What Is Masonry?
Masonry is the construction of buildings and other structures using brick, stone, concrete blocks, or a combination of these materials. Colorado Springs Masonry is durable and attractive and offers many benefits to homeowners.
Masonry is time-consuming and labor-intensive to construct, which can increase building costs. Its heavy weight may require more substantial foundation designs, increase seismic risk, and limit flexibility for expansion or modification.
Masonry construction relies on the interlocking of building units, usually held together with mortar. The strength of masonry depends on the quality of the building materials, the skill of the masons, and the design of the structure. Historically, masonry structures have been constructed with a variety of materials including bricks, stones and concrete blocks. The material selection often depends on the available geological formations and conditions in a given region. Egyptian temples, for example, were constructed of limestone, sandstone, alabaster and granite. The ancient Assyrian and Persian centers of civilization lacked stone outcroppings, but did have rich clay deposits and developed an extensive use of bricks for building walls.
Bricks are inexpensive and easy to make, transport and lay. Their light weight reduces dead loads and allows for the construction of lighter walls. They also provide good thermal insulation and come in a range of colors and textures. Bricks have a low resistance to tension and torsion, however, and may be prone to damage from seismic activity. Their relatively small size limits the openings that can be made in a wall and they are limited in their uses.
Concrete is a common building material that can be used as both a structural and cladding element in a masonry system. It is produced by mixing aggregate, such as crushed rock, with cement and water. The strength of concrete largely depends on the ratio of water to cement, so it is important to use only as much water as necessary. If too much water is added, the concrete mixture can become soft and crumble under load.
AAC, or autoclaved aerated concrete, is an alternative to traditional concrete and has been used in some applications as a cladding material for load-bearing and nonload-bearing walls. It is typically reinforced with steel to increase its strength and it is designed for the specific application, such as a wall in a high wind zone or a heavy-duty foundation.
Masonry walls that combine two or more types of building materials are often referred to as composite masonry walls. These walls reduce the cost of construction by using less expensive materials for the core of a building and more costly building materials for its face. These walls are usually more visually appealing than brick masonry walls that utilize only one type of building material.
Masonry requires a lot of hand labor, which can be time-consuming. This can lead to longer construction timelines and increased costs. Masonry structures also tend to be heavier than other types of buildings, which may require more substantial foundation designs.
Early masonry structures were built with stones quarried from local areas. The Nile River Valley in Egypt, for example, offered an abundance of limestone, sandstone, and alabaster. These stones formed the temples and palaces of ancient Egyptian civilization. The Romans, more practical than their Greek counterparts, used coarse masonry over a concrete core, which allowed for faster and cheaper building.
During the course of construction, masons must be careful not to damage the surface of the stone. A number of tools are available to help them achieve this goal. Masons can use drills to create holes and remove unwanted debris from the surface of the masonry. They can also use chisels to shape and cut the stone into desired shapes. Masonry must be seasoned to ensure that it is durable and strong. The process of seasoning consists of dampening the masonry to allow water to penetrate it and bond with the mortar.
Most modern masonry buildings are reinforced with steel bars to increase their strength and durability. Historically, solid unreinforced masonry walls were common, but such walls are susceptible to earthquakes and are often subject to collapse. Consequently, such walls were typically low and thick.
The mortar used in masonry is mixed at the job site with a concrete mixer to ensure proper consistency. Several different ingredients can be used for mortar, including clay, sand, lime, and cement. Some masonry contractors choose to mix all of the components together to produce a unified compound that is suitable for construction.
Masonry is extremely strong in compression but weak in tension, so builders have historically taken advantage of this feature to build interesting architectural features. For example, arches above door and window openings transfer the downward wall load around them, keeping the masonry structure in compression and preventing the formation of tension cracks. Lintels are similarly designed to support only the triangle of wall above them, and the design of such lintels is carefully controlled to prevent over-loading.
Masonry is used in a variety of building construction and is typically designed to resist lateral or gravity loads. Masonry design begins with plans and specifications, which must be carefully prepared by an experienced architect or structural engineer. The plan must include information such as foundations, walls, and the type of mortar and reinforcement to be used. This information will be used by the mason to build the masonry structure according to the plan. The plan should also contain details for openings, such as doors and windows.
Masonry structures are generally strong in compression but weak in tension, so they must be reinforced where needed to resist shear forces. This is particularly important for lintels, which carry the load above window and door openings. The design of these members must ensure that the resultant load of a gravity or wind load is transferred to the lintel and not to other structures or adjacent masonry elements.
Because of the wide range of sizes and shapes available, masonry structures can be constructed to create a variety of looks. Some examples of this diversity are historical arches, vaulted ceilings, and turrets. Masonry can also be used in walls, retaining walls, and monuments.
Some of the limitations of masonry in modern structures are due to the time required to construct the structure and the relatively high weight of the material. This can contribute to project scheduling and budget considerations. Masonry is also difficult to modify once the structure is built, so it may be expensive to add additional openings or to change wall thicknesses.
One of the most significant advantages of masonry is that it provides a high degree of flexibility for movement control. This is a critical issue in buildings, since movement can be caused by temperature related expansion and contraction or by structural loads, such as wind or vibration. Masonry can be designed to accommodate movement by using a variety of techniques, such as cornerstones, which provide effective coupling between orthogonal walls. Other methods include utilizing prefabricated joint reinforcement and a minimum of cross wires per wythe of wall.
For these reasons, masonry is an ideal choice for commercial and residential buildings, as well as for retaining walls and other projects that require a sturdy foundation. However, as with any type of construction material, masonry must be properly installed in order to function and last. This requires understanding the specific building codes that govern masonry construction, as well as material specifications and installation techniques.
There are several different types of masonry, including concrete and brick. Concrete is a combination of an aggregate, such as crushed rock or pebbles, with cement and water. The strength of concrete depends on the precise proportions of these elements. For example, adding too much water can weaken the mixture. This is why it’s important to use a volumetric mixer to pour concrete, rather than mixing by hand.
The proper installation of masonry also requires knowledge of mortar ratios and reinforcement guidelines. For instance, rebar must be placed in concrete in certain ways to avoid bending or breaking the material. To ensure that rebar is properly placed, construction professionals must understand how to use bond beams or other specialty CMU products that allow rebar to be run horizontally.
Other aspects of masonry installation to consider include the use of expansion joints and copings, laying head and foot joints to minimize cracking, and tooling mortar joints. Masonry experts recommend that all joints be tooled after the mortar has become thumbprint hard to prevent future problems.
Masonry must be inspected by an engineer, architect, general contractor, or municipal building inspector to make sure that it meets all structural and code requirements. Generally, engineers and architects focus on the structural-related items of the structure, such as reinforcing steel size and placement and connector spacing. Others, such as masons and general contractors, may focus more on aesthetic or weatherproofing aspects of the masonry.