Beam & Block Product

Selling a product I’ve always sold against

Written by Richard Barratt, Sales Manager at Longley Concrete.

For the last 10 years I have commonly sold against the 175mm deep floor beam, churning out the standard comment, ‘it doesn’t course properly’. Why have I done this? A few reasons; of course, I was selling a 150mm beam at the time, it’s a quick and easy comment to throw that casts a seed of doubt in the client’s mind. Lastly, and probably most importantly, having seen Longley Concrete operate from a far, I knew that should the customer opt for the 175mm beam, they’d probably stick with it.

Now this article is not written to detract people away from the 150mm beam, far from it. If you are giving me the choice of the client going with a 150mm beam or a completely alternative system, timber, pour etc. I would want the 150mm beam going in every time. Ensuring longevity of the beam and block concept and system. I am simply looking to dispel an old myth. Please take the time to read through this article, which has been broken down to give a good, logical explanation as to why the 175mm should be in your thoughts for future projects. I am not going to hard sell on rates and lead times, I do not see the point. All manufacturers have very similar lead times and with the market being incredibly competitive, our rates do not differ massively, therefore those two items become virtually negated, I assure you. What I am hopeful of explaining is; do not write the 175mm beam off just because you assume there’s a coursing issue, there isn’t.

So, what’s the magic number when it comes to coursing? 75mm! Ensure the system, and not just the product (which is often the first failing and most imperative mistake), is divisible by 75mm and you’ve got it. We have two solutions to this common misconception about the 175mm beam.

Firstly, and you’d expect me to say this, build your levels to suit. Raise the inner skin blockwork by 50mm, compared to your external brickwork and bingo! Not only have you got your coursing levels to match, but you’ve saved a row of commons. Sounds simple yes, but we understand that it’s not always the case.

Alternatively, you’ve built your levels to suit a 150mm beam, you’ve built your levels up so that the inner skin and outer skin start off from the same level. Ok, very common, needs to be overcome. What are the 5 products needed with any beam and block floor to get it to floor beam height? Let’s look at the 150mm beam; inner skin blockwork, commons/engineering bricks, fair comment? Then comes the beam, the end slips and of course the floor block. Are you familiar with the end slip and it’s use? If so, great, if not, I will clarify. So, the 150mm beam is shaped like an inverted ‘T’, essentially looking like shoulders and a neck. The depth of the neck is 100mm, universally, to suit the flooring block, that’s not going to change, all manufacturers produce in this way, otherwise you are completely changing the market. This leaves 50mm beneath the block, a void area, which around the periphery of the build and where any internal loadbearing walls are being built up from foundation level, needs supporting. Hence the need to be infilled with an end slip (or brick slip, slip or slither, the terminology of these will vary depending on where about in the country you are).

So just going back a few lines, what was that void beneath the block, to the base of the floor beam? 50mm? Just add that 50mm to 175mm, so 225mm, which is divisible by 75mm right? Are you thinking what I am thinking? We have all the ingredients at our disposal here to make this work, no extra products are required, just a re-jigging of the products we are already going to use.

As with the 150mm beam, the 175mm beam neck is 100mm, allowing for the common floor block. Thus, leaving a void of 75mm, a depth matching that of a common (with the use of a bit of mortar, to the top and bottom to bed it in). Let’s lose the top row of commons laid directly beneath the beam and replace them with the slip that you were going to use to fill the void. There we have it! What is considered a major problem, overcome! It is that simple.

So why try and convince people to do something they are not used to? Why did we just not make a 150mm deep beam like everyone else and get rid of the headache mentioned above? Well, what’s the average span of a residential development these days? 4 metres, little over 4 metres, nearly 5 metres in fact. Strength in the first instance comes from depth as opposed to width, so what we did was manufacture a unit that was a little deeper than the rest, and slightly slimmer. The net gain to this is a slightly stronger beam, whilst utilising the same mass of concrete per mm² on cross section.

Another bonus to the 175mm beam is the fact that with the increased depth comes a decrease in camber, is this a bonus? Yes, I think so. Why manufacture a beam that can span greater distances, but then also create a floor conducive to bounce? There is no point, so we haven’t. We have developed a beam that will span further and reduce the bounce within the floor. Nobody wants a floor that when movement happens at one end, it forces the other end to rattle and shake. Look, I am not saying that a 150mm beam will rattle at 4 metres, nor 5 metres, but it may just at 5.5 metres, it certainly will at 6 metres.

Recapping; were we mad to develop a 175mm beam all them years ago? Maybe. Has it paid off now? Yes certainly, and I hope so even more now you have read (maybe endured?) this article. However, I hope it has cleared a few things up for you. Rest assured, having said it on many occasions, it is a throw away comment that the 175mm beam doesn’t course, it does, it just needs understanding. Still use beam and block if you do not go with the 175mm beam, I am not attacking the 150mm beam, it’s just the 175mm option is probably more of a credible choice than you thought, give it a chance.

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The next article will be focused around beam and polystyrene, and why the 175mm beam can really come into its own with that type of system.