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Raw Materials Revealed: Brick, Block and Stone Help Homes Last

The basic building materials that fall under the heading of masonry are used since people began constructing protective structures. A few of those first buildings are still standing, a testament to the longevity of brick, block and stone. In this time of increased attention to green building, it’s important to remember that one of the greenest things you can do is build something that will last.

Below you’ll learn more about these building essentials and how they may improve the appearance and durability of your house.

Burns and Beyerl Architects

Everyone plays cubes as a young child, but not everyone is cut out to become a mason. It requires great skill to construct walls from brick, block and stone.

The substances are heavy and hard to cut and shape. Though every slice is laid by hand and walls move up gradually (especially in contrast to some wall framed with timber), the walls must be perfectly plumb at the end, because there’s not any method to shim, trim or change a masonry wall just how you can do with a frame wall covered in siding.

Kariouk Associates

Concrete Masonry Unit

CMU is the most common building block masons use nowadays. CMU stands for concrete masonry unit, and is usually referred to as CMU on architectural strategies.

Laypeople have a tendency to refer to CMU as cinder block, concrete block or merely block. Regardless of what you call this, this substance is often utilized thanks to its large dimensions (8 by 8 by 16 inches is common), which help a structural wall move up fast.

Browse designs built with CMUs

Paul Rice Architecture


There are many variations, but in general, a brick is made of clay in contrast to the concrete at a CMU. Bricks are also generally smaller (about 3 by 8 by 2 inches) and red, though since you can see in this photo, bricks come in all the earthen colors, such as black. Though brick appears impenetrable, a brick wall should have gaps in the mortar at the bottom to let out moisture. I also recommend avoiding paint on exterior brick to enable the bricks to breathe.

Clayton&Little Architects

Veneer Masonry

Although you will sometimes see CMU exposed since the finish material, as shown, concrete block is often hiding behind several different substances on buildings you find every day. In fact, block constitutes most base walls which aren’t poured concrete. A block wall is often covered by a finish coat of stucco or a veneer of brick, stone or cast stone applied straight into the block.

Veneer masonry is made of thin pieces of substances applied more like tile compared to standard stackable masonry units. When the substance was installed with mortar, it is really hard to tell you’re not looking at a traditional stone or brick wall. Veneer is great for interior applications where you want the expression of masonry with no weight.

Anatomy of a Brick Veneer Wall

Buckminster Green LLC

The word “veneer” can also be utilized to refer to a few of the most frequent forms of construction nowadays: a wood-framed wall which has a nonstructural masonry facade built facing the framed wall socket.

These walls will probably not be standing a thousand years from now, as a structural wall might be, but a masonry veneer wall requires hardly any maintenance aside from replacing mortar (pointing) and cleaning infrequently, and it could easily last centuries.

In this photo you can see pitch paper covering the plywood sheathing on the wood-framed wall behind the single-thickness cast-stone wall. Notice the metallic tie under the very best window those ties attach to the timber and are put into the mortar to keep the wall from changing away from the building.

Star bolts (large star-shaped metallic washers with a bolt on the end) on older facades will there be to fix the changing that came from a lack of ties.

Torre Construction & Development

Exterior Software

Masonry materials are great for using in the garden, on walls and on porches, because they won’t deteriorate like wood or vinyl. If you utilize brick as a paving material, make sure the bricks are paver bricks. Many reclaimed bricks will crack if exposed to freeze-and-thaw cycles in direct contact with the dirt.

Though most buildings have mortar holding the bricks, stones and blocks together, mortar is not essential for many outdoor uses. The garden is a great place for dry-stacked rock walls and paver patios in which the gaps are filled with sand.

Neely structure

Remodeling Masonry

If you’re remodeling a rock building, find a mason seasoned in working with rock, and attempt to find salvaged stone to utilize where you need to add on. From “toothing” in fresh stone (replacing rock in a zigzag pattern) and substituting the mortar, a fantastic stonemason can make the addition look like it was always there.

Using masonry for those parts of a house that get the most abuse is a tried and true way of creating a gorgeous house that is going to be accessible for generations to come. Whether your style is contemporary, traditional or somewhere in between, there is a masonry unit that will fit.

Find aid: Stonemasons near you

More: Anatomy of a Brick Veneer Wall

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