Federation Walls

Federation Walls

[previous page: Federation Verandahs next page: Federation Awnings]

Cavity walls became common with mass-production of bricks
Cavity walls became common with mass-production of bricks

“In the Victorian period, brick ornament was generally confined to a few string courses or cornices, but in the 1890s brickwork now began to spread into richer lintels, spandrels and columns.

Sometimes the colour of these brickwork details was enhanced by rubbing or gauging them. Occasionally they were washed with a coat of red ochre, and the jointing over-painted in white. (Tuckpointing).

A greater variety of special bricks allowed more complex mouldings to be specified in cornices and door surrounds. Conventional chimneys gave way to taller and more elaborate forms as bricklayers showed off their new skills.”

“Bricks were now the cheapest building material available, delivered on the site.

The usefulness of brick had also been extended by the adoption in the late 1890s of the cavity wall – actually two parallel brick walls with a thin air gap between them – which removed the lingering problems of insulation and watertightness experienced by nineteenth century brick walls exposed to the weather.” – Early Bricks and Brickworks in South Australia

Middle Park Melbourne: Federation red brick walls with rough cast courses and tuckpointing – http://www.brickworkrestoration.com.au
Federation House in Rozelle NSW from http://www.sydneyarchitecture.com
Haberfield Brick Federation House
Note the different bricks (face bricks) on the front wall. Common bricks were used on the side walls.
Tuckpointing: here red mortar is used. The white fillets are laid out at regular spacing, which does not always coincide with the rough spacing of the joints.
Tuckpointing: here red mortar is used. The white fillets are laid out at regular spacing, which does not always coincide with the rough spacing of the joints.
flame red
flame red


“The Federation front (usually) features red face brick masonry with roughcast in the gable decorative finial panel.

  • There is a (pair of) well-detailed brick chimney(s) with rendered capital and cowls.
  • The front and side verandah has a shallow pitched concave roof with stop-chamfered timber posts and brick balustrade and piers and tessellated tile floor.” – Penrith Council description of a typical Federation house

Federation Houses were usually built of tuckpointed brick with cement joinery in Sydney and other major cities, and in weatherboard where brick was not easily available. –Source, Manly Council


Tuckpointed bluestone plinth
Tuckpointed bluestone plinth

Tuckpointing is a decorative finish applied to the bric

Tuckpointed Victorian facade
Tuckpointed Victorian facade

kwork joints. The final effect is that of thin mortar joints in a colour contrasting with the brickwork. It is most commonly associated with period architectural styles including Victorian, Federation, Queen Anne and Art Nouveau.

Old brickwork becomes discoloured and soiled from applied finishes and the effects of airborne debris over time. The original mortar can deteriorate and the orginal tuckpointing may be damaged or simply falling away.

Tuckpointing is a specialised craft. It is performed when all brickwork is complete.

The structural mortar joints are raked out (excavated) to an even depth. A coloured mortar matching the brickwork colour is placed and struck flush with the surface of the wall. The thin ruled mortar lines in contrasting (white) colour are then applied to finish the job. The final effect is eye-catching and spectacular when well-done. – A&KA Brickwork Restorations

In Perth, it is recorded that front walls were built with limestone footings, and using white tuck-pointed red stretcher-bond brickwork, with stucco string-courses and sills. – Source (town of Vincent)

Rendered brick Randwick Federation house
Red-Brick Randwick 2 storey Federation semi-detached

Early construction methods in Sydney:

  • “Builders constructing such houses would usually place 2 carpenters on the property.
  • These tradesmen would set out the shape of the house, excavate the footings,
  • supervise the bricklayer as the walls went up,
  • lay the floor once that level had been reached,
  • make the windows onsite to the required size and shape (no standard sizes here),
  • hand cut the roof frame and gables and construct the roof when ready.
  • The carpenters would supervise the plumbers, internal wall plastering and ceiling linings.
  • The front brickwork was usually red in colour with the side and rear bricks being a brown coloured “common” brick.”

“When renovating buildings of this age, a check should be made on the condition of the mortar, rising damp and condition of roof tiles as well as electrical wiring and ceilings. In some suburbs the buildings can be affected by soil movement cracks.” – Source – Early Construction 1900-1930


Renovation Techniques

from http://www.brickworkrestoration.com.au/

While we recognize that traditional mortars consisted of mainly lime putties and sand which we can duplicate if required, Brickwork Restoration have developed a Mortar Extrusion System of Repointing and Tuck Pointing mortar joints using modern materials and techniques. The superior bonding capabilities of our modified mortar, while still allowing the required water vapour transparency, allows for a full 20 year warranty providing that there are no ongoing dampness issues.

Note that in the Aust. Standards 3700 M1 (heritage) mortars are recognized as unsuitable for any external work. The reason that they are specified in the restoration of Heritage brickwork is purely to maintain the same appearance as the mortar that was originally used. We have achieved that with the use of modern and far more durable and longer lasting products.

  1. Carefully cut back the existing mortar with 4 inch angle grinders(dust extraction units attached) and air chisels.
  2. Pressure wash to remove atmospheric grime from the brick face and any remaining original or other repointers mortar from the often uneven brick arises and any loose matter from the cut back mortar joint.
  3. Re fill those mortar joints with the appropriately coloured mortar and tool finish as close to flush with the brick face as possible. This means that our mortar is `feathered` in to the brickwork as closely as possible for that brickwork as it was originally done.
  4. Gauge and mark out every horizontal and vertical mortar joint which positions our Tuck Point lines. This allows us to position the Tuck Pointing as symmetrically as possible.
  5. Tape up for the horizontal Tuck Point lines allowing for whatever width line was originally used or has been specified. Fill and tool smooth those lines and then repeat for the vertical joints.
  6. Hand wash the finished wall face with slow running water and specific cleaning pads. This also removes any burr type edges from the base mortar and Tuck Pointing.

Heritage Listed House Repair by Brickwork Restoration

Incorrect bricks were used on the addition, (so) we colored the brickwork, then Tuck Pointed the whole. As shown you would never know there was a different brick used.

Heritage repair 1.jpg
Heritage repair 2.jpg
Heritage repair 3.jpg
1 This shows an addition to a heritage home with the extension being built with non matching bricks. 2 Here we have our colour coating to a non matching brickface 3 This displays the finished job where we have coloured the incorrect brickwork, raked out and replaced the original red base mortar and applied new Tuckpointing


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