The question of Hebel vs Brick has been asked in many a discussion board. Everyone seems to have an option. Both building materials have their own pros and cons.
When you look at Australian homes, no one can deny that Aussies love their brick houses.
Below are some of the key points raised in the great debate.
Disclaimer – we are building with Heabel and this is not an impartial overview. These are the facts that we use to assist us in our decision making, I have not gone into the negatives of Brick as I believe the positives of Hebel speak for themselves.
What is Hebel?
CSR Hebel is Australia’s leading manufacturer of autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC). Backed by CSR, the trusted name in building products, Hebel is a strong yet lightweight building product that is available in panels or blocks. It is kind to the environment, quick to build with and better to live in. – Stolen from the CSR Website.
Steel mesh, coated with an anti-corrosion protection layer for maximum strength and durability.
A few discussion boards say that Hebel has 6 times the insulating properties than brick but I don’t know where they are getting their facts from so I can’t double check this. Although, Hebel does have 2.88x more R rating than Brick, as shown in the below table. It is noticeably cooler in summer, when I have walked into two Forsyth 35 houses, both halfway through construction and at the same stage, one built in Hebel and one in Brick, the Hebel was remarkable cooler and a far more comfortable temperature.
This makes the house more energy efficient to cool in summer and heat in winter.
Also because of its higher R rating and how the panels are constructed, it also has sound insulation properties above that of Brick. Meaning the noisy teenagers partying on the street outside your house at 11pm at night aren’t so disturbing.
Fashions change and the shift towards partial or fully rendered houses have steadily grown over the past 10 years. You only have to watch Selling Houses Australia to see how much a rendered facade can increase a houses re-sell value.
If you like fully rendered look and don’t plan on applying render to the bricks post-handover, then opting for Hebel means that it will be fully rendered from the get-go.
Aesthetic = Dollars when it comes selling your home. Colours can make a house look dated or modern. It is far easier to repaint your Hebel than it is to change your brick colour.
Hebel can look dirty after a while if the Maintenance is not kept up – especially on light coloured renders.
Just like weatherboards, it is important to keep up the maintenance. A low-pressure water blast annually is all it needs, or every six months if you live in a coastal area. This removes any dirt that has gathered on the coating keeping it looking clean and fresh.
Repainting of the top coat is recommended a least every 7 to 10 years.
Compared to brick, Hebel can be classed as high Maintenance, however, Brick has its own care and maintenance recommendations, people just tend to ignore them, that’s all.
You can find a link to the Dulux Care & Maintenance Guide for some useful information. Here: care-and-maintenance-texture
No Weep Holes
If you chose Hebel, you will notice that you don’t have any weep holes like in Brick houses. These weep holes are not huge, but sufficient for any pest, webs, cockroaches etc to penetrate through.
There are metal thingies that you can buy to stop mice and snakes entering your weep holes.
Quicker to install
Hebel has a faster building time, so it is often given as incentives by builders because it is quicker to install, meaning builders can meet their timeline deadlines and not be delayed by the brickwork.
More houses are being built in Melbourne now than ever before and there is a shortage of skilled labour. It’s a supply and demand equation. Brickies rates keep going up and by building in Hebel, builders limit their exposure to potential cost increases by 3rd party trades like Brickies.
Most posts and feeds say that the maximum attaching weight limit to Hebel is 25kg, the below table shows you can do up to 50kgs, just make sure you include wind force and water absorption content to your calculations.
The weight limit was a big consideration for us, and probably one of the main reasons people chose Brick over Hebel.
I talked to one guy via facebook who said he has spent a few years fitting Hebel and loves the product.
With respects to attaching items to your house, there are multiple ways of getting around this issue.
Pergola or shade areas.
We will be building a deck and pergola after handover and not being able to attach it to the house hasn’t been a big issue. Around the Alfresco area is large wooden beams and if we decided to attach the pergola to the house, we will ensure that the fixings are drilled through the Hebel and into this wooden structure. However, if we don’t attach it to the house then we don’t need council approval, this would have other saving in time and cost, so a simple upright next to the Alfresco would provide support for a horizontal beam to fix the pergola to, holding up the structure and not needing to attach to the house. A simple flashing between the house and the pergola will help to keep it watertight. These options are shown below in the photos.
This was a simple one for me – just get a free-standing washing line and concrete the upright posts into the ground next to the house, it’s all about personal preference and the uprights just don’t bother me. Some of the PD houses have a drying room off the laundry and I’m very jealous about this, our house is simply not big enough for this, however, my 2730mm x 2720mm laundry should be big enough to set up a clothes horse or two in it.
Keeping in mind 25kg’s is about the maximum weight load you can attach to the Hebel structure, I don’t intend on attaching a basketball hoop to above my garage door or having a teenage boy swing off said hoop, so I’m ok with giving up this option. If in 15-18 years time, a teenage boy needs a hoop, a freestanding option is available at Rebel Sports. Our Porter Davis Sales Consultant was good at pointing out this lack of a basketball hoop provisioning to me when we chose the Hebel promotion.
Cladding, Tiles & Stone
Most developer covenance these days require 2 types of materials to the front facade.
Porter Davis has an approved list of tiles that can be attached to Hebel, these are lighter weight tiles and there is a few in the range (sorry I don’t have a copy of the range) ask National Tiles at World of Style for the options.
You can have stone pillars and piers – just look at all the Hebel display homes where they showcase it, and as I keep saying, if you have seen it in a display house, you can request it for your home. A lot of people think this option is out because of the weight limit. Either you chose a lightweight stone, or you don’t attach the stone to the Hebel but instead have cement sheeting behind the stone facade and the builder will attach directly to it.
The blue cladding in the above picture is what they will be doing on the front two piers for our house, as showcased at the Arcadia Rochdale 33 display home in Officer. Many, many PD staff members said this was not an option, I’m talking about over a dozen people, time after time I had to show my photos of the display house and stay firm about my vision. If they don’t want it to be an option, then they should not display it as one.
So, you want to attach your (small) green wall, garden hose hook, security camera or funky pillar lighting that shoots beams of light up and down the column, how do you do it?
Holes can be drilled in Hebel walls using a masonry drill bit. After the hole has been filled with the required cables or the like, the gap around the hole should be filled with a flexible sealant.
Below is a table which outlines what you need for common fixings to Hebel.
When you see a post about peoples house looking like a patchwork of colours part way through their build, its because not all the steps have yet been completed and the 3rd step has not been applied.
Throughout all my reading and research about Hebel, I have come across 3 individuals that had colour added to Step 2 leaving a very poor job, in each instance, the builder was called back to action Step 3 and finish the job. (not all of these were PD builds).
Step 1. Base coat.
Step 2. Texture coat.
Step 3. Final seal and colour coat.
Damage and repairs
Hebel and brick have a similar impact resistance, however, if you knock or impact a brick it’s not as noticeable because it is not one flat clean surface but instead, many smaller textured areas that camouflage the damage better.
Surface knocks and scratches can be touched up with a surface render coating finish, the same as what was applied at construction, just like any masonry wall can be.
Hebel panels contain anti-corrosion steel reinforcement, making them just as strong and solid as bricks and mortar.
If you back your trailer into the side of your house or a tree comes crashing down onto your home (not so applicable for greenfields estates for the next 10 years as we do not have established trees yet) the damage goes deeper than the top coat and into the Hebel wall, professional advice should be sought to ensure the damage has not compromised the integrity of your wall.
Hebels just Polystyrene cladding right?
Wrong, Hebel is a building product made from aerated concrete and contains steel mesh inside it, it then has a coating of anti-corrosion protection. It’s a non-combustible product and has high fire resistance, worlds apart from Polystyrene cladding.
New vs old
Hebel was developed in Scandinavia 70 plus years ago, its been used around the world and hit the Australian market over 25 years ago. Granted, bricks have been around longer than that, but then Stone was used well before bricks, and not many buildings are made out of stone anymore, times move on.
So, what will you dress your house in, Hebel or Brick?
We went with Hebel for our house for a mix of reasons including the better sound and thermal insulation, as well as the fact that my wife preferred the look of render to bricks. The biggest drawbacks for us would be the inability to hang much on it, but as you say you can always just install a freestanding basketball hoop and clothesline which takes care of that issue.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Great article! We chose Hebel too just because I love the rendered look. We too are planning on building a pergola post handover but were unsure of the specifics about attaching it to Hebel. Your blog has really helped us out. Have you built your pergola yet? I would love to know what you ended up with and how much it ended up costing. Thanks!
Hi Neville, no not yet – we ran out of money and this is on the ‘things to do this’ so far the back yard has grass but no deck or fire pit or pergola. it will come in time.
Very nice article. I am in the phase of deciding the Facade and was confused between the Habel and Brick options. If I see around, most of the people have bricks on their walls around the house. The Habel facade without any brickwork is free of charge whereas with brickwork its costing more and I thought it because it looks better, but your article explains his point as it will require the labour, therefore, the price goes up.
Thank you for such an excellent article.
We are looking at using hebel bricks as the internal wall on a roof level addition, then colorbond insulated steel cladding on the exterior. This should give excellent thermal efficiency and minimum weight (weight is an issue for us).
We will probably also use hebel bricks in lieu of hebel panels as we are in a very high salt environment and dont want to risk the steel inside the panels rusting (even though they are treated with a corrosion inhibitor).
One of the greatest article in the internet explaining every single aspect in detail. Can’t thank you enough!
Have a couple of questions on the same,
1. We love to light the house with some string/LED lights (with the help of cable clips/small nails) – during the festive season, can this be achieved on a hebel wall (rendered) without any damages ?
2. How long have you lived in the house & do you regret your decision of going with hebel, due to its maintenance & the few limitations that you have laid out? Thanks in advance!
Yes the Strip LED’s can be attached via small nails in the Hebel it would be no different to the brick mortar or by attaching sticky cable clips to the flashing or guttering – this would be my pick.
We love the Hebel and don’t have any regrets, its lovely and cool in summer and cosy and warm in winter. We are very happy with our choice.
Can someone tell me if i can use Hebel to build a family tennis bouncing wall?
You could but rendered cinder blocks might be better
This by far is the most valuable info that I’ve came across about Hebel. Just a question, how do you attach the side entrance door? Thanks
The door into your house is attached to your frame, and the door down the side of your house as part of your fence – concrete the posts in to the ground