Please note. The following information relates to both the Handi Blocks and TuffBlock products. BuildTuff offers this information as a general guide only. You should rely only on relevant building codes and standard industry established construction methods in any construction project.
Do we need council approval?
As building guidelines change from shire to shire we always recommend checking your local guidelines before commencing construction, we always suggest you get the thumbs up before starting your project. Unfortunately there is no single or “golden rule” answer. That being said, most councils have an exemption for structures that are less than a certain size e.g. 10m2, therefore if your structure area is less than specified you don’t need to seek any approvals.
How many TuffBlocks/Handi Blocks will I need for my project?
This obviously depends on the type and size of the project you are building. As a general rule if you are supporting joists directly on Handi Blocks, you will need to support joists with a Handi Block at 1.5m intervals. Joists will need to be spaced at a distance appropriate to the finishing material (e.g. it is recommended that some decking timber be spaced at 450mm centres, it is always best to check with your timber/material supplier for material specific recommendations). As an example, a low level deck 3m x 3m would require 21 Handi Blocks for the above configuration – that is 3x Handi Blocks per 3m joist, 7x joists spaced 450mm apart.
If you intend on using bearers on top of Handi Blocks, joists on top of bearers, and then decking or finishing material/sheeting – less Handi Blocks will be required. As an example, a low level 3m x 3m deck would require bearers to be supported say every 1.5m, bearers would be spaced every 1.5m to support the joists, so 3x Handi Blocks per bearer,
3x bearers = 9x Handi Blocks. The above measurements are a basic guide only, refer to the Handi Block installation guide and your material supplier to ensure correct spacing is maintained for structural integrity.
Are TuffBlocks/Handi Blocks Cheaper than using Steel Post Supports and Concrete?
Yes. Especially when you consider the time and effort taken to dig multiple holes and then mix the concrete to fill them back in, not to mention the cost of buying the steel post supports and bags of concrete in the first place. Generally a steel post support and two Bags of concrete will set you back around $35.00-45.00. So even if you use a few more Handi Blocks you are still well ahead of the old conventional footing method.
How high can I build using TuffBlocks/Handi Blocks as the foundation?
Handi Blocks have been engineered for structures up to 1m above ground. Having said this many people have built structures higher than this using the composite foundation method (Handi Blocks in combination with concrete-in-ground footings).
I live in a Far North Queensland which can be high wind / cyclonic area, can I use TuffBlocks/Handi Blocks?
Of course (as always check with your local building authority). Some Handi Block users will use Handi Blocks in combination with concrete-in-ground footings to ‘tie-down’ their project (e.g. in each corner).
Will my project be stable or shift once it is finished?
No, the collective weight of the construction materials used, and the unique ‘u-channel’ locking design of Handi Blocks means that your project will be extremely difficult to budge if you are not actively trying to move it. Once all materials are fastened together your project will be just as stable as concrete-in-ground foundations (you will just save time and money by using Handi Blocks!).
What if I have ground movement in my area – clay/sandy soils?
The Handi Block product is based on the floating foundation system, designed to ensure the structure is able to move slightly if the ground was to move. This is what makes the floating foundation system so safe; the structure is able to move slightly and independently of other structures as natural ground movement occurs. The Handi Block construction method therefore avoids stresses that would otherwise see an extension from an existing structure fail. The system was originally designed for regions where the annual freezing and thawing of the ground meant that either: 1) the ground was too hard to dig, or 2) with the constant shrinking, expansion, and movement of the ground many fixed structures failed due to inability to cope with the movement they sustained.
Will TuffBlocks/Handi Blocks sink into the ground?
The short answer is no. If you consider that a Handi Block construction has similar or greater downward surface area than a standard concrete-in-ground footing then sinking will not be an issue, or at least no more of an issue than it would have been if you used the old method in the same soil. Handi Blocks should be installed on stable compact earth – this is not to say that you need to compact the ground, if however the top surface is extremely loose just take a layer or two away with a shovel and your Handi Block will be a nice and stable base for your project.
Can I use TuffBlocks/Handi Blocks on sloping ground?
Yes. Simply level the ground under each Handi Block by eye (no need not be 100% exact) and then level the structure above using extension posts supported in the pocket of the Handi Block below (refer to the installation guide for more detail). If the surface is concrete or similar and the surface on which the Handi Block will sit cannot be levelled, the base of the Handi Block can be cut off at a suitable angle. Alternatively, if the impenetrable surface is sloping at a severe angle it may be worth considering using an alternative support/footing/foundation.
Can I use TuffBlocks/Handi Blocks for a project spanning across different surface substrates?
Yes. Use them on concrete, soil, gravel and everything in between so long as it meets the “stable ground” criteria. What is stable ground you might ask? Basically put them on any substrate which would be an acceptable base for concrete-in-ground footings, is the ground is not compact just clear away a few layers until you find compact earth.
How much weight can each TuffBlocks/Handi Block support?
Each Handi Block is capable of supporting up to 770kg.
Will my timber posts rot or be prone to attack by termites if supported by TuffBlocks/Handi Blocks?
No. As Handi Blocks support the structure well above the soil line and the blocks themselves wick moisture away from the timber there is no reason for the timber to rot or for termites to attack the posts.
Are Handi Blocks water/chlorine/acid resistant?
As the major component of a Handi Block is cement (along with our secret process) anything that a normal cement based product can withstand so too will Handi Blocks. Our Evo-Crete material has undergone extensive testing and has passed in these critical areas.
Can I use TuffBlocks/Handi Blocks on Sand?
Like anything you will need to prepare the site well and ensure there is no issues with erosion or wash away (no different to if you used concrete footings). Although it is very site specific, if you are worried about erosion then we recommend reinforcing the base material. That said sand is a great substrate as long as erosion isn’t an issue.
Contact your local council to confirm requirements regulations and permitted sizes vary by region. If in a bushfire prone area you may need to factor in specific requirements to meet regulations.
For more information about building a deck in your region including which project do not require approval, contact the Australian Building Codes Board.
BuildTuff strongly suggests you make your own enquiries through appropriate bodies and professionals before any work is carried out.
Some questions you may need to address are:
- Is the site going to need protection from wood boring insects?
- Has the deck got potential for water pooling or constant exposure to water?
- Is there a need to install drainage due to potential soil erosion?
- Are there any trees growing near the project whose roots could upset foundations or branches create a hazard?
- Are you building on solid ground ie not reactive soil?
- Will you need electricity, gas, water or other services to your project in the foreseeable future?
- Are there any height considerations ie Fencing, balustrade and handrail needed to comply with codes?
- Do you need an engineer to specify and detail construction drawings and methodology?
- Are there Bushfire regulations I need to follow?
Bushfire Prone Areas
Bushfire Attack Levels (BAL)
- The region where you live.
- The vegetation type around your property.
- The distance from your home to individual vegetation types.
- Slope on the property.
Some steps for you to consider in planning, construction and ongoing maintenance.
- Make sure that gaps between each board measures between 0 - 5mm. Any more may result in vulnerability to ember attack.
- Enclose the subfloor of the area using mesh or bushfire resisting timbers
- Remove leaves and twigs from the roof and gutters.
- Utilise non combustable decorative stones and more fire resistant plant species as landscaping around the structure. Avoid flammable shrubs like eucalypts and media like woodchips as these just become fuel for a fire
- Keep your verandah well maintained by sealing timber with a non-combustible seal.
- Fill in small gaps around the deck structure where an ember might be able to lodge - larger openings can be fitted with ember guards (such as perforated mesh with 2mm openings).
- Contact your local fire authority for more information.
Planning and Construction
It should be noted that BuildTuff offers this information as a general guide only.
You should rely only on relevant building codes and standard industry established construction methods in any construction project. Summarised below are the general steps you may undertake in the construction process:
- Estimate materials required and place order
- Prepare site and locate footings/post holes using string line, line level, pegs and footing stirrups.
- Erect deck supports – posts/poles/piers.
- Locate Bearers on supports and fix in place as appropriate
- Locate joists on bearers
- Apply a weed control measure under the deck
- Paint/stain (first coat), all deck framework
- Cut to fit and install guard rail supports if necessary then cut and fix decking
- Install railing, balusters, fascias, other trimwork as required.
- Finish with paint/stain as desired.