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European House Construction?

tyearian's picture

Am I mistaken or is there quite a bit of difference between the way houses are constructed in this country and the way they are built in Europe?  On the several trips I've made to Europe (England, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Poland, Czechoslovakia) I've always been impressed by solidity and sensibility of residential construction there, whether single or multiple family.  A lot of older homes built of brick, stone, stucco, straw, mortar, timbers, etc.  Is that still the case or are homes being built now constructed of lighter weight materials?   


 

(post #74245, reply #1 of 12)

I have a friend that lives in Germany and just built a house.   The society there tends to encourage families to stay in the same house for generations.  You are correct, big difference in building.  They build to last centuries.  Most houses are concrete in some fashion, not stick built.  Even with residential houses they often bring in a crane to build up the walls with pre-formed concrete units.  When I visited my friend in Germany they had just dug the basement and there was water in the hole.  I asked him about a sump pump and he said they don't use them.  They pour the basement with a high-density concrete that doesn't leak, like a swimming pool in reverse.


Of course along with that the construction costs are significanly higher.

(post #74245, reply #3 of 12)

"They pour the basement with a high-density concrete that doesn't leak, like a swimming pool in reverse".


What does that mean?

(post #74245, reply #4 of 12)

My understanding was that the high density concrete is impervious to any water infiltration from the outside, keeping all water outside the basement, like a swimming pool will keep all water inside.  This was coming from a layman, not any sort of contractor, but he has experience with several houses in Germany.

(post #74245, reply #5 of 12)

I saw a special on this old house with the old dude, where they went to sweden. the house was build in a factory. All had 10x10 rooms that stack on top of each other, pre wired and pre plumbing. just stack and finished. They was apartment building. I rememebr because the bathroom had no tub, everything was tile and water just ran down the drain.

(post #74245, reply #6 of 12)

Wow - a 10x10 bathroom? That begs for a tub!

(post #74245, reply #2 of 12)

i built a log house in england the main thing i noticed was the 2x4's were an actuall 2"X4" board. didn't get to see much else.

(post #74245, reply #7 of 12)

Here in the UK most of the new builds are built with a 4" block internal skin, 4" cavity then either a face brick external or, if it's to be rendered, another 4" block external. Interiors are usually plastered and roofs are tiled.

Some of the larger developments are timber framed but still have the face brick external skin.

"Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all." Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

"Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all." Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

(post #74245, reply #8 of 12)

Have you worked on any of these projects or have any photos of construction?


Also, are there any UK/European websites which discuss/show methods?


I think there's a real aversion to cement block construction in this country, probably due to it's use in commercial construction as well as low-income housing, most of it poorly designed/built.  I don't think this has to be the case and am willing to consider it as viable alternative to predominantly stick frame construction in this country. The latter seems inadequate to me due to it's environmental shortcomings and short-term shelf-life, i.e. in the process of building a house in U.S. we cause too much environmental disruption and the end result doesn't last long enough.  I don't know that cement block and/or concrete construction would be any less damaging to environment but perhaps it would last longer and require less maintenance.


Anyone's thoughts?


 

(post #74245, reply #10 of 12)

I avoid working on the larger developments, I much prefer to do residential additions and renovations but the construction technique is the same as for a new build.


Concrete construction does have a very high environmental impact, it is one of the worst offenders, there is a huge amount of energy involved in producing the cement not to mention the tons of carbon dioxide and other nasty gasses released by the cement works.


OTOH the houses we build have a long life expectancy and are relatively energy efficient (not a patch on the Scandinavians though).


 


"Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all." Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

"Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all." Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

(post #74245, reply #9 of 12)

We should understand that when a Brit (or any UK person) refers to "timberframing," he(she) is actually talking about the common US practice of "stickframing."


I've noticed the double walled structure mentioned is frequently filled with some form of foam insulation.


There is not a big forestry source in the UK.  Only recently have the governments started incentivizing the practice.  Accordingly, most lumber comes from the continent.

(post #74245, reply #11 of 12)

I've noticed the double walled structure mentioned is frequently filled with some form of foam insulation.


We use rockwool cavity batts, some older houses weren't built with insulation but there are lots of companies that will inject foam into the cavity.


Accordingly, most lumber comes from the continent.


most of the timber we use now is from Scandinavia, but all the original timber in the house we're currently doing is stamped CANADA


"Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all." Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

"Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all." Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

(post #74245, reply #12 of 12)

I saw the relative's house being built outside Oslo, Norway.  It was on a steep hillside.  They blasted out enough for the house to be built, and then they laid concrete block directly onto the rock.  The mason set a string line and cut and mortered the first course directly onto the granite.


(At least I took it for granite.  It might have been a pile of schist.)


The block was made with expanded perlite (?) for extra thermal resistance.  It also leaked like a sieve.  To keep water out, they used 3 mm polyethylene sheets with a mastic.  They backfilled with loose gravel (sure had enough around from the blasting), and let drain tiles open to the downhill side.


They poured more perlite onto the ground before pouring the concrete, for extra insulation there.  And, having stayed in that basement during a visit, it is not cold.


(Oh yes--I will talk about Norwegian electrical systems sometime in the future.  Really different from US standards.)