Every since early first used stones or clumps of clay as building units the art of masonry construction has existed. The first builders found that mud aided their construction by binding the pieces together thus sealing the walls from outside exposure. This early mortar was replaced by sand and limestone paste and this became the main binding mixture until the invention of Portland cement in the 1800 s. The building blocks were varied in size and material with stone and brick being the most popular.
The early bricks were made by pressing straw and clay mud into molds and putting them out to dry in the sun. Later it was found that heating the mixture made it harder and more durable. Today bricks are still popular but as an adornment rather than a building unit. They are fired in many colors and textures but the standard brick is still 3 5/8" x 2 1/4" x 8." There are several other sizes for cosmetic purposes.
Advantages of Using Brick
- Sound Proofing: Masonry provides very good sound damping, whether clay brick, stone, concrete or concrete block. Engineers claim this is because one of the qualities of masonry is its resistance to sound waves traveling through the air, especially low frequencies that are the problem in high-density living areas.
- Thermal Mass: Bricks and other masonry products have the ability to absorb and store heat that makes them ideal for passive solar applications.
- Maintenance-Free: A properly-installed, good quality brick will not require any maintenance outside a spray washing every few years. In frost areas the mortar surface should be sealed to avoid cracking.
- Fire Protection: Not only is brick fire-proof, which makes it a good fire break, it will slow or stop the conductivity of heat from one room to another.
- Robust: In areas of hurricanes and strong winds a brick structure will withstand more punishment than a similar-sized wooden one.
Masonry contractors lay bricks to either expose their ends, called header bricks, or their sides, called stretcher bricks. Bricks are stacked in rows called courses and with the second course comes the pattern of overlapping called the bond. Of the many types of bond the stretcher bond is the most common. This is common pattern where only the long side of the brick shows.
When building brick face on a house a reinforcing strap will be used to keep the fa ade from falling over, either because its own weight or the failure of the surface behind. For fireplaces and garden walls, where strength is needed, cheaper brick will be used on the interior where the most bricks are needed. Then this structure will be covered with Grade A brick of the design color are commonly used for the hidden parts of a wall. Many walls will be made f concrete blocks faced with brick.
One of the most popular new products for walls, foundations and other structure applications is the concrete masonry unit, or CMU. These are large bricks usually with hollow spaces vertically situated to allow for steel reinforcing bars and concrete filler. The early models of the 1900 s were called hydrostones as they were a mixture of Portland cement, sand and water. Structures made with concrete blocks go up quickly and can be easily faced with other concrete-based products like stucco. In addition they can be made in various colors or split-faced so that finishing is not necessarily required. Split-facing is when to blocks are made together as one and then broken into two pieces to give a rock-like face.
Stone blocks are classed as "dressed," or ashlar masonry and "rough, also called rubble." Like brick stone is mainly used as veneer although there are still stone masons building homes and commercial buildings made from stone. Cultured stone is also getting very popular in masonry. This is a stone-shaped, pressed-concrete brick that is colored to look like stone. Sometimes aggregates of the real thing are used in the manufacture but the psuedo stones use natural pigments from iron and copper to get a natural coloring. They are lighter and easier to handle than natural rock, and the mason would not have to spend as much time finding the appropriate size and color when building.
A highly-decorative building unit is the glass block. One of the symbols of the Art-Deco era glass blocks are used where light is needed but where semi-privacy is required. These blocks are available in many sizes, widths and textures to match many different decors.
Masonry can be a do-it-yourself project but for a professional job in a timely fashion call a qualified mason. This is because masons spend many years perfecting their trade and a beautiful brick or stone wall is as much a piece of art as it is a structure. To find a masonry contractor consult our Contractors Directory or simply post your project online.Posted by: TrustedPros