Some countries refer to beams and blocks as ribs and blocks or lintels and blocks. A range of concrete or masonry buildings can be constructed with in-situ, suspended concrete floors (ground or upper) using this technique, and it is increasingly being used in residential construction.
Beam and block flooring has been used in the UK for many years, in domestic and commercial construction, and is beginning to be seen more in Australia.
It is easy, quick, and cheap for anyone to build a beam and block floor, requiring no special construction skills, they are also highly durable and solid. It is particularly suited to first-floor structural applications where it can replace traditional suspended timber joists and engineered wooden joists.
It is an important decision to determine whether a block and beam floor system will be installed or not as there are a number of things to consider. Almost every flooring system has some type of advantage or disadvantage. The use of block and beam construction, also known as the bison beam, has a number of advantages over traditional solid hardwood floors. If you know how to install it, you can complete the project in a very short period of time.
Beam And Block Flooring – A Brief Explanation
Beam-and-block floors are composed of clay or concrete blocks (known as ‘pots’) that are supported by parallel, usually prefabricated, prestressed concrete beams or ribs. Once the blocks are infilled between the parallel beams of concrete, a continuous working surface is created. Several methods can be used to accomplish this. The first type of T-beam is shaped so that its lower part is supported entirely by continuous ledges. An average beam thickness of 130mm is used, and beam spans of up to 6m are possible. According to the span, the shape of the block, and loading requirements, the beam profile will differ. The infill blocks are laid quickly once the beams are in place and supported at each end: as long as the blocks are readily available, they can be dropped into place every five to ten seconds. A typical specification requires a block to have dimensions of 440mm x 215mm x 100mm, a minimum compressive strength of 3.5N/mm2 or 7N/mm2, and be able to support at least 3.5kN in transverse load. As the beam is supported at each end, whether within load-bearing walls or external perimeter walls, no shuttering (support) is required on the underside of the floor. Once you have installed the filler blocks, you will have a smooth working surface on which you can do any subsequent work without risk of injury. To fill voids, treat the surface with a sand and cement grout to deter insects and vermin and improve air tightness.
When considering beam and block flooring, it’s important to take into account the design considerations that come with this type of construction. Load-bearing walls are a key factor to consider when designing your project as they will impact the layout and placement of beams within the floor system. It’s essential to ensure that any load-bearing walls are in good condition and able to support the weight of the new structure.
Another crucial consideration is insulation options for your beam and block flooring. There are various types available, including rigid board or quilted materials which can be fitted between joists or beneath screed layers.
Ventilation is also an important aspect to keep in mind as proper airflow helps prevent condensation build-up and mold growth under your floors.
Moving onto the next stage of building, the installation process plays a significant role in ensuring that your beam and block flooring functions correctly. Proper preparation needs to be done such as clearing debris from foundation trenches before laying out blocks on top followed by positioning reinforcement steel bars horizontally across each block row while fitting vertical bars around openings like doorways or windows.
Choices For Floor Finishing
Afterward, either a poured structural concrete top (or screed) or timber deck flooring (e.g. flooring grade OSB, ply, etc.) can be applied. A structural concrete topping may be placed over insulation slabs and a damp-proof membrane (if the floor is on a ground floor) or vapor barrier if it is a first floor. Steel mesh reinforcement can also be incorporated into the topping to increase its strength. The floor will be able to handle the full weight of its contents without the topping once it has cured. They can be used quickly in creating a usable working platform because the precast beams are easy to assemble. Cross-sections of beams can vary depending on the manufacturer. Furthermore, a closed soffit can be produced, in which case a relatively continuous soffit will be created, or an open soffit may need to have an applied ceiling: this might take the form of plaster or enclosure by a suspended ceiling. A rigid insulation slab can be used instead of concrete hollow blocks when a lightweight, insulated floor slab is needed.
Pros And Cons Of Beam And Block Flooring
Floors made of beams and blocks offer the following advantages:
- Handling is easy
- Unskilled labour can be utilized
- Concrete floor systems that are durable
- Suspended floors can also be hung from these systems
- Because beams and blocks are manufactured off-site, it is economical
- As hollow blocks do not need time to cure as poured concrete slabs, they are often lighter and quicker to construct than in situ slabs
- It can be used for suspended floors on sloped sites, for ground that has poor bearing capacity, for sites with high water tables, or for sites with toxic chemical contamination.
- This method does not depend on the weather, reducing site delays.
- Noise reduction and fire resistance
- In most cases, shuttering is not necessary. For instance, it is possible to run underfloor heating through hollows.
- Block and beam floors eliminate the bounce associated with timber floors
- Floors made of block and beam suffer minimal shrinkage, and they do not creak as they are used.
- Using this method of floor construction, noisy homes are lessened. This is especially important in urban areas. Homeowners are concerned about noise within their homes. Block and beam floor construction has been used for many years in the UK in the construction of flats, and is now widely used in general housing to provide a quieter home living environment.
- Can be laid in any weather
- Reduces the load to the foundation
- Good fire-resisting properties
- Suitable to host underfloor heating systems.
Disadvantages Of Beam And Block Flooring
- A more expensive option
- Requires machinery to lift heavy beams into place
- Unsuitable for irregular shapes that have many specialized units are not suitable because the method relies on standardization as the key to efficiency.
- Providing even, rigid connections may be challenging when the floor and supporting beam or wall are irregularly shaped or have many specialized units.
Alternatives To Beam And Block Flooring
If you’re looking for an alternative to beam and block flooring, there are a few options worth considering.
One option is concrete floors, which can be poured directly onto the ground or installed as suspended floors with supports underneath. These types of floors offer excellent durability and strength, making them ideal for industrial or commercial applications.
Another option is precast flooring, which involves creating large slabs of concrete off-site and then installing them on site like puzzle pieces. This method allows for faster installation times and minimal disruption during construction. Precast flooring also provides great thermal insulation properties, making it a popular choice in residential buildings.
Ultimately, the decision between these alternatives will depend on your specific needs and preferences.
Regardless of which alternative you choose, it’s important to work with experienced professionals who can help guide you through the process from start to finish. By working closely with experts in the field of concrete construction, you can ensure that your new flooring system meets all safety standards while still providing optimal performance over time.
Frequently Asked Questions About Block And Beam Flooring
Is block and beam cheaper than slab?
Despite the fact that laying a concrete slab is generally very cheap, it takes time for it to be set up and for it to dry, so in recent years, the beam and block suspended floor has gained popularity in price comparison. Even though this method is a bit more expensive, especially for relatively small jobs, it’s extremely convenient and fast.
How far can beam and block span?
155mm House Beams are able to span up to a 7 metre point, while 225mm Deep Beams can span up to an 8 metre point under normal residential loading.
What goes under a block and beam floor?
Under a beam and block floor at ground level, there should be no topsoil or vegetation. Concrete or sand are not required. Between the bottom of the floor beam and the ground, a minimum distance of 150mm (225mm for heavy clay soils) must be maintained.
There are multiple variations and options that come with reinforced concrete beams made from prestressed concrete. When using foamcrete for the beams and expanded polystyrene for the infills, it can provide excellent thermal insulation as well along with preventing cold bridging.
One of the advantages of beam and block is that a larger distance between internal walls or beams can be accommodated. Another is that a suspended system with an adequate void underneath provides protection against moisture without requiring a concrete oversite. The basic approach also provides a solid foundation for sound insulation which can be added to for additional performance.
With beam and block flooring, because the floor is able to carry higher loads, you can choose to use blockwork for any partition on the upper storey, not just the supporting walls.
Of all the types of flooring, this technology means that you can use blockwork for internal partitions, which can be plastered and painted to match the rest of your home.
Beam and block floors are also much quieter than timber joisted floors, so if you have children or pets running around upstairs, they won’t disturb anyone downstairs.
Beam and block flooring is a popular choice for many builders and developers. It is also used in domestic projects, especially where the ground conditions are poor.
Beam and block floors are suitable for most types of buildings including residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural. They can be used on all types of soil conditions including clay, sand, and gravel, and when compared to other types of concrete flooring are generally cheaper. Although the cost of materials may be high, ease of ground preparation and speed of installation make it an overall cheaper flooring option.
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