Charleston Masonry is a building practice that uses brick, stone, or concrete blocks and mortar to create a structure. Expert masons know how to lay the blocks and mortar perfectly to build strong structures.
Although most masonry jobs are best left to professionals, there are some projects and repairs that even a novice can do. A great resource for basic masonry and concrete knowledge is the US Army Masonry Field Manual.
Masonry is a construction method that uses brick, stone, tile, concrete blocks, and other materials set as units in patterns that are amenable to assembly with mortar. The binding mixture comprises lime, cement, sand, and other ingredients. Masonry construction includes walls, chimneys, retaining walls, fountains, and other structures.
Brick is one of the most common and familiar forms of masonry. It is available in various colors and finishes, as well as different thicknesses. The material can be produced in multiple forms, including solid blocks, pressed bricks, and hand-packed clay bricks. Concrete block masonry has a high strength-to-weight ratio, making it an ideal material for load-bearing walls and foundations. Pressed bricks have a lower density and are, therefore, better suited for veneer walls and other non-loadbearing applications.
A masonry wall comprises several wythes (layers of masonry). A wythe is a layer of mortar and brick laid in a course. The layers are bonded together with bond stones. A lintel is the portion of a masonry wall that supports the weight of a window or door frame. It is typically a header brick in a wall.
Masonry tends to be strong in compression but weak in tension. This characteristic is often used to advantage, such as in the case of arches above doors and windows. These structural elements act as compression members, with the weight of the wall and floor/roof above transferred to the arch, keeping the masonry in compression and preventing tension cracks from occurring.
Since masonry is such a rigid material, it requires a very stable base for support. Masonry walls must be built on a reinforced concrete foundation or on footings of sufficient size to support the structure’s weight without deformation or settlement. Similarly, masonry chimneys should be constructed on a concrete or steel chimney support system. Wood framing should not be used to support masonry, as the moisture content of wood changes with temperature and can cause masonry deterioration. A concrete or steel foundation is also recommended for masonry projects in areas subject to freezing climates.
Masonry construction uses a wide variety of materials, and the choice of these depends on the site and the type of structure being built. Stone is often used in masonry as it offers durability and provides an attractive finish for walls, floors, stairs, and steps. Brick can also be used for several projects. It is less expensive than many other masonry materials and looks attractive. Bricks come in several colors and can be set in patterns to create unique designs.
Concrete is another important material used in masonry. It is very strong and resists a lot of weight. It can be made in several forms, including block and precast slabs. It is important to note that a concrete foundation must be placed under any masonry project. This helps distribute the weight of the masonry over a wider area. It also helps prevent moisture from reaching the masonry, which can cause it to deteriorate and fail.
The mortar used in masonry can vary depending on the type of project being built. It can comprise lime, cement, sand, and other items. Some types of masonry require a bonding agent to ensure proper adhesion to the underlying surface. This is especially important in structures subject to heavy loads, such as bridges or buildings.
Mortars can also be classified according to their strength. For example, type O mortar is used for non-load-bearing masonry applications. It has a lower strength than other types of mortar but is still effective in most cases. For heavy masonry applications, type S mortar is often used. It has a higher concentration of cement and can be difficult to work with.
Some masonry projects require using rubble masonry, which involves placing stones free of mortar. This method is frequently used in rural areas where the masonry needs to blend in with the surrounding environment. This masonry style requires high skill levels and must be carefully designed to achieve the desired effect.
Masonry relies on a combination of materials for its strength. These materials include stone, brick, and concrete. Each material is used for its unique properties, but they must be combined correctly to create a strong, durable structure. A skilled mason knows how to use these materials to construct a building that will last for years.
Depending on the site and its geographic conditions, different masonry construction techniques may be employed. For example, stones gathered from local outcroppings can be used to build walls in the Egyptian style. The walls of the great temples of Angkor Watt and Karnak are made from various stone types, including sandstone and alabaster—other ancient masonry structures.
The structural integrity of masonry structures depends on the correct placement and size of stone elements. To maintain structural integrity, a mason must follow strict construction tolerances. Keeping up with these standards requires a lot of practice and skill.
One of the most important considerations when using masonry is understanding how to prevent moisture damage. Moisture damage is common in masonry buildings and is caused by rainwater, groundwater, rising dampness, and internally released vapors. To protect against this damage, a mason should ensure that the structure is properly waterproofed and designed to deflect the brunt of rainwater load from the building fabric.
Masonry is also prone to cracking. This cracking is usually caused by shrinkage and settlement of the structure. While minor cracks are not uncommon and do not affect the structural integrity of the building, large cracks should be investigated by a professional mason.
Another important consideration when working with masonry is hiring a skilled labor force. Masonry requires a lot of manual labor, and it is important to hire skilled workers who can produce high-quality results. A lack of skilled labor can lead to subpar artistry and compromised structural integrity.
There are two main types of masonry work: repair and restoration. Repairing a masonry structure involves filling gaps and joints, repairing cracks, and adding new mortar. Restoration, on the other hand, is a more involved process of replacing damaged or missing masonry elements. This masonry work is usually performed on older, historic buildings that must be repaired and restored.
Masonry is used to build foundations, walls, and other building parts. It is also a popular material for paving surfaces such as walkways, patios, and driveways. Masonry can be designed to complement the style of a house or to make a bold architectural statement. It is relatively easy to work with and offers many opportunities for creative expression in construction.
Masonry can be reinforced to increase strength, durability, and fire resistance. Reinforcement also helps to protect masonry from seismic activity and wind forces. Masonry structures tend to be high in compression and low in tensile strength, so they are often built with large piers or combined with steel structures to provide lateral support. Masonry also possesses good fire resistance, which can be improved by heating the mortar during construction and using fire-resistant binders.
Hollow or cavity masonry walls are designed to prevent moisture from reaching the interior of a structure by providing space between the inside and outside faces of a wall. These walls are also useful in reducing noise levels and helping to control the temperature within a building.
Some masonry products are fabricated with an admixture that reduces water penetration by slowing down the absorption rate into the masonry units themselves. These admixtures are often used in concrete block masonry but can be used for all types of masonry.
The heavy nature of masonry materials like bricks and stones can be problematic for a building’s mobility. This is why most masonry structures are built on a concrete foundation or slab, which makes them much easier to move and modify.
Many masonry structures have been designed with a wide variety of aesthetics in mind, and incorporating varying styles is a great way to add a touch of character to a home or commercial building. It is important to understand the limitations of masonry, however, as it can be very difficult to repair once the foundation has settled or cracked.
Safety is also a concern when working with masonry, as the materials can be very dangerous to handle, and the job requires specialized training. Annually, there are an estimated 60,000 work-related accidents in the construction industry. These accidents can be due to unsafe tools, improper training, or even fatigue. Masonry projects require careful project planning and scheduling to ensure that all the necessary steps are taken for safe execution.