Welcome to Frank Menchise website DIY Brickwork and gets the job done right!     In these pages we are going to tell you some interesting issues that most people would like to know, which will be about, building houses, maintaining house and buying your house or apartment, we are also supplying a navigation bar so that you could navigate all our sites.  

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Frank the bricklayer 

Now let us start from the beginning, so, first of all let us try to tell you how and why I have worked in the building industry when I came to Brisbane Australia, therefore, because I have worked to building, repairing and maintaining buildings, I know a lot of things about building and house  that the average bloke does. 

Now the reason that I have worked there, one could say that it just happened and I am happy it did, because it opened up a good way to earn a living. 

When I came to Australia, I had a real surprise to see that most house were built with timber, you see in Southern Italy and most of the old continent of Europe the houses are usually solid masonry, like stones, bricks and blocks of some sort of materials, whatever is available in that region. 

So I thought that perhaps I might end up working in a factory, or whatever job came my way and I could not have guessed that one day I would become a bricklayer and work building houses and other buildings. 

Anyhow this is somehow a little bit the story of my life, so first of all let us see how we the migrants that came from Europe in the early sixties saw this Brisbane city, what we learned from this new experience and how fate gave us a hand towards our own destiny, so that one day we would tell the story.   

Brisbane houses old style and how they slowly are changing to suite today accommodation needs and at the same time building new house provides for the new comers to Australia lots of opportunities to work in the building industry, because there is a lot of work to build a house, or any type of accommodation.  

Please note

Dear readers, as the title of this site clams I am going to show you through how building in bricks is done and that is what I am going to do, once I have explained you how I ended up working on the building industry as a bricklayer; and also what I learned while I was going to achieve that. I believe that if I explain everything as I saw with my own eyes and learned myself it could help explain many things in the building that only those people that work there understand, so I ask you to be patient and follow me from when I came to Australia until I became a bricklayer and worked as a bricklayer most of my life; and then we will go back to complete our house base. 

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When I came to Australia in the early sixties, the center of Brisbane city was a modern city built on Brisbane River as shown on the left, but in the suburbs houses were mainly made of timber, most of them were high set on stumps and most of these stumps were timber, as shown in the picture above; but since then things have slowly changed and today most houses are built with bricks or at least part of them are made with some sort of masonry.  

The Queenslander Australia wooden houses

Australian houses in Brisbane, (This is a link to hub pages) 

Welcome to our article, Australia wooden houses in Brisbane

The convenient pretty wooden houses in Brisbane and Australia; when we came to Australia in the early sixties, we found that the houses here were made of timber, which were very different from the houses we had left in Europe.  

For us Italian migrants that had lived all our lives in solid masonry buildings, when we arrived in Australia at the beginning it seemed a strange thing that in Brisbane lots of houses were made of wood and most of them were set on wooden stumps, but then we started thinking that after all they were still good to live in anyhow, so, we got used to live on them rather quickly.

So, we had to forget about how we used to live in our motherland and also my native town of Genzano di Lucania since we were living now in Australia the Australian way, after all as the saying goes, when you are in Rome do what the Romans do, and we did that; but then, what were the reasons and why these houses were made of wood, or to use another word for wood how the locals called it here, they were made of timber.

So as you can see, this question arises, why these houses were made of timber and not masonry? And then try to see if they were better or worse that the houses made of bricks or masonry. If we use logic reasoning there is no difference whether houses are made of timber or masonry, as long as they are able to give the people that live in them that filling of safety and privacy that we aspect from them, when we live in our own home.

Having said that now let us see or guess the reasons why these houses were made of timber, and why they were set on wooden stumps.

 On the left a large Queen-slander house, note the pretty design, all the open space on the verandas and also all the open space under the house, which could be used in very hot summer days to catch the breeze and stay in the shade.

This is a typical smaller version of the houses, sometimes they are called workers cottages, because they were made for people that could not afford the more typical Queenslander

Wooden houses on stumps

The wooden houses on stumps of Brisbane and/or Australia

As I have already said above in Brisbane a lot of houses are/were made of timber, but not only are they made of timber, they are set on wooden stumps. So let us see the reasons why they were made this way.

From what explanations we have heard, and also by using our own imagination and intelligence one can come to the conclusion that there were several reasons why houses here were made of timber. The first reason is that when the first settlers started to build Brisbane, there were plenty of trees that could be cut down and make very good timber to build those houses; and then the people that came to live in Brisbane and Australia had a very good knowledge of how to use timber, since they came by boats and in the boats of those days, there were always carpenters and carpenter tools on board, so to build timber houses was the easiest way for them, since they had the knowledge the tools and plenty of timber in the woods surrounding Brisbane.

At the beginning the houses were just simple shelters, but as the time went by they became better and better, because the builders also became aware that here around Brisbane and northward when the wet season comes the ground becomes too wet for the houses to stand on the ground, in hot summer days everything becomes too hot and there were lots of vermin on the ground, so they found a way how to build houses that would avoid most of these problems; that is why in those times the houses on stumps became a necessity, of course slowly they became even better and even pretty, that is how the Queenslander house was born, which is a large house with verandas around them that keeps the weather and the hot sun off the main walls of the house. One can see these pretty Queensland houses if you look around even today.

 The Qunslander house and most of the old wooden house are made pretty with fancy designs, that are made from timber and other building materials starting from outside, as well as inside you can see in the Queenslander photo; inside they are decorated with fret works like the picture on the left, these can be found in and outside those old timber houses

On the right, some fret works inside the houses, this design is more likely to be found on the cheaper version on these timber houses

The Queenslander houses

The Queenslander house is a large timber house; some of them are pretty too and they serve the inhabitant very well, as they have been built to take the advantage of the hot climate in Brisbane and north Queensland regions. Now since I have been working in these houses to maintain them, let me describe them to you a bit more in details. As anyone can guess there are a few different types of these houses, but here to make it easier we are talking about the large real Queenslander and the workers cottage, which is a small and cheaper version of the real Queenslander. 

As I have already said above in this hub, when the first settlers arrived here, there were plenty of trees around to make timber, a lot of this timber is called hardwood, which as the name suggests is hard and very strong, some of this timber are even stronger and longer lasting than the European oak or other strong European woods. So the houses were strong and secure, the only natural real enemy of these houses were the white ants (termites), which are able to eat through the wood and destroy the houses. The termites are native to Australia and if one goes up north in Australia one could see strange ground made mounts of earth springing up from the ground, these is how the white ants live, they eat wood from the inside and they make these mounts of earth.

So as you can see this was another reason why the houses were built on stumps. The stumps were made of whole sections of trees that are very resistant to rot; of course the white ants could still be able to eat those stumps, but they were treated with some paints and at the top they all had a capping of metal that would make a barrier to the white ants if they came from the inside the stump and also a barrier to the other ants or crawling insect from the outside.

We have to say that some of these timber houses have been made also pretty, because timber can be cut to different shapes easily, so they were somehow pretty compared to the house made of masonry, which would be very expensive to decorate them with masonry, so the houses are usually square boxes with a roof at the top.

Decorative fretwork was easy to make with timber and a lot of these houses had some decorations, in them in one way or the other. Now I can go on and on telling you how these houses were made, but that would be hard to do, so I am going to search the Internet for photos that could show you what I mean, about fretwork and other timber names, anyhow there are a lot of names given to these pieces of timber that would be hard for me to name and for the readers to understand what is meant by that particular name. So I am going to leave it to your imagination, once you see some photos of the houses and the fretwork in them.

We all live in houses and we all wonder which house is better to own, when it comes to choose between timber or masonry houses; the only thing that most of us would agree is that timber house need more outside maintenance, because timber needs to be painted, otherwise it would not last and painting outside may not be easy, because most time one needs to work from a scaffolding or ladders; see the photos on both sides.     

 Wooden houses care

Just as most of us thought, these wooden houses need some maintenance and care

For those people that have not own or lived in timber houses before they should ask some questions, before they get involved in owning one of these houses; perhaps the first question that would come to their mind is: are these houses safe to live in and how long these houses can last? And then, what sort of maintenance they require? You see, they have a right to know that, so let me try to explain this timber housing situation.

Timber houses need perhaps more maintenance that masonry houses; because first of all you need to paint them for the timber to last longer, otherwise the timber on the outside walls will slowly rot away, but then, there are also some advantages because, you see if you want to change something it can be done easily a lot easier and cheaper than if you have a masonry house, therefore, it is a lot cheaper also to do some alterations, so it can work well after all.

Having said that I need also to say that these wooden houses have some problems of their own, apart that they need to be painted for the external timber to last longer, they also have some vermin enemies everywhere in the houses, because the timber is more vermin friendly than masonry and bricks and cement, but the normal vermin are not a big problem for the house structure itself.

The greatest enemy of these wooden houses are the termites, or white ants as some of us calls them; The white ants can really destroy entire buildings by eating the wood from the inside, a lot of times people don’t even know that the white ants are there eating their houses away while they are living in them; you see, unless you know what you are looking for it is hard to see any sign of them from the outside. So one day suddenly one can find out by toughing or putting some pressure on a spot where the white ants have eaten the wood from inside, and one can have a great shock to see this happen, as everything starts collapsing inward and where there was a wall now there is a big hole.

Therefore, it would be worthwhile to learn how to recognize the signs if there are white ants; and definitely call an expert to check the building if you are going to buy it.

  White ants can easily destroy an entire building, see what has happened to this one, they have eaten all the wood inside and now the whole lot is collapsing

Termite nests in the bush of north Queensland, they are strange little creature the white ants, they seem to work always from the inside, except for the worker that sometimes goes out to deposit the soil, and so the white ant mount grows

These is how the white ants (termite) look like, they seem so soft and vulnerable that at first sight one would think that they cannot do any damage to anything, that is until one can see what they can do to wooden structures.

 How to defend our homes from these pests

The white ant problem

How to defend our homes from these pests

There are a few things that we can do to prevent this pest destroy our homes; the first thing that one has to do is to check that there is a barrier that stops the white ants to enter your building, for instance if your house is a highset house on stumps, check that at the top of the stumps there is a metallic ant capping; this metallic ant capping is usually a large galvanized round dish or square of metal and it is bent down at the edges so that any crawling insect is not able to enter your house that way; can you see the picture? The ant capping prevents also the white ants to enter through the stump itself, if the stump has been infested with white ants, because when they reach the top of the stump they cannot eat through the metal capping and so they are stopped entering that way, of course there are a lot of different buildings and a lot of different ways to set a barrier. There is also the pest control way that poisons these pests, but that needs to be done by an expert.

 On the left a ant capping on a timber stump. White ants are strange creatures and have few enemies, but in their natural habitat there are some enemies that eats them and this strange animal on the right the Scaly ant eater is one of them

Also this other strange animal the Echidna are ant eaters.

 Some natural enemies of the white ants

White ants have very few enemies because they live and hide inside the timber, but there are some natural enemies of course in their natural habitat, a couple of which are pictured here. As I said before, one needs to learn the signs how to spot the white ants presence, and do something if you find that they are there, otherwise they could eat way your house away.

Good luck to all houses owner! 

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 Australia and its work opportunities

In this second part of this page we would like to talk about work opportunities in Australia, so we have to say that the Australian building industry has provided great opportunities for the new comers, when they migrated to Australia and some of us learned a trade as I did, it was hard work, but we all have to work to earn a living, so we were happy to work and take our opportunities to better ourselves if we could

Is Australia the land of opportunity?

Welcome to my hub, is Australia the land of opportunity?

If I were to use only my experience in Australia as a standard, we will have to say that Australia opportunities today are not as good as they used to be, because things have changed a lot since I came to Australia. Now if we would like to compare the fewer opportunities that are still available today, with what used to be available in the sixties I am going to write the opportunities of the sixties in my life story, just the way I have seen them happen to me personally and to the other people that came to Australia in the early sixties, and then, my life story opportunities could be compared with what is available today; but first of all let us start with what people think about Australia today.

Today, everybody in the whole wide world thinks that Australia is still the land of opportunities, and that is the reason why people are still trying hard to migrate to Australia; but, are all those opportunities there still one may ask? Or is it just a myth now and the opportunities that existed in the past do not exist any longer, or they are a lot less than they used to be especially for those unskilled people that are coming to Australia these days.

Having been a migrant myself a long time ago in the early sixties, and being in a way lucky to find some relative that helped me to settle here in Australia, I know that migrating to another country is not an easy thing to do specially if there is no one waiting for you and help you when you arrive, and it is even harder if you don’t speak the language of the country you are migrating to, but today there is a great movement of people throughout the world that migrate from one country to another, and a lot of people want to come to Australia one way or another, they even risk their lives during their journey, boarding not seaworthy boats that might just break up and disintegrate in the ocean. 

Therefore, when I hear or see people migrating today like desperado's that want to reach Australia at all cost, I always go back mentally to the times when I legally migrated myself and think what I could and would have done if there had been no one to help me when I arrived in Australia; here I should say that just thinking about it makes me shudder, so, to see these people these days trying to come by boat illegally and knowing that they may not be welcome here make me wonder how desperate they are to try to migrate at all cost; they must be really desperate to try to migrate this way. But then, there is also this other reason, as everybody thinks that Australia is the land of opportunities.

Looking at what is happening these days we know that the world has got a real problem with people migrating to other countries like Australia, as we all know, here in Australia we are very upset about those people coming in by boats, and we would like to stop them and even send them back where they came from. Now, here I need to say that in Europe is even worse with people coming in from North Africa every day, they are so many that is hard to count them and we might have a guess and say that the same amount of people that migrate illegally to Australia in a year may migrate to Europe in a week or even less than that. But anyhow here we are not going to talk that much about illegal migrants, because we want to talk about if Australia is still the land of opportunities.

 But, is Australia still the land of opportunity?

In this case we have to ask; is Australia still the land of opportunities today?

As I have already said above, if I have to use my own personal experience as a standard, then I have to say that today in Australia work opportunities are not as good as they used to be. But then not everything is or might be as it seems to be to me, because my judgment is that of a single person and therefore I might be wrong.

Anyhow let us try to see what has changed since I came to Australia. What is really changed is the fact that today we do not need as many hands to do a job as we used to on the past, because a lot of the labour is being done from machines, therefore people that have no skills and rely only on their physical strength are not in high demand, for this reason there are a lot less jobs available for these people, but if people have a trade or have studied there may well be opportunities for them.

Now that I have explained the main part, allow me to go back to the days when I came to Australia, so that I can tell you what sort of opportunities existed then, and then we might be able to compare with what is available today.

In order to understand what I am going to say next, it is important also to know that economies and for that matter opportunities for jobs have high and lows of their own, therefore this effects everybody around.

Now if you do not mind let me tell you my own experience when I came to Australia, because this is probably the only way that we might be able to compare the opportunity situation.

There have been times in Australia when everybody had a job, so there was no unemployment at all, from stories that I have been told from people that were already here when I came, there have been times that the employers had not enough employees and they would go down to the wharves when the ships arrived and select a few people that seemed good enough for them to do their jobs, therefore, in those days there were no unemployed people, but unfortunately those times did not last long, as I said working opportunities go up and down.

Now to compare those times with today’s’ opportunities, I am going to describe to you here-under part of my own life story, what I found easy or hard to cope with when I came, and then how I was able to cope with the hardship of those times and the way that those things became solved, as this is the only way that I know how to measure, if Australia is still the land of opportunities.

What sort of opportunities were available in Australia

What sort of opportunities were available in Australia in the sixties

When I arrived in Australia in March 1961 my relative and friends were telling me that there were not many job vacancies readily available, so, I had to be patient until a job would be available. But what sort of work I could do they were not sure just I had to wait and see, what I knew about working for other people was that if a job was offered to me I had to work hard, since in my country when we hired some workers to do some work in our family farm, we would aspect them to work hard so that they would earn their pay, therefore I was in my right frame of mind to go out and work hard, whatever job was offered would do me just fine. I have said this, because it is necessary to understand that whoever attempts to migrate to another country, he/she must be ready to work hard if they want to succeed, and it all boils down you need to do a fair work day for fair daily pay.

Beside my willingness to work I was also young and fit enough to do any manual job that I was offered, the only problem was that I didn't speak English, I had learned perhaps a few words on the way to Australia while we were sailing, as there was an English teacher on the ship for that purpose. But as we all know English is a very hard language to learn, especially if one comes from a country that their language is phonetic and once you know some rules, one can read from a book and somehow come close to the sound that those written words are pronounced, but English is not written phonetically so to learn English one must be exposed to the English speaking people and slowly learn from them, so as you can see I and other emigrant like me had a lot to learn, before we could speak English well enough to fit in the Australian speaking community.

Anyhow, now let me tell you that although I had very little English somehow everything turned out all right in the end, perhaps this is another reason why people think that Australia is the land of opportunities.

For me when I came to Australia I was still thinking the Italian ways, so, I was thinking that I was on my own and I had to find my own way around, but here I had a pleasant surprise when for the first time some relative took me to see the unemployment office.

In Italy when you go to an Italian office if you want something done quickly you need to know somebody in there, otherwise before your turn comes the office hours are over and you have to come back the day after, so I was wondering how could we succeed in these Australian offices, since I didn’t speak English and my friend was just a little bit better than me.

Anyhow we waited our turn and soon we were being interviewed from this middle aged man that seemed to have so much patience and understanding of the whole situation, he slowly worked out what we wanted by asking and repeating what we did not understand, and he noted everything down as he asked me many things to see what sort of job I would be able to do, I remember even now that one of his questions was if I were afraid of heights and I said no as I was going up some tall trees to prune them, he also asked if I knew anything about building or building maintenance, here again I said yes as we sometimes would repair some farm building. I believe that these two things gave me the first job in the building industry, as I was called one day to go to work for the first time in Australia. My first job was on a chimney stack in the brickworks where bricks are made, which somehow I managed to hold for a couple of weeks, until a bigger gang came and I became a bit confused in the middle of all those people, and I lost my first job for lack of knowledge or lack of understanding English. But anyhow I had my first work experience and I was sure that soon there was going to be another one.

Before I close this page and start another one, I really want to say that Australia is/was a great country to be in, just because people are given their opportunities as they deserve, as long as they are willing to work hard for what they deserve.

And in the unemployment offices the officers are just great people to deal with, or at least they were when I came to Australia. I am going to continue this article and talk about how I ended up working in the Australian building industry.

 On the left a partly completed brick-base for a timber or brick veneer house, for those that are not familiar with this term, brick veneer means that the outside of the house is made of bricks. This was the sort of work easily available when I came to Australia.

Mixer used to mix concrete to lay foundations or concrete paths and also to mix mortar to lay bricks or blocks. This sort of mixer was used a lot more in those days, so there was a lot more work on the building sites. we have used it many times. 

 Australia building industry

Working in the Australian building industry

As I have said above my first job in Australia was in the building industry, because I ended up to work as a bricklayer’s labour, but I lost that job for a couple of reasons. I believe that I lost the first job, because I didn’t know much English and at the same time I had no much experience, and for that reason I could not guess what they wanted me to do next. After that I had another job which ended very much the same; but then one day suddenly a small Italian builder needed a labour and he knew that I could be available, so he came to fetch me and asked if I would be interested to work for him, and this is how I ended up to work in the building industry, I worked for him for about two years, but then he went on holiday to Italy for a long time, therefore he temporary closed down the business, but by then the Italian building community new about me, so, in a few days I had another job to go to, always in the building industry with another builder or contractors working as a bricklayer labour.

You see in those times there was a lot more work for people wanting to work, but at the same time we knew that we had to work hard because there was a lot of competition going on even in those days, so what could I say if we work hard for it we will always find somebody that gives us work.

 Compare the old ways with the new ways

Here we are trying to compare the old ways of migrating with the new ways.

Let us compare the way that I and most other emigrants around the sixties, with what is happening today illegal emigration, so that we might be able to spot some of the reasons why things don’t seem to work as good as they used to work.

When I and the other emigrants that came to Australia wanted to come to Australia during the sixties we had to be screened before we could have a visa that would allow us to come to Australia and work here.

This screening was somehow strict, as they did not want anybody that could become sick easily, so we had to go through a medical check, and there was another even stricter check about being legally of good character, even if you had ever had trouble with the police, in fact they were so strict about this that if one had been somehow involved with the communist party, just by saying that he would vote for the communist he would not be allowed to come to Australia.

Now I hope that I have explained how strict they were then, but I believe that this was a good thing then, because as I have already said when I went to the unemployment office even though I did not speak much English they did everything possible to find us a job, and if they could not find us a job they would pay us the unemployment benefit.

Just anyone that has come to Australia and has seen Australia the same way that I have seen it, they know that Australia is a great country to live in; and if there is somebody that does not like Australia, it must be because they have their own personal problems and they are home sick.

Today Australia does not seem to be as good as it was before, because before anyone that could see Australia the way I saw it would fall in love with the Australian ways of living; but I have to say that we are still very well off compared to other countries. So I have to conclude this hub and say that Australia could be still the land of opportunities, if the people that come here come with the intention of working hard as we have been working in the past.

Anyhow this hub is becoming too long, so see you next time with another hub about Australia and the way that I have lived my life here.

    Here are some links about houses and building houses in Australia: 

Australia affordable houses,            Working in the Australian building industry      Welcome to Brisbane         Australian houses in Brisbane

Is Australia the land of opportunity?               Australia affordable houses                House building in Brisbane                             DIY brickwork                         

Building a brick base                    House brick base continues                      Safety first of all                                         Buy your first house 

DIY Retaining walls                Mix your own cement