Tag Archives: building

COVID-19 News Update

COVID19 Pandemic

At the time of writing, The U&M Group is largely closed, following guidelines issued by the UK Government and Public Health England to help play our part in minimising the potential spread of the virus.

Our offices are operating with a skeleton staff and reduced hours.

Key staff in all departments have laptops and mobile devices and are home working.

Whilst our site activity has largely ceased, we have retained a limited number of operatives to undertake any emergency call out work, temporary propping, security etc that may be required during this partial lockdown. Please contact us through info@underpin.com.

As the advice is in a constant state of flux, we will be actively monitoring the situation and will implement any updated advice or guidelines.

We would also wish you all well during these very sad and disruptive times.

Kind regards and stay safe


David Gakhar

What Are the Different Types of Brick Around?

What Are the Different Types of Brick Around?

Although modern buildings can be constructed from a wide variety of materials, brick is the traditional material of choice in most parts of the UK. There’s something reassuring about a brick-build home, with its bond left clearly visible.

But is a brick simply a brick? Not at all.

Materials for Bricks

Clay is the most common material for bricks, but this can vary according to where it comes from. The most obvious difference is the colour, indicating the type of clay, which tends to reflect the part of the country it comes from. Broadly, red bricks are characteristic of the north, for instance, while London and the Home Counties are more likely to have yellow or cream bricks.

However, a number of other materials are available for bricks:

  • Sand lime bricks, consisting of a mixture of sand, fly ash and lime, make a smoother finish possible.
  • Fly ash clay bricks are made from a mixture of fly ash, cement, sand and water.
  • Concrete bricks are ideal to go immediately above and below a damp-proof course.

Ways of Making Bricks

Bricks can be manufactured in different ways, which affect how they’re best used. The main methods are:

  • Extruded or wire-cut bricks, where the clay is extruded into a column and wire-cut into individual bricks. This is usually done by machine, keeping costs down, and produces smooth bricks.
  • Soft mud bricks, where the clay is dropped into individual moulds, producing creased faces. This can be done either by machine or by hand, though of course handmade bricks tend to be more expensive.

Alternatively, you can reuse bricks from demolished properties, which will reduce the carbon footprint of your project.

Shapes of Brick

The most common shape is the facing brick, which is the one normally found in the brickwork of a straight wall. However, bricks need to be used for the angles and corners on a building, too, and specialist bricks are available to suit all of these.

For example, angle and cant bricks are used to create returns and chamfers, while coping or capping bricks cap freestanding walls. There are also channel bricks, used to form channels and gutters, and curved sector bricks can be used for chimneys, pillars or columns.

Hollow bricks, around a third the weight of normal ones, are suitable for partitions, while the perforations in airbricks help with the circulation of air. There are many other specialist bricks available, and they can be custom made for specific uses. You’re very welcome to get in touch with us to find out more about what’s available.


So What Actually Is Underpinning?

Terms like underpinning are thrown about in the construction industry, but it’s not always easy to be clear what they really mean. So what exactly is underpinning, and what implications does it have if you need to have your home underpinned?

What Is Underpinning?

Underpinning simply means strengthening the foundations of an existing building. This is usually because there’s subsidence underneath, caused by weak or saturated soil or cavities such as old mine-workings. Some causes of subsidence, like tree roots interfering with the foundations, can be dealt with simply, but often underpinning will be required.

There are two main types of underpinning:

  • Mass concrete underpinning is the older method, which involves excavating beneath the foundations, section by section, and filling with concrete. This is a longwinded and fairly disruptive method, but there are cases where it still offers the best option.
  • Minipiling is a newer technique, in which piles are driven or bored through the weaker soil to a level of bedrock or stronger soil, allowing them to support the weight of the building. This technique has the advantages of being relatively quick and non-disruptive.


What Does Underpinning Cost?

The cost of underpinning jobs can vary considerably, according to a number of factors. Obviously, the extent of the work required will be a major issue, but the cost may also be affected by any specific difficulties encountered. It can also depend on what part of the country you live in.

For an average house, you could expect to spend between £10,000 and £15,000, though it could be more if you also require structural repairs. While this might seem expensive, it may be covered by your building insurance. In any case, the alternative of ignoring the problem is likely to cost a good deal more in the long run.

You should always get at least three quotes, but remember that the cheapest won’t always be the best. Find out whether the company specialises in underpinning, and whether it has a track record of satisfied customers.

Will Underpinning Affect My Insurance?

One of the concerns often raised with underpinning is that it might be difficult to insure your home once it’s been underpinned. It’s true that insurance companies tend to be cautious, assuming the problems that caused the subsidence haven’t gone away.

However, there are specialist firms that will insure underpinned properties. This may cost a little more than average, but it shouldn’t be difficult to insure your home.

You’re very welcome to get in touch with us if you want to know more about underpinning.

The History of Construction

The construction industry is one of the foundations on which the modern world is built, so it’s not surprising this has always been so. The history of construction is not only as old as human civilisation, but even older.


Ancient Construction

The earliest forms of construction were merely temporary shelters made by weaving grass or stretching animal skins. As long ago as 11,000 years, though, more permanent structures were being built in a few areas, and this gradually spread through the ancient world.

A wide variety of materials were used, depending on what was easily available and what the building was used for. In Egypt and Mesopotamia, for instance, clay bricks were favoured, while timber-framed constructions were preferred elsewhere, such as China.

Besides dwelling places, most civilisations built massive monuments, and these were usually of stone. The Egyptian pyramids and the great Greek temples are examples, and the challenges of creating these often advanced knowledge of construction techniques.


Pre-Modern Construction

These trends continued through the middle ages and beyond, both in Europe and throughout the world. The technical achievements of the great European castles and cathedrals were more than matched by the great Islamic mosques with their magnificent domes and the temples of southern and eastern Asia.

At the same time, the growth of urban living (which saw Asian cities with populations of over a million) required new solutions. In Europe, the traditional wattle and daub gradually gave way to the brick buildings that are still familiar.


Modern Construction

Following key 18th century developments, such as the use of iron and glass in construction, two of the most important breakthroughs that heralded modern construction were concrete and steel frames. Concrete had been used by the Romans (for the Coliseum, for instance), but the technique had been lost.

These enabled the development of high-rise buildings, which were also aided by the introduction of cranes to make their construction possible and the invention of the lift, which made them practical to use. During the 20th century, prefabrication techniques created a revolution in fast, cheap construction.

The construction industry is still evolving. Perhaps one of the most significant directions of evolution in the 21st century is the quest to find designs and materials that are ecologically friendly. This could make the buildings of the future as different from those we’re used to as a Tudor house is from a modern skyscraper.


On the other hand, the essential principles of good construction have altered very little over thousands of years, however much the methods, tools and materials have changed. If you want to know more about great construction today, feel free to get in touch with us.