29 Friday, 2023

What Is Masonry & Types of Masonry Construction?

Masonry is among the oldest techniques of residential and commercial construction known to humans. Each continent has historic structures that stand out because of their masonry work. These masonry buildings, particularly stone masonry, are durable and resistant to weather-related damage.

So what is masonry and its types? This article explores the history, types, and many advantages of masonry.

What Is Masonry?

The term masonry refers to the art of construction that combines basic building blocks such as concrete blocks, bricks, pre-cast hollow blocks, natural stone, and more. These units are arranged systematically and carefully bonded with binders to withstand loads while transmitting them to other sections effectively.

Masonry has been used in construction for over a century and is still a common choice for commercial and residential construction projects. It can be used for a variety of purposes, such as fireplaces, floors, walls, and other applications.

A Glimpse Into Masonry History

The origin of masonry construction traces back to when early man sought to supplement his valuable natural caves with artificial ones made of stone piles. Archeologists have discovered circular stone huts that were partially dug into the ground in Ireland’s Aran Islands. By the 4th Millennium BCE, Egyptians had developed elaborate stone masonry methods that culminated in the pyramids.

Notable Developments in Masonry

A notable development in masonry was the Roman’s invention of concrete. While well-cut stone blocks could still be used without mortar, the Roman architects knew the value of cement, which was made from volcanic ash (pozzolanic tuff). When mixed with lime, stone fragments, and water, the cement could be expanded into concrete.

Over the centuries, masonry underwent significant developments. However, the advent of the truss in the 16th century and the rise of the scientific approach in structural analysis (in the 17 century) revolutionized the general building industry.

Unfortunately, the development of high-tensile-resistant construction materials such as reinforced concrete and steel led to a decline in the role of masonry as a practical material for expanding space.

It owes its revival to the Portland cement invention, the main component of concrete. In the 20th century, this critical ingredient returned unit masonry to its Roman role of creating vertical masonry wall enclosures, facings, and partitions.

Masonry vs. Modern Building Materials

Masonry is deeply rooted in tradition and utilizes materials such as bricks, stone, and concrete for durability and timeless aesthetics. Modern construction materials like steel and composite structures offer versatility, allowing for innovative designs and rapid construction. While masonry embodies history and endurance, modern materials excel in efficiency and adaptability to evolving architectural demands.

Types of Masonry Construction

As construction technology advances and high-quality materials become increasingly available, the scope of masonry has shifted from the ancient techniques. Modern masonry consists of the following categories:

(A) Masonry Types Based on Material Used

  1. Stone Masonry

Stone is the most durable, strongest, and weather-resistant construction material. It’s rarely affected by common wear and tear like most building materials. Depending on geological formations, stone has a lifespan of 300 years to more than 1000 years. That’s why stone masonry is commonly used. The common types of stone masonry include:

Rubble Masonry

  • Coursed and uncoursed random rubble masonry
  • Coursed and uncoursed square rubble masonry
  • Dry rubble masonry
  • Flint rubble masonry

Ashlar Masonry

  • Ashlar rough-tooled masonry
  • Ashlar fine masonry
  • Ashlar block in course
  • Quarry and rock-faced masonry
  • Ashlar chamfered masonry

In most cases, the locally available stone is used for construction. This makes it an affordable option for construction.

  1. Brick Masonry

Generally brick masonry is usually done with burnt bricks. This indicates a certain level of the quality of the masonry unit and good performance. Even if a quality mortar is used, the overall tensile strength is often limited. Similarly, the position, size, and number of openings play a key role in the brick masonry’s performance.

  1. Block Masonry

This type of masonry falls under the following categories:

Solid concrete block masonry: This is a relatively new material. Considering the constant usage of clay bricks, the earth’s top solid is destroyed. That’s why blocks are becoming a popular choice. They are large and heavy materials and offer stability.

Hollow concrete masonry: These are lighter than solid concrete blocks, reducing the overall weight of a structure. This is why hollow concrete masonry is widely used in residential properties and other types of buildings.

AAC autoclaved concrete block masonry: This masonry unit is relatively lightweight, high-insulating, and creates load-bearing masonry walls. It’s durable and available in a range of sizes and strength levels. These blocks are three times lighter compared to red bricks.

  1. Veneer Masonry

This is a common choice for home building and remodelling projects. It creates the appearance of a stone or solid brick wall while ensuring effective insulation. You can use it as an addition to wood frame structures or placed on concrete block walls.

  1. Gabion Masonry

Gabions are galvanized steel baskets filled with medium-sized fractured stones. They act as single units and are stacked to create a retaining wall. They have the benefit of being flexible and well-drained, as well as resistant to water flow from above, horizontal pressure, frost damage, and floods. Gabion masonry is commonly used for temporary construction, particularly in the military.

Other types of masonry based on the material used include composite masonry, reinforced masonry, and bagged concrete masonry units. The latter is used to protect the entrance and exit of a water conduit where a path/road passes over dry wash and steam.

(B) Masonry Based on the Bonding Material Used

There are three types of masonry based on the bonding material used. These include:

  • Masonry in cement mortar – It’s used to combine masonry units while ensuring a smooth finish. 
  • Masonry in lime mortar – It’s more porous than cement and wicks moisture away.
  • Masonry in mud mortar – This type of masonry is not water-resistant and requires a roof over it. However, it creates a warmer environment inside a house than concrete.

(C) Masonry Based on Thickness of Masonry

This classification is for bricks only and is done based on the standard brick size. The common masonry types include one-brick masonry, half-brick masonry, and one-and-a-half masonry. Remember, bricks have been used in construction for thousands of years.

What Can Masonry Be Used For?

Masonry construction offers diverse applications, which include shaping foundations, walls, and facades in construction. Its durability fortifies structures, while decorative elements enhance aesthetics. From historic landmarks to contemporary buildings, masonry remains integral, creating enduring monuments, residential properties, commercial spaces, and even artistic installations. Such structures showcase masonry’s versatility across architectural landscapes.

What Techniques Are Used in Masonry?

Both traditional and modern masonry techniques encompass various methods to manipulate common materials like bricks, stones, and concrete. Common practices include bricklaying and utilizing mortar to stack bricks or stones in courses, ensuring stability and strength.

Cutting and shaping masonry materials, using tools like trowels and hammers, facilitate precise fits. Techniques such as pointing, where mortar is applied between joints, and curing are also common. Such masonry methods ensure durability and the desired aesthetic finish.

Benefits of Masonry

Durability

Most types of masonry are durable – they can withstand extreme weather. They don’t warp, corrode, or rot. Similarly, accidental car bumps, hailstones, or stones from destruction may not significantly damage the masonry.

Fire Resistance

Different types of masonry, such as solid blocks and natural stone, are fire-resistant. This can protect your property and valuables from fire-related damage. You may not need to invest in costly fire-proof finishes for your property.

Enhanced Energy Efficiency

Masonry units and walls are thicker and better insulated than wooden frame walls. These walls are, indeed, two and a half times more resistant to heat flow than nearly all stud walls. This makes them more energy efficient, lowering heating and cooling effects.

Resistance to Pests and Rot

For centuries, masonry has been a popular choice in construction due to its beauty and strength. It can be concrete blocks, stonework, or bricks – all of which are resistant to rot and wall-destroying pests such as termites and rodents.

Low Maintenance

Stone and most masonry types require limited maintenance or repairs. They don’t swell, dent, or warp even when exposed to harsh weather conditions. In fact, they can withstand damaging conditions such as snow, hail, wind, and snow with minimal to no damage.

Aesthetic Versatility

The aesthetic appeal of masonry walls, floors, and other building elements can vary in shape, colour of units, bond pattern, mortar, and even the surface finish of the masonry units. These design possibilities are one of the many advantages (architectural) of masonry.

Excellent Soundproofing Properties

Concrete, stone, and most masonry options are good for noise control. They serve as a barrier by diffusing sound over varied frequencies. Also, they can absorb the noise generated within your room or home. Masonry’s rigidity, inertia, and mass give it excellent soundproofing properties.

High Resistance to Weather and Natural Elements

As mentioned earlier, masonry majorly comprises brick, stone, concrete blocks, and other similar materials. These materials are strong, durable, and resistant to weather-related damage as well as natural forces such as minor seismic forces.

Eco-Friendly and Sustainable

The production process of raw materials for masonry doesn’t generate much waste. Even what’s considered waste and remaining raw materials can be reused in the shaping phase and recycled in the production of raw materials. This makes masonry an eco-friendly construction method with minimal environmental impact.

Increased Structural Stability

Masonry is a time-tested construction technique. It offers greater structural strength and stability than other construction methods. The Egyptian pyramids and other historical masonry structures are a testament to this stability.

Cost-Effective

Generally, masonry is considered cost-effective due to its ease of use, durability, and versatility. Also, it requires less maintenance and is more energy-saving than other construction techniques, such as wooden structures.

Enhanced Indoor Air Quality

Brick, stone, and other masonry products reduce out-gassing, resist mould growth, and emit fewer or no volatile organic compounds. Therefore, they prevent leaks and moisture and support all elements of quality indoor air while staying odour-free.

Low Insurance Rate

Masonry’s low maintenance and durability can extend a property’s lifespan and significantly reduce its susceptibility to damage. This results in low maintenance costs and low risk of damage. This translates to low insurance premiums and rates.

Better Resale Value

Studies show that 89% of property owners prefer a masonry house. The most compelling aspect is the financial return – real estate estimates show that, on average, masonry homes sell at a price that’s higher by 6%.

Masonry Limitations

Masonry, while enduring, faces limitations in seismic regions due to rigidity, requiring reinforcement for flexibility. Weather susceptibility and moisture absorption demand regular maintenance. Its weight can restrict height and affect foundation requirements. Precision in construction is crucial, and skilled labour is essential for intricate designs, posing cost challenges.

Bottom Line

Masonry blends tradition with modernity, offering enduring structures and timeless beauty. Despite limitations, its adaptability and role in architecture continue to shape and significantly influence the modern construction industry.

FAQs

Is Masonry Construction More Expensive Than Other Building Methods?

Masonry construction can be initially costlier due to material and labour expenses. However, it offers durability and requires limited maintenance, which potentially balances long-term costs.

Can Masonry Structures Withstand Natural Disasters, e.g. Earthquakes? 

Masonry buildings can withstand earthquakes with proper reinforcement and design, but their rigidity might require additional measures in high seismic zones.

How Does Masonry Impact the Energy Efficiency of a Building?

Masonry’s thermal mass aids energy efficiency by moderating indoor temperatures, making it an energy-efficient construction approach.

Are there Limitations to Design Flexibility With Masonry?

Design flexibility in masonry can be limited compared to other methods, requiring specialized skills and planning for intricate structures.

How Long Does a Masonry Structure Typically Last?

A well-maintained masonry structure can endure for centuries, with some lasting over 100 years, but factors like maintenance and environmental conditions impact longevity.

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