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Brick by brick

A home isn't just about looks and ambience. Building walls with the right kind of bricks and mortar goes a long way in shaping up the dream nest, writes R. RAVIKANTH REDDY


BLOCK BY BLOCK: Cement bricks and fly ash bricks stand out for their light weight and high quality.

The ancestral homes of our grandfathers were made of mud. Yet they passed the test of time. The next generation built dream houses using clay bricks. As technology advanced, options have grown wider. Fly ash bricks and cement bricks are the latest addition to the construction industry that promise stronger homes at a relatively cheaper cost.

Though cement bricks have fallen out of favour when compared to the traditional clay bricks, fly ash variety is sought after for its lightweight as well as high quality strength. But traditionalists favour the good old clay bricks that now come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

"Prospective buyers check on the quality of bricks used," says Hanmanth Reddy, a builder in Alwal. He says people are wary of usage of bricks. However, fly ash is gaining popularity. It costs Rs. 2 a brick and the size is slightly bigger than the clay brick.

"The Government should promote this cheaper and stronger variety since cost of construction will come down considerably," says Prabhu, a builder in Rampally.

Hot property

The fly ash bricks are manufactured using the residue of coal that is available in abundance in the coalmines.

The availability of raw material and low-cost manufacturing make it a hot property. Several units that have sprung up on the outskirts reflect its growing popularity. "It is being widely used in commercial buildings while its usage is picking up in residential units," says Mr. Prabhu.

Clay bricks come in three varieties — ordinary, table-moulded and wire cut — with the last one being the most costly but stronger than the other two. Even the clay used for wire cut is drawn from lakes considered to be of high quality and then manufactured in a furnace at a very high temperature.

"More the heat, stronger will be the brick," says Ramakrishna, an engineer at a construction site in Nacharam. Each piece costs Rs. 2.50 while the ordinary and table-moulded ones cost Rs. 1.25 and Rs. 1.50 per piece respectively. Labourers from Gadwal in Mahabubnagar and Srikakulam are said to be experts in manufacturing these bricks while labourers from Maharashtra, too, have some expertise. The cement bricks that gained popularity in the low-cost housing scheme are now confined to compound walls and temporary structures. "The construction cost comes down by 25 per cent due to cement bricks but it is less preferred by the builders," says Mr. Hanmanth Reddy. They come in two varieties — hollow and full.

The raw material used is the residual powder of the crushed stones that is mixed with cement. A one and a half feet piece costs Rs. 9.

Engineers advise people to be wary of the cost, size and quality when they buy bricks. Pick a few tips from those in the construction field or better take along a person who has knowledge about the material.

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