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Tutorials/Walls and buttresses
Types of wall
A retaining wall is a wall that prevents earth, sand, gravel, or snow from flowing down a slope. They result in a significant difference in the height of the ground on either side of the wall. There are several ways to implement a retaining wall but there are few visible differences between them because the parts that are different are usually buried. It's also possible to combine the following designs in various ways.
- A gravity wall is simply a thick wall that uses its great mass to hold back the earth.
- A piling wall has reinforcing piles dug deep into the ground to give it strength. The piles may go down twice as far as the wall is high.
- A cantilevered wall is shaped like an L. Some cantilevered walls are anchored by the weight of the soil burying the horizontal part of the L. Otherwise they may be supported by their own strength, or by stays or counterforts.
- An anchored wall has cables or stays buried in the ground to help hold it in position.
Retaining walls may also use buttresses or counterforts for support.
A ha-ha is a concealed barrier which stops livestock wandering onto the grounds of an estate without the need for obtrusive fencing. Because these are sunken walls they quickly become invisible when viewed from a distance. In Minecraft, making them half a block lower than the adjacent earth conceals them very effectively. Note that some extra non-historical changes would be needed to stop spiders as well.
While the walls of an ordinary house can safely have the same thickness all the way up, the walls of grander buildings such as castles, cathedrals and other such structures should be thicker at the base and thinner higher up, as this increases stability and reduces the load on the lower parts of the wall.
If a wall is partly hollowed out from the inside, this is known as an embrasure. Embrasures may be used as a site for arrow slits, or to broaden the opening around an arch or doorway.
There is a separate section for interior walls which describes the features most often found on them.
A buttress is a reinforcing structure that prevents a wall from bowing outwards and collapsing. They are a common feature on large, ancient buildings, where they counteract the lateral forces caused by roof structures designed without enough horizontal bracing.
On dams and retaining walls the term counterfort may be used instead.
A flying buttress is an external wall support consisting of a normal buttress some distance away from the wall it is supporting, and an arched flyer connecting the two and transmitting the supporting forces.
A buttress which is not part of a building's design, but which was added later to prop up a wall in danger of collapse may be termed a remedial buttress.
Parts of an interior wall
In modern times, many people still know what these parts of a wall are called, but there is much less appreciation of what they were originally for. As modern houses have damp-proof courses and are made of very uniform, mass-produced materials, some of the old practical reasons these features exist no longer apply. The main reason we still have them is becoming a matter of custom and aesthetics rather than actual need. The following features are listed from the floor upwards:
- Baseboard, skirting board — this is a broad, usually wooden board at about ankle height whose purpose is to cover the join between wall and floor. It covers the uneven edge of flooring next to the wall and helps protect the wall from kicks, abrasion, and furniture. It can also serve as a decorative molding.
- Wainscoting — this was a usually wooden covering over the lower area of a wall (the dado) up to about waist height. In newer buildings the height of a wainscot might increase up to about chest height. Wainscoting would have provided insulation, making rooms in cold stone buildings more comfortable, and would also have helped conceal the water stains that tended to creep up old walls prior to the use of damp-proof courses.
- Chair rail, dado rail — a thin rail at the top of the dado, generally positioned at about waist height. It helped protect walls against scuffing or dents from the backs of chairs and other pieces of furniture.
- Panelling − sometimes just another term for wainscoting, but could also include wooden panels that covered most or all of an entire wall.
- Picture rail − a thin wooden rail at slightly above head height which provided a way to hang pictures on a plastered wall. You can't drive nails into plaster itself because that is highly likely to break it. Hence the wooden picture rail decided the only height at which you could hang paintings in a room with plastered walls. The picture rail often also gave the upper border for a room's wallpaper. Above the picture rail, wall and ceiling would usually be the same color.
- Molding, coving − a decorative border between wall and ceiling. These were often made of plaster, and in large rooms with high ceilings coving could be very elaborate. In Minecraft, upside down stair blocks become usable as coving once a room has a ceiling height of about 6—10 meters or so.
Could you have all of these different features on one wall? The answer is no, not normally. While most combinations are possible you should normally choose 1−4 possibilities and use those consistently throughout a design. However, a particularly large and grand room could use more. The picture shows a slab floor made of dark wood and a slab ceiling made of quartz; you can identify coving, panelling and skirting boards, and the presence of a chair rail and a picture rail are implied by the trapdoor/oak wood and oak wood/quartz borders.
Other wall decoration styles
In addition to the wall elements described above, which all have a historical basis, there are many other ways to liven up a dull building. A plain wall of any material is boring. This is fine if you have detail in other parts of your construction, or if you want a modern or utilitarian feel, such as for a warehouse or a factory. Plain walls have the virtue that they won't distract from whatever else you have built, whereas a 'busy' wall might. However, if there are large areas in the building where you can see nothing of interest but the wall, even some simple decoration will help a lot.
- Plain wall − You should avoid plain walls unless other parts of the building are well-detailed.
- Two tone − Use one material for the top few blocks, another material for remainder. It's advisable to put darker materials lower down, and lighter colors higher up, to blend with a light-colored ceiling.
- Separator − Place a band of a different block type (or types) at one height in an otherwise plain wall. You can place the band high, low, at head height, or roughly in the middle of the wall, and these choices will affect the appearance of the room to a surprising degree.
- Flourish − Add a 'kink' in the borders between sections. The kink should be roughly to scale with the wall. For heights 2−4, one block up or down makes quite a big difference. For taller walls, the flourish should leave one or two block layers untouched at the top and bottom of the wall.
- 3D texture − Using signs, buttons, ladders, stairs, fences, fence gates, inset half-blocks, paintings, pistons, furnaces, droppers, dispensers, item frames and many other block types will add texture to a bland wall.
- Combinations − Starting to combine the above ideas adds even more flexibility − just don't try to do all of them at once on every wall.
- Wallpaper − The final option is to start adding 'wallpaper', probably using either colored wool blocks, or paintings with custom textures. This idea is better-known than the simpler suggestions given here, and there are many examples of well-decorated houses online.