Consultant Architect

After a short account of the 140 year history of the gradual adoption of cavity construction in Australia, the paper, which is mostly anecdotal, describes the watertightness fortunes of the 186O’s solid nine inch brick walled house in which the author lives in an inner Melbourne suburb in the southern part of Australia. Other personal experiences of waterproofing problems with solid and cavity brick walls are described. It is concluded that, provided they are correctly detailed, those details are followed during construction and building maintenance is kept up, solid walls can be relied upon to be adequately watertight in most conditions of reasonable exposure. Reliable drainage, damp-proof courses and sub-floor ventilation became a feature of house construction at about the same time as cavity walls replaced solid walls. The first three changes may have made more important contributions to creating dry houses than did the cavity wall. Descriptions are also given of experiences with single leaf clay masonry that is reinforced in grouted cores to resist the cyclonic wind loads of Northern Queensland. In these conditions of extreme exposure it is necessary to coal single leaf masonry to prevent the entry of wind-blown rain. Australian research into novel methods of increasing the wind and fire resistance of cavity walls is briefly touched on.