind leading the blind..
      Looks great on paper.. boxes ticked..
      Everyone happy..

      I am one of the last of George Wimpey Plc apprentice bricklayers.
      With City in Guild from London Institute.
      Holding a full advance Craft Certificate. Distinction Brickwork..
      I do still work on sites.. Unfortunately I can no longer lay bricks on a high quality scale due to injury, And got out in 2012..
      I would never buy a new house. Unless I over see all works myself.
      I would probably need to do the Brickwork myself. As they struggle to build the basic works of Brickwork today.. just laying to the line.. God forbid.. If there was an arch to build. And it didn’t come on a pallet already done in hardboard and brick venears and just need pointing.. The build would be at a standstill.. Because no one will know how..

      The bricklayer is extinct..

      1. Joe Malone avatar
        Joe Malone

        Really interesting comments P, all of which I wholeheartedly agree with. Thanks for posting!

        1. P. avatar
          P.

          Your photos:
          Are the industry standard of today..
          And what is happening on sites all over the country..

          Now my personal opinion..
          I have looked at all the big contractor firms. I feel it’s a shame it’s all about money not delivering a quality product. They live for today. And put nothing back.
          The bricklayer of today knows no better. As he has no example been set by older generation.
          And the people checking are not really qualified.
          We had a saying.. Before you can tell me what I should be doing.. you need to be able to do this yourself..So you know what you are taking about. As I highlighted before.. It’s money.. Lack of training..
          Another thing is.. They don’t really listen today.. And too many do good people have opinions on what’s not really there consirn..
          I am writing this while in a van on site. Standing in front of the van is a site manager who has no trade.. And isn’t English.. talking to NHBC. The NHBC man is around the age of 25/30.. Fresh from college read a book.. looked at the diagrams of what it should look like in theory.. Issuing CML’s
          The blind leading the blind..
          Looks great on paper.. boxes ticked..
          Everyone happy..

          I am one of the last of George Wimpey Plc apprentice bricklayers.
          With City in Guild from London Institute.
          Holding a full advance Craft Certificate. Distinction Brickwork..
          I do still work on sites.. Unfortunately I can no longer lay bricks on a high quanty scale due to injury, And got out in 2012..
          I would never buy a new house. Unless I over see all works myself.
          I would probably need to do the Brickwork myself. As they struggle to build the basic works of Brickwork today.. just laying to the line.. God forbid.. If there was an arch to build. And it didn’t come on a pallet already done in hardboard and brick venears and just need pointing.. The build would be at a standstill.. Because no one will know how..

          The bricklayer is extinct..

    2. leon simmonds avatar
      leon simmonds

      That was the best description of what has happened in the building industry I have ever seen written. I am a plasterer with 25+years experience and I don’t do the big sitework any more because the standard of house building has fallen so far. It’s all driven by profit now and the companies just don’t care about quality. I can see the houses built in the last 20 years becoming the next big scandal like the PPI with the banks. Ask yourself why no tradesman ever buys a new build and that says it all.

    3. PW avatar
      PW

      Really useful information to a homeowner like me who just got their fingers burnt with a terrible bricklayer and builder. Thanks.

  5. John avatar
    John

    All these comments are relavent to Australia aswell. No quality left.

  6. Jonathan avatar
    Jonathan

    Hi Joe,

    Interesting article, I being a buyer in a similar situation I wouldn’t say that expectations are too high. I would say this is what people actually want. I’ve come across this article whilst researching what I can do about it now I am in the property. I was in a situation where we were only allowed to visit the property twice prior to moving in ‘due it it being a building site’ which didn’t arouse suspicion at the time (it obviously does now) when we did visit, both times we mentioned about the brick work being substandard and even mentioned it on email. We were verbally told that brick work would be tidied up before and during we were in the property, however now we are in, its worse than we thought and every hole, gap, over excessive mortar is visible, we have cracking of the mortar, large chunks of mortar (which is like your images) under the roof tiles, brick work that isn’t square to the wall and seems to warp out.
    I am really stumped how to proceed from here as the developers do not seem to be that bothered and are treating us like we are being particular. I was thinking about getting an independent report done on the property and then sending this to the NHBC and Developers (as well as press) but am I just wasting my time and made a huge mistake or is this the sort thing that given a battle could be sorted and just takes persistence and pressure?
    I appreciate your thoughts and thanks for the article, although I wish given some of the criticism on new builds wish I would have stumbled across it first.

    1. Zoe avatar
      Zoe

      Hi Joe
      I also have the same issue and wondered what action you have taken so that I can judge what my next move is.

      1. Joe Malone avatar
        Joe Malone

        Hi Zoe,

        New build defects are now the biggest growth area of our business, with this shocking standard of brickwork becoming incredibly common. You need an independent report, detailing the defects and plotting those defects against the required standard. I’d suggest that if the brickwork is bad that you have other issues elsewhere. We commonly find that poor brickwork is a warning flag for poor build quality right across the board. However, I’ll warn you that you may need a solicitor because these developers generally play the numbers, knowing that only circa 5% of complainants pursue them through legal channels. Feel free to call me if you’d like to discuss this further. Regards. Joe Malone

  7. Steve avatar
    Steve

    Please look at the photos I just took of our house we have just moved into. Is this good quality? I don’t think so. I would value any feedback about this as we feel we need to get this resolved by the developer but not sure how to proceed.

    our- redrow- house.co.uk

    1. Joe Malone avatar
      Joe Malone

      Hi Steve,

      No, I think you already know that the standard is completely unacceptable. Poor pointing, with joints not topped and tailed, mortar staining to bricks, mismatched bricks, inconsistency in width of perp, and probably bed joints. The standard is amateurish, and not even a good amateur! Regards. Joe Malone

      1. Mark hurt avatar
        Mark hurt

        Hi Joe,
        Having sent you photo’s and spoke to you earlier in the year about the poor standard of my house on the Harron home site in Hucknall,
        I did as you said and had a dialogue with the builder to no avail.
        I have spoken to build control at Ashfield district council and they told me the house was signed off by their inspector on the 16/02/2018 what disturbs me is that i moved in on the 13/02/2018 i have sent you hem images of the house and they are yet to reply.
        Is it legal to hand over a house before its signed off, the builder has no record of air tests or anything like that.
        The house is draughty as soon as it is windy and draughts blow in through plug sockets which is nice .
        What can i do to speed up a resolution?

        Thanks,

        Mark

        1. Hannah avatar
          Hannah

          Hello.

          We are due to move on to this site this month but are not happy with the brick work + 9 pages of snagging.

          Did you get this solved ?

          1. Joe Malone avatar
            Joe Malone

            Hi Hannah,

            Yes, it was resolved for the particular property, but the developer had to bring in an external contractor to take down and rebuild large sections of brickwork at the rear of the property.

            Regards

            Joe Malone

          2. Mark Hurt avatar
            Mark Hurt

            Hi Hannah,

            The brickwork has still not been remedied by the company they promised me it would be Carried out in March/April and yet its Mid May 2019 now with no evidence of any work being carried out any time soon.
            My advice would be to get a survey carried out prior to completion and not complete until its sorted. I would never have moved in had i been allowed to have a survey carrieed out.
            Regards,

            Mark

        2. Andy Smith avatar
          Andy Smith

          It must be a very daunting task trying to locate a bricklayer that can actually lay bricks in present times. The more you read the more you cannot deny the bricklayer is as rare as hens teeth.
          Thousands are qualified few are competent.
          Believe it or not the better a bricklayer a person is the greater the handicap they face on building sites. A section of high quality brickwork is seen as exaggerating just how bad the rest of the work is so the good bricklayer is thrown off site.
          In our case there are 2 of us both craftsmen so I leave you to imagine the hassle we run into on every job.

    2. James Sprague avatar
      James Sprague

      Thats got to be the worst brickwork iv ever seen id be asking for my money back

  8. Wayne Frederick avatar
    Wayne Frederick

    Hi Joe, I am in need of your valuable advice. My family and I have moved into our new build home by Persimmons 2 months ago. We have compiled an extensive lists of snags that is painfully and slowly being worked through. One of ours and neighbours biggest complaint is the poor pointing of the external brickwork throughout our homes . After speaking with the site manager on day 1 of moving in, the subsequent 1 month follow up inspection and numerous occasions they have repeated the cause of the pointing mortar looking like it has being riddled with bullet holes due to aggressive high pressure washing of the brickwork which has removed a lot of pointing mortar. During any sunny day this highlights the defects, workmanship very clearly and makes looking at our home a eyesore. They have agreed to repoint some areas but not the texture left by the pressure washer and said this is how the pointing will remain as this is the norm? I have told them i am unhappy and I been told I need to escalate this to Persimmons Customer Care. Unfortunately I don’t know how to attach photos on this comment to show you. Is there a way I can do this so as to get your invaluable advice which may help me back my complaint?

  9. Paul Dolman avatar
    Paul Dolman

    Hi I have had a garage and boundary wall built by a new house builder as part of a land sale agreement. It seems to have nearly all the defects you have described as well as some areas not being plumb. The builder has agreed to alter some of it where it was really bad but not all . They won’t supply a NHBC warranty only a 2 year structural one from them selves. Can you advise what my options are please.

    1. Joe Malone avatar
      Joe Malone

      Paul,

      You’ll need an independent report on the quality of the brickwork. This may help you get the builder to accept that there are bigger issues than what they have currently agreed to address. If they still refuse to take action, then you may need to resort to legal action for breach of contract.

      Regards

      Joe

    2. Kirk Macdonald avatar
      Kirk Macdonald

      They can’t provide a nhbc warranty if they and your job is or was registered with nhbc

      People miss understand what nhbc are

      They are independent building control

      As they charge just for membership plus fees for each specific project for inspection

      It’s very unlikely you will have nhbc involvement in a garage build

      They are for big developments

      We pay membership, they inspect and pass then they issue the warranty, they warranty is then maintained by nhbc or Thier subcontractors

      Most of the time you will not see any builder registered with these schemes unless it’s on big builds

      If it’s an extension, loft conversion, new build house 9/10 the company won’t even be registered as gas safe or niciec it will be the plumber or electrician and not the actual company

      Look at it like this

      There are so many schemes we have to be registered with already or have to pay

      Building control to inspect and pass

      CSCS

      Electrical and gas

      Ico yes we have to pay for data protection as we process clients data, they are starting to change it so it’s a percentage of our profits

      We have to pay a citb levey which pays for apprenticeships even if we don’t have a apprentice that is also based on a percentage of our profits

      Unless we structure how we pay ourselves we end up paying over 40% tax on what we pay our selves

      If we pay our selves via dividends we end up paying over 30% in some form of tax so we end up paying more then 30% tax on our own wage

      So basically we pay more tax, we have monthly accounting fees

      There is never anywhere for us to park anymore, if we do smaller jobs like extensions we bring our own materials

      We have no where to park, how can we park in a carpark 2 miles away, when we are constantly back and forwards getting stuff from the van or having to go get ton bags of sand or pallets of bricks

      That’s even if our vans fit under the height restriction bars

      If we park close we get a maximum 2hrs or so

      So we end up getting daily parking fines

      Or low traffic roads where we can’t drive down at certain times of the day

      So do you think a small build is going to register with all these other companies like

      Nhbc who take percentage of your yearly profit
      Niciec for companies
      Considerate construction site scheme
      Federation of master builders

      The list goes on and on, we are barely surviving as it is as small builders with the mandatory fees

      Let alone pay a company a percentage of our profits because being a member looks good

      Sure definitely going to give a company 2% of my annual profit just so I can stick their logo on my website or flyer

      Being a builder nowadays is hard enough as it is let alone giving away more money we don’t got because a client decides not to pay

      Oh yep that invoice that the client has not paid at the end of accounting we still have to file it and class it as income as not allowed companies use cash basis for Thier books

      Do you know what I have learned over the years most of the problems on the projects over the years are actually caused by the client on private jobs

      The following are what always crop up for me

      1) We was just giving a quote and it’s 2k cheaper than yours for 7 days work can you do it cheaper

      No I can’t if you want it cheaper then go get it cheaper but in 7 days your gonna probably call me and say please come in and sort this job out they have messed it up should of got you first

      I love those jobs because I end up charging more money then what I originally quoted because I have to go in rectify or take down what they did so there is more work involved

      Ohh I love those jobs people never learn cheaper 9/10 means they are not qualified, workmanship is terrible, or they have so many illegal workers where they can cut their costs like that

      If you get it cheaper good luck if it’s done to the same qualities etc I want that builders no cos I’m going to give them work

      If not don’t call me after and say help can you do it for the same price or even cheaper then I first quoted

      2) They always deley the project by thinking they can get the materials cheaper, we have trade accounts, we go for what’s available locally, what’s of high quality materials

      I just finished a job where the client wanted to save £300 on next day delivery, instead went to a different company saved £300 on a 100k job but had to wait 4 weeks for it to arrive which stopped the job complety then have audacity to say when you coming back

      I’m not putting my work schedule on hold cos you didn’t take my advice and you wanted to save £300 you just cost me thousands

      3) Telling me about building regulations, blah blah blah, that’s what we have and use a building inspector for that’s Thier job not yours

      4) can’t you just build that in the rain we can put up a tarpaulin etc

      No if we do that it will get wet you will have salt, the jointing will look shiny the walls will sink and swim and weep

      No don’t worry it will be ok, are you sure, your paying me I’m advising you not to but ok

      Once job finished, why does the joints look shiny, what’s all that white stuff coming out the walls why does the reveals look like they are dipping

      Well that’s because you didn’t listen to me when I said we should not be building in this weather and I told you it was going to look like that

      5) The walls are not straight they, have bumps in the wall

      Did you touch the walls once we went home, No are you sure, definitely did not, so why is it that all the jointing on the top course or I’m the corners are all cracked

      Well that’s because I stuck your level on it see

      This brick is sitting slightly in,

      Well sir this is because the blocks and bricks are never kilned straight, and it depends where you stick the level

      Did you build the wall no so how do you know where I used the plumb points

      See if you stick the level to the left and the right of where you stick the level it’s straight but if you stick it in the middle it looks like the brick is in

      Now my wall is not straight because you have been banging it

      6) why are the joints not straight

      Well the splash course are engineering and the bricks are clay

      The clay bricks are not allowed the same size and a brick from this pallet is 5mm smaller then the brick on that pallet

      Yep but the joints are good upto the door but then they start leaning

      Yes that’s because we have to get the brick now to the window which is also not brickwork size and we can’t have 20mm cut up the window reveal

      7) the bricks don’t look the same

      Well that’s because each pallet is from a different batch the left them to cook longer than the last batch

      8) why can’t we make this bigger or smaller

      Because it’s not building regulations

      9) why are the building materials costing so much money oh no do we really need those restraints, weep holes, air bricks

      Yes it’s building regulations why didn’t you have project cost done, if you asked the architect he would of gave you an estimate of cost of build or gave you the details of a project estimator

      This happens nearly all the time

      Many people don’t realise how much it really costs, because they just think, of just bricks blocks they never think oh plasterciser, cavity buttons, thermabate

      9) sorry we walked on the concrete or step it was an accident,

      It was not because you let your children play football or let the dog out is it it’s not that

      10) why is the job taking so long

      Well you have changed the paint colour 7 times, change the layout of the kitchen, decided you want this shower tray now instead

      I have other clients and jobs I need to start

      11) my friend’s or brother came around last night they are builders, they said you have done it wrong or it could be better if we did this or they could of done it cheaper

      So why are they not here doing the job then

      I know why because of all the things I mentioned all above

      This post was just a joke and me being sarcastic sorry if anyone has been offended but that is the joke

      I’ve been a builder for 24 years, it’s tough out there and there are no quick solutions

      My only advice I can give anyone wanted to do a project or select a builder

      You have to do your own research and cheaper doesn’t mean it’s cheaper most of the time it means you will end up paying double

  10. Peter Hart avatar
    Peter Hart

    I have noticed that there is often a problem with brickwork at the right angles of walls. Those at the top seem to be the first to succumb to weathering, and I have just lifted off – with my hands – six bricks (two from the second down course. The mortar is not in a friable state, but is completely dry, and has clearly not bonded with the bricks. The work was carried out five and a half years ago, but I have no intention of making a complaint to the builder. He was recommended by a friend, was cheerful, and did an excellent job of putting in concrete posts and attaching fencing panels to them. Probably he was not primarily a bricklayer by trade. But my problem is – not an uncommon one! – how can I find a bricklayer who I can be perfectly sure knows what they are doing. And, of course, I am not here asking for the names of specific firms, which I realise would be unfair publicity, and would redound on you if – for whatever reason – the work was still unsatisfactory. I also realise that membership of guilds of various sorts is also not something that can necessarily be relied on. Please, are you able to give me some guidelines? They would be greatly welcomed!

    1. Joe Malone avatar
      Joe Malone

      Peter,

      I have a talk I do on Modern Building Defects, entitled, ‘Is the bricklayer extinct?’ That should tell you how difficult it is now to find a competent bricklayer. Indeed, I’ve just sacked a bricklayer who was building an extension for me, when he turned out to be completely incompetent, and unaware of relevant standards and building codes. The best advice I can give you, is to arm yourself with the relevant standards, so you can understand when quality is sub standard.

      If you drop me an email, I’ll send you some standards relating to masonry construction.

      Regards

      Joe

      1. Scott Taylor avatar
        Scott Taylor

        Hi Joe
        I wondered if there’s been an improvement in the brickwork you’re coming across these days…?
        Yesterday I took a short video of the work on the plot next to mine. I’d like to send it to you.

  11. Sadhana Stokes avatar
    Sadhana Stokes

    Who can I approach for an independent brick report please?
    My new build is out of plumb, cracked chipped bricks, poor quality joints & pointing.
    The surveyors I have approached only offer home surveys levels 1,2 & 3.
    Advice would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Joe Malone avatar
      Joe Malone

      Hi Sadhana.

      I frequently do independent reports of this type. I’d just need the address before I can provide a quote.

      Regards

      Joe Malone

  12. Vonnie avatar
    Vonnie

    Hi Joe.

    Re your photos, I certainly do not feel you have overly high expectations. Our builder addressed the main concerns we had with brickwork to our house but we too have areas that resemble some of the poor quality you show in yours photos, we are currently trying to get our builder to rectify these.

    Advice please:
    We have a metre high retaining wall to the rear and side of our garden which continues through several other plots. A fence sits on top of the wall to mark the boundary of adjacent houses at a higher level. The wall at the rear, which does have drain holes, started to discolour after just a few months, especially around the expansion joints and there are several isolated areas that are wet to the touch despite the rest of the wall being dry. Our next door neighbour is experiencing the exact same issues so investigation was requested. We are both concerned the bricks will become blown sooner rather than later and further big issues will arise. A trial hole inspection was done by the builder to the side of our property where there are no issues and of course the report came back that the correct materials had been used so they say there are no issues with the wall

    Could you please advise how the wall expansion joints should be constructed as there appears to be just some sealant over the top and front face of the joints, leaving the rear of the double skin wall exposed to the ground behind. I tried looking on the NHBC website but couldn’t find anything relevant. Please also advise what materials should be used behind the retaining wall.

    Thank you

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