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  • When concrete has dried it is a dull, light grey colour. Some think that a concrete lintel exposed for its full depth on the external face of brick walls is not attractive. In the past it was for some years common concrete Practice to hide the concrete lintel behind a brick arch or brick lintel boot lintel built over the opening externally.

    lintel A modification of the ordinary rectangular section lintel, known painted with as a boot lintel, was often used to reduce the depth of the lintel itumen exp0se(j externally. Figure 93 is an illustration of a section through the head of an opening showing a boot lintel in position. The lintel is boot-shaped in section with the toe part showing externally. The toe is usually made 65 mm deep. The main body of the lintel is inside the ‘”^lining wa^ where it does not show and it is this part of the lintel which does most of the work of supporting brickwork. Some think that the face of the brickwork looks best if the toe of the lintel finishes just 25 or 40 mm back from the external face of the wall, as in Fig. 94. The brickwork built on the toe of the lintel is usually j B thick for open­ings up to 1.8 m wide. The 65 mm deep toe, if reinforced as shown, is capable of safely carrying the two or three courses of |B thick brickwork over it. The brickwork above the top of the main part of the lintel bears mainly on it because the bricks are bonded. If the opening is wider than 1.8 m the main part of the lintel is sometimes

    ■ boot made sufficiently thick to support most of the thickness of the wall

    lintel over, as in Fig. 94.

    Fig. 94 Boot lintels Fig 95

    The brickwork resting on the toe of the lintel is built with bricks cut in half. When the toe of the lintel projects beyond the face of the brickwork it should be weathered to throw rainwater out from the wall face and throated to prevent water running in along soffit or underside, as shown in Fig. 93.

    When the external face of brickwork is in direct contact with concrete, as is the brickwork on the toe of these lintels, an efflores­cence of salts is liable to appear on the face of the brickwork. This is caused by soluble salts in the concrete being withdrawn when the wall dries out after rain and being left on the face of the brickwork in the form of unsightly white dust. To prevent the salts forming, the faces of the lintel in direct contact with the external brickwork should be painted with bituminous paint as indicated in Fig. 93. The bearing at  ends where the boot lintel is bedded on the brick jambs should be of the same area as for ordinary lintels.

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  • Composite lintels are stressed by a wire or wires at the centre of their depth and are designed to be used with the brickwork they support which acts as a composite part of the lintel in supporting loads. These comparatively thin precast lintels are built in over openings and brickwork is built over them. Prestressed lintels over openings more than 1200 mm wide should be supported to avoid deflection, until the mortar in the brickwork has set. When used to support blockwork the composite strength of these lintels is considerably less than when used with brickwork.

    Non-composite prestressed lintels are made for use where there is insufficient brickwork over to act compositely with the lintel and also where there are heavy loads.

    These lintels are made to suit brick and block wall thicknesses, as illustrated in Fig. 92. They are mostly used for internal openings, the inner skin of cavity walls and the outer skin where it is covered externally.

    Fig. 92 Prestressed lintels


    Precast, or prestressed lintels may be used over openings in both internal and external solid walls. In external walls prestressed lintels are used where the wall is to be covered with rendering externally and for the inner leaf of cavity walls where the lintel will be covered with plaster.

    Precast reinforced concrete lintels may be exposed on the external face of both solid and cavity walling where the appearance of a concrete surface is acceptable.

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  • The word ‘precast’ indicates that a concrete lintel has been cast inside a mould, and has been allowed time to set and harden before it is built into the wall.

    The words ‘situ-cast’ indicate that a lintel is cast in position inside a timber mould fixed over the opening in walls. Whether the lintel is precast or situ-cast will not affect the finished result and which method is used will depend on which is most convenient.

    It is common practice to precast lintels for most normal door and window openings, the advantage being that immediately the lintel is placed in position over the opening, brickwork can be raised on it, whereas the concrete in a situ-cast lintel requires a timber mould or formwork and must be allowed to harden before brickwork can be raised on it.

    Lintels are cast in situ, that is in position over openings, if a precast lintel would have been too heavy or cumbersome to have been easily hoisted and bedded in position.

    Precast lintels must be clearly marked to make certain that they are bedded with the steel reinforcement in its correct place, at the bottom of the lintel. Usually the letter “T or the word ‘Top’ is cut into the top of the concrete lintel whilst it is still wet.

    Prestressed concrete lintels

    Prestressed, precast concrete lintels are used particularly over internal openings. A prestressed lintel is made by casting concrete around high tensile, stretched wires which are anchored to the concrete so that the concrete is compressed by the stress in the wires. (See also Volume 4.) Under load the compression of concrete, due to the stressed wires, has to be overcome before the lintel will bend.

    Two types of prestressed concrete lintel are made, composite lintels and non-composite lintels.

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  • Since Portland cement was first mass produced towards the end of the nineteenth century it has been practical and economic to cast and use concrete lintels to support brickwork over openings.

    Concrete is made from reasonably cheap materials, it can easily be moulded or cast when wet and when it hardens it has very good strength in resisting crushing and does not lose strength or otherwise deteriorate when exposed to the weather. The one desirable quality that concrete lacks, if it is to be used as a lintel, is tensile strength, that is strength to resist being pulled apart. To provide the necessary tensile strength to concrete steel reinforcement is cast into concrete.

    For a simple explanation for the need and placing of reinforcement in concrete lintels suppose that a piece of india rubber were used as a lintel. Under load any material supported at its ends will deflect, bend, under its own weight and loads that it supports. India rubber has very poor compressive and tensile strength so that under load it

    will bend very noticeably, as illustrated in Fig. 90. The top surface of under $& ruDber becomes squeezed, indicating compression, and the lower load rubber surface stretched, indicating tension. A close examination of the india lintel rubber shows that it is most squeezed at its top surface and progressively less to the centre, and conversely most stretched and progressively less up from its bottom surface to the centre of depth.

    A concrete lintel will not bend so obviously as india rubber, but it will bend and its top surface will be compressed and its bottom sur­face stretched or in tension under load. Concrete is strong in resisting compression but weak in resisting tension, and to give the concrete lintel the strength required to resist the tension which is maximum at its lower surface, steel is added, because steel is strong in resisting tension. This is the reason why rods of steel are cast into the bottom of a concrete lintel when it is being moulded in its wet state.

    Lengths of steel rod are cast into the bottom of concrete lintels to give them strength in resisting tensile or stretching forces. As the tension is greatest at the underside of the lintel it would seem sensible to cast the steel rods in the lowest surface. In fact the steel rods are cast in some 15 mm or more above the bottom surface. The reason for this is that steel very soon rusts when exposed to air and if the steel rods were in the lower surface of the lintel they would rust, expand and rupture the concrete around them, and in time give way and the lintel might collapse. Also if a fire occurs in the building the steel rods would, if cast in the surface, expand and come away from the concrete and the lintel collapse. The rods are cast at least 15 mm up from the bottom of the lintel and 15 mm or more of concrete below them is called the concrete cover.

    Fig. 90 Bending under load


    Reinforcing rods

    Reinforcing rods are usually of round section mild steel 10 or 12 mm diameter for lintels up to 1.8 m span. The ends of the rods should be bent up at 90° or hooked as illustrated in Fig. 91.

    The purpose of bending up the ends is to ensure that when the lintel does bend the rods do not lose their adhesion to the concrete around them. After being bent or hooked at the ends the rods should be some 50 or 75 mm shorter than the lintel at either end. An empirical rule for determining the number of 12 mm rods required for lintels of up to, say, 1.8 m span is to allow one 12 mm rod for each half brick thickness of wall which the lintel supports.

    Fig. 91  Ends of reinforcing rods

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  • Solid brickwork over the head of openings has to be supported by either a lintel or an arch. The brickwork which the lintel or arch has to support is an isosceles triangle with 60° angles, formed by the bonding of bricks, as illustrated in Fig. 89. The triangle is formed by the vertical joints between bricks which overlap ±B. In a bonded wall if the solid brickwork inside the triangle were taken out the load of the wall above the triangle would be transferred to the bricks of each side of the opening in what is termed ‘the arching effect’.

    Lintel is the name given to any single solid length of timber, stone, steel or concrete built in over an opening to support the wall over it, as shown in Fig. 89. The ends of the lintel must be built into the brick or blockwork over the jambs to convey the weight carried by the lintel to the jambs. The area of wall on which the end of a lintel bears is termed its bearing at ends. The wider the opening the more weight the lintel has to support and the greater its bearing at ends must be to transmit the load it carries to an area capable of supporting it. For convenience its depth is usually made a multiple of brick course height, that is about 75 mm, and the lintels are not usually less than 150 mm deep.

    Fig. 89 Head of openings

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  • For the strength and stability of walling the size of openings in walls is limited by regulations for both solid and cavity walls.

    Jambs of openings

    The jambs of openings for windows and doors in solid walls may be plain (square) or rebated.

    Plain or square jambs are used for small section window or door frames of steel and also for larger section frames where the whole of the external face of frames is to be exposed externally. The bonding of brickwork at square jambs is the same as for stop ends and angles with a closer next to a header in alternate courses to complete the bond.

    Rebated jambs

    Fig. 87 Rebated jambWindow and door frames made of soft wood have to be painted for protection from rain, for if wood becomes saturated it swells and in time may decay. With some styles of architecture it is thought best to solid wail hide as much of the window frame as possible. So either as a partial protection against rain or for appearance sake, or for both reasons, the jambs of openings are rebated.

    Figure 87 is a diagram of one rebated jamb on which the terms used are noted.

    As one of the purposes of a rebated jamb is to protect the frame from rain the rebate faces into the building and the frame of the threshold window or door is fixed behind the rebate.

    The thickness of brickwork that shows at the jamb of openings is described as the reveal. With rebated jambs there is an inner reveal and an outer reveal separated by the rebate.

    The outer reveal is usually \ B wide for ease of bonding bricks and may be 1 B wide in thick solid walling. The width of the inner reveal is determined by the relative width of the outer reveal and wall thickness.

    The depth of the rebate is either |B (about 51mm) or jB (102.5mm). A |B rebate is used to protect and mask solid wood frames and the \ B deep rebate to protect and mask the box frames to vertically sliding wood sash windows. The jB deep rebate virtually covers the external face of cased wood frames (see Volume 2) to the extent that a window opening appears to be glass with a narrow surround of wood.

    Bonding of bricks at rebated jambs

    Fig. 88 Bonding at rebated jambsJust as at an angle or quoin in brickwork, bricks specially cut have to be used to complete, or close, the \B overlap caused by bonding, so at jambs special closer bricks \B wide on face have to be used.

    Provided that the outer reveal is \ B wide, the following basic rules will apply irrespective of the sort of bond used or the thickness of the wall. If the rebate is \ B deep the bonding at one jamb will be arranged as illustrated in Fig. 88. In every other course of bricks a header face and then a closer of \ B wide face must appear at the jamb or angle of the opening. To do this and at the same time to form the \ B deep rebate and to avoid vertical joints continuously up the wall, two cut bricks have to be used.

    These are a bevelled bat (a ‘bat’ is any cut part of a brick), which is shaped as shown in Fig. 88, and a king closer, which is illustrated in Fig. 88. Neither of these bricks is made specially to the shape and size shown, but is cut from whole bricks on the site.

    In the course above and below, two other cut bricks, called bevelled closers, should be used behind the stretcher brick. These two bricks are used so as to avoid a vertical joint. Figure 88 shows a view of a bevelled closer.

    Where the rebate is 5B deep the bonding is less complicated. An arrangement of half bats as quoin header and two bevelled closers in alternate courses for English bond and half bats and king closers in alternate courses for Flemish bond is used.

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  • In exposed positions such as high ground, on the coast and where there is little shelter from trees, high ground or surrounding buildings it may well be advisable to employ a system of weathering on the outer face of both solid and cavity walling to provide protection against wind driven rain. The two systems used are external rendering and slate or tile hanging.


    The word rendering is used in the sense of rendering the coarse texture

    of a brick or block wall smooth by the application of a wet mix of lime, cement and sand over the face of the wall, to alter the appear­ance of the wall or improve its resistance to rain penetration, or both. The wet mix is spread over the external wall face in one, two or three coats and finished with either a smooth, coarse or textured finish while wet. The rendering dries and hardens to a decorative or protective coating that varies from dense and smooth to a coarse and open texture.

    Stucco is a term, less used than it was, for external plaster or rendering that was applied as a wet mix of lime and sand, in one or two coats, and finished with a fine mix of lime or lime and sand, generally in the form imitating stone joints and mouldings formed around projecting brick courses as a background for imitation cornices and other architectural decorations. To protect the com­paratively porous lime and sand coating, the surface was usually painted.

    The materials of an external rendering should have roughly the same density and therefore permeability to water as the material of the wall to which it is applied. There are many instances of the application of a dense rendering to the outside face of a wall that is permeable to water, in the anticipation of protecting the wall from rain penetration. The result is usually a disaster.

    A dense sand and cement rendering, for example, applied to the face of a wall of porous bricks, will, on drying, shrink fiercely, pull away from the brick face or tear off the face of the soft bricks, and the rendering will craze with many fine hair cracks over its surface. Wind driven rain will then penetrate the many hair cracks through which water will be unable to evaporate to outside air during dry spells and the consequence is that the wall behind will become more water logged than before and the rendering will have a far from agreeable appearance.

    Slate and tile hanging

    Fig. 85 Slate hangingIn positions of very severe exposure to wind driven rain, as on high open ground facing the prevailing wind and on the coast facing open sea, it is necessary to protect both solid and cavity walls with an external cladding. The traditional wall cladding is slate or tile hanging in the form of slates or tiles hung double lap on timber battens nailed to counter battens. Slate hanging has generally been used in the north and tile in the south of Great Britain. Either natural or manufactured slates and tiles can be used.

    As a fixing for slating or tiling battens, 50 x 25 mm timber counter battens are nailed at 300 mm centres up the face of the wall to which timber slating or tiling battens are nailed at centres suited to the gauge (centres) necessary for double lap slates or tiles, as illustrated in Fig. 85.

    As protection against decay, pressure impregnated softwood timber battens should be used and secured with non-ferrous fixings to avoid the deterioration and failure of steel fixings by rusting.

    Where slate or tile hanging is used as cladding to a solid wall of buildings normally heated, then the necessary insulation can be fixed to the wall behind the counter battens. Rigid insulation boards of organic or inorganic insulation are fixed with a mechanically oper­ated hammer gun that drives nails through both the counter battens, a breather paper and the insulation boards into the wall.

    For vertically hung slating it is usual to use one of the smaller slates such as 405 x 205 mm slate which is headnailed to 50 x 25 mm bat­tens and is less likely to be lifted and dislodged in high wind than longer slates would be. Each slate is nailed with non-ferrous nails to overlap two slates below, as illustrated in Fig. 85, and double lapped by overlapping the head of slates two courses below.The continuous layer of breather paper, that is fixed between the counter battens and the insulation, is resistant to the penetration of water in liquid form but will allow water vapour to pass through it. Its purpose is to protect the outer surface of the insulation from cold air and any rain that might penetrate the hanging and to allow movement of vapour through it.

    At angles and the sides of openings a slate one and a half the width of slates is used to complete the overlap. This width of slate is specifically used to avoid the use of a half width slate that might easily be displaced in wind.

    Fig. 86 Tile hanging

    Internal and external angles are weathered by lead soakers – hung over the head of slates – to overlap and make the joint weathertight. Slate hanging is fixed either to overlap or butt to the side of window and door frames with ‘exposed edges of slates pointed with cement mortar or weathered with lead flashings.

    At lower edges of slate hanging a projection is formed on or in the wall face by means of blocks, battens or brick corbel courses on to which the lower courses of slates and tiles bell outwards slightly to throw water clear of the wall below.

    Tile hanging is hung and nailed to 40 x 20 mm tiling battens fixed at centres to counter battens to suit the gauge of plain tiles. Each tile is hung to battens and also nailed, as security against wind, as illustrated in Fig. 86.

    At internal and external angles special angle tiles may be used to continue the bond around the corner, as illustrated in Fig. 86. As an alternative and also at the sides of openings tile and a half width tiles may be used with lead soakers to angles and pointing to exposed edges or weathering to the sides of the openings.

    As weather protection to the solid walls of buildings with low or little heat requirements the hanging is fixed directly to walling and to those buildings that are heated the hanging may be fixed to external or internal insulation for solid walling and directly to cavity walling with cavity insulation.


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  • Up to the early part of the twentieth century walls were generally built as solid brickwork of adequate thickness to resist the penetration of rain to the inside face and to safely support the loads common to buildings both large and small.

    At the time it was accepted that the interior of buildings would be cold during winter months when heating was provided by open fires and stoves, fired by coal or wood, to individual rooms. The people of northern Europe accepted the inevitability of a degree of indoor cold and dressed accordingly in thick clothing both during day and night  time. There was an adequate supply of coal and wood to meet the expectations for some indoor heating for the majority.

    The loss of heat through walls, windows and roofs was not a concern at the time. Thick curtains drawn across windows and external doors provided some appreciable degree of insulation against loss of heat.

    From the middle of the twentieth century it became practical to heat the interior of whole buildings, with boilers fired by oil or gas. It is now considered a necessity to be able to heat the whole of the interior of dwellings so that the commonplace of icy cold bathrooms and corridors is an experience of the past.

    In recent years an industry of scare stories has developed. Ill con­sidered and unscientific claims by ‘experts’ that natural resources of fossil fuels such as oil and gas will soon be exhausted have been broadcast. These dire predictions have prompted the implementation of regulations to conserve fuel and power by introducing insulating materials to the envelope of all new buildings that are usually heated.

    This ‘bolting the stable door after the horse has gone’ action will for very many years to come only affect new buildings, a minority of all buildings.

    A consequence is that the cavity in external walls of buildings, originally proposed to exclude rain, has been converted to function as a prime position for lightweight insulating materials with exclusion of rain a largely ignored function of a cavity wall.

    Resistance to weather

    A solid wall of brick will resist the penetration of rain to its inside face

    by absorbing rainwater that subsequently, in dry periods, evaporates to outside air. The penetration of rainwater into the thickness of a solid wall depends on the exposure of the wall to driving rain and the permeability of the bricks and mortar to water.

    The permeability of bricks to water varies widely and depends largely on the density of the brick. Dense engineering bricks absorb rainwater less readily than many of the less dense facing bricks. It would seem logical, therefore, to use dense bricks in the construction of walls to resist rain penetration.

    In practice, a wall of facing bricks will generally resist the penetration of rainwater better than a wall of dense bricks. The reason for this is that a wall of dense bricks may absorb water through fine cracks between dense bricks and dense mortar, to a considerable depth of the thickness of a wall, and this water will not readily evaporate through the fine cracks to outside air in dry periods, whereas a wall of less dense bricks and mortar will absorb water to some depth of the thickness of the wall and this water will sub­stantially evaporate to outside air. It is not unknown for a wall of dense bricks and mortar to show an outline of damp stains on its

    inside face through persistent wetting, corresponding to the mortar joints.

    The general rule is that to resist the penetration of rain to its inside face a wall should be constructed of sound, well burned bricks of moderate density, laid in a mortar of similar density and of adequate thickness to prevent the penetration of rain to the inside face.

    A solid 1 B thick wall may well be sufficiently thick to prevent the penetration of rainwater to its inside face in the sheltered positions common to urban settlements on low lying land. In positions of moderate exposure a solid wall \\ B thick will be effective in resisting the penetration of rainwater to its inside face.

    In exposed positions such as high ground and near the coast a wall 2 B thick may be needed to resist penetration to inside faces. A wall 2 B thick is more than adequate to support the loads of all but heavily loaded structures and for resistance to rain penetration a less thick wall protected with rendering or slate or tile hanging is a more sensible option.



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