Walls are very fragile structures. They consist of a frame, and then a foundation that is supposed to hold it up. The foundation is built on the ground, and the frame sits on top of it. This creates a problem: if there is any change in the way the foundation is supported, or if there is water under the foundation, the wall will easily fall down.
So walls are not just made of bricks; they are also covered in screws or nails or bolts or whatever else is used to make sure they can’t fall down. So if you want to build a wall, you have to figure out where you need to put extra safety measures. And that’s not trivial.
There are two ways to make your structure as safe as possible: you could use extra support for each individual brick, or you could use something called a vapor retarder. Vapor retarders work by absorbing water from air inside them and give them some weight disadvantage against air; this forces air into the spaces between the bricks and makes them more stable in case of earthquakes or other changes in the support.
Walls are very fragile structures, but it turns out that most people don’t build walls like this because they think it’s too complicated. So let me give you an example
If you build a wall, you want it to be stable. And if you build it well, it will be. If you don’t, it won’t be.
Stability is a kind of performance, and as with any kind of performance there is a lot of uncertainty about what is enough. Many people think that the right thing to do is to go to the extreme and make something that will last for thousands of years, or even for millions of years. But how do you know how long something will last? In practice we tend to underestimate how long things last: we tend to use “this building” as shorthand for “this particular building”, which means that when we measure the life expectancy of buildings we are more likely to be measuring their lives expectancy than the lives expectancy of buildings in general.
But if there is no one-size-fits-all answer, what should you do? Well, there isn’t either. The best thing is probably to find someone who has done well with walls and ask them what they did. But if they can’t tell you that, then this blog might help:
It is a common misconception that walls are “good” things to build, and that they require only an understanding of physics and math. However, there is a lot of information on this subject that is available, or should be. This blog provides an overview of the information on construction walls and how it impacts their stability, with links to more detailed information.
The material is mostly about two kinds of walls: columns and walls. The focus is on building walls using steel framing, but some of the concepts can be applied to other materials as well.
Walls are essential to our lives. But we spend most of our time avoiding them and wishing they were shorter, thinner or higher. We do not understand how walls work, and even when we do, we still feel too baffled by their mysteries to figure out how to build them.
How, then, can we ever hope to create a world of stable walls? It starts with understanding the basic properties of walls.
There are a lot of things you can do to make a wall more stable. Here, I am going to teach you how to make all of them.
The key is to be very clear what you want, and build a wall that will give you the result.
To understand how this works, think of how we build houses. We buy a lot of wood at maybe a few hundred dollars per cubic meter, and then we cut it up into boards. The boards are the building material; the shape of the house is determined by the way we cut up those boards.
The way we cut up the wood is affected by many factors, including what kind of house we are going to build and how much money we have. But the shape of the house is determined by those boards. If you were to look at those boards individually, there would be many different shapes you could make with them. And if all you did was cut them up into more boards, there would be millions of possible shapes.
But someone who knew nothing about building houses would not know this. If he saw just one board, he would assume it had only one shape: rectangular. And that is why his house would not live up to its potential: too many people already thought it was rectangular; they thought it had only one shape. And no number of new people could change that first impression.
If you want to build a better building, then
Some people think that good workmanship is a matter of following rules. But that’s not really true, any more than “good” is a matter of following rules. Good workmanship is a matter of putting something that works together in the right way.
See  for an explanation of these definitions, and  for a more detailed discussion of how hardies are put together.