Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Choose the right material

ANY space big or small could be made lively and personalised by the forms, finishes and materials used. Right from the foundation level to the final painting in a construction, there has always been confusion as to what materials one has to choose. Not going too much into the engineering aspects, let us look at some material options for better finishes and aesthetics, which are affordable as well.
The material options for the wall are numerous — conventional brickwork and plaster finishing, or wire cut bricks for exposed brickwork. Exposed brickwork adds some relief and texture to the walls (both external and internal). We could use it even for lintels and arches.
Some small structural works like the vault roof can also be cast with bricks. Pre-cast concrete blocks, which help in faster construction, have a good finish, and hence no plastering work is required. If planned properly, electrical wires can be concealed within the pre-cast blocks.
Stonewalls would be costly, but using stone in a restrained manner, say, only for lintels and sill tops, enrich the living environment. Selection of the right stone material depends on the location; mostly the locally available material works out to be more economical like the `sholingar' stone for the construction work in and around Chennai.
Natural stones, if used in the pergolas or other decorative elements, are sure to attract attention.
For flooring, there is a wide range of materials available. Selection of material is mostly determined by the cost factor, but in some cases as in kitchen, which needs stain-resistant materials, usage also plays a role. Natural stones are generally preferred, and synthetic tiles are catching up. Natural stones such as the Kotah and Jaisalmer yellow marble, used in combination, create a good flooring pattern. A dark marble material to highlight a space or demarcate a space can also be tried.
In utilitarian areas like the service balcony, a combination of polished stone and a rough stonework would provide a good flooring pattern. More importantly, it would give a non-slip flooring surface.
Synthetic tiles like the vitrified tiles and ceramic tiles, come in various sizes and shapes; some even simulate a natural stone effect. They are also available in non-slip finishes for toilet floors. Also, they can be laid in place faster and easily maintained.


For the woodwork for doors and windows, options like Padauk wood works out to only two third of the cost of teakwood. Padauk can be varnished and has a good rich colour. Shutters for doors can be made with plywood and finished with veneer and varnished to simulate a solid wood effect. Grillwork too can be made simple without ornamental patterns, which would reduce cost and increase aesthetics and strength.
For staircase and balcony handrails, square brite-bar could be used instead of the conventional circular rods. Malleable steel can be used for balustrades and lower rails; the top handrail alone can be made of wood for aesthetics and ergonomics.
Material selection has to be done with an overall perception of the whole building — whether one wants a rustic setting or a posh and contemporary ambience. Blending them together in the right proportion and quantity is a tough balancing act; one has to keep in mind the practicality and the maintenance factor as well.
(The author is Chief Architect, Murali Aarchitects, Chennai.)

No comments: