Elements of traditional construction

Traditional construction is one of the methods used to build houses. It is characterized by structures such as cob walls, stone walls, cavity walls, non cavity walls, thatch roofs, timber frame walls, natural slate covered roofs, scantle roofs, random diminishing natural rag slate, manufactured slate, asbestos slates, cement tiles, clay tiles, rafter and purlin structures, and roof trusses.

Cob is an ancient material used for building. It has probably been used for construction purposes since prehistoric times. It consists of clay, sand, water, earth and straw. It is fairly cheap, fireproof and is resistant to seismic activities. Structures made of cob can be found across the globe. In the UK, counties such as Devon and Cornwall have cob buildings.

Stone walls are a type of masonry construction. They were first constructed by farmers and primitive people whereby they piled loose field stones in a dry stone wall. Stone walls are made of local stone such as limestone, flint sandstone and granite. There is a great variation in the quality of building stones in terms of how enduring it is, its resistance to water and also how well it can be worked into different shapes before construction.

Cavity walls are made using two skins which are separated by a hollow space. The skins are made of bricks. Non-cavity walls on the other hand, have no hollow space between them. They involve insulating solid walls; meaning they let in twice as much heat as cavity walls do. They can either be insulated from outside or inside.

Thatched roofs are made using dry vegetation such as water reed, sedge, straw, heather or rushes. The vegetation is layered thus keeping away from the inner roof. It is quite an old method of roofing that has been used in tropical and temperate climates. Timber frame walls are constructed using heavy squared timbers that are secured with joints which are then fastened with wooden pegs that are large. They are commonly found in large barns.

Natural slate is a roofing material that is both gentle and permanent. It provides elegance to the roof and the frontage. Scantle roofs have slates that are laid over another rag slate at the eaves of the roof. Rag slating has slates whose sizes are different from those of scantle slating. They vary in size from 9” to 30” long. These two methods are typical roofing methods in both Cornwall and Devon. Nearby quarries provide the source of the materials.

Manufactured slate is a fine grained rock which is composed of clay or volcanic ash. It has in it minerals like quartz and muscovite among many others. It is used for roofing once it has been converted into roofing slates or roofing shingles. Asbestos slate is used for roofing and is known to be long lasting.

Cement tiles are usually handmade, very decorative and indeed colorful and are used solely for covering falls. Most tiles are made from clay or ceramic and have a hard glaze. Purlins are horizontal structural members of a roof used to support loads from the roof deck. Roof trusses are structures that have one or more triangle with straight members connected at joints. All these are materials that are basic elements of traditional construction.