One of the oldest organized skills, even before war, was masonry. The art of stacking building units using a binder or mortar was essential to life in areas where the elements and predators presented a challenge and the strongest walls and fences were those made from rock or dried clay.
Down through the ages the masonry trade evolved into the builders of civilization. Stone masons shaped the stones for the pyramids, the Great Wall of China and the huge cathedrals of Europe. Clay bricks built the Babylonian temples and the ancient city of Roman. When the 20th Century arrived bricks were already sliding back to make room for concrete and wood replaced it for housing. However, today brick and masonry products are beginning to carve a niche into the wood home market.
Masonry is described as the building of structures from small units that are bound together by mortar. This includes bricks, concrete blocks, glass blocks and stone like granite and marble. In the past masonry was both a structural and decorative skill. However, as most new buildings are constructed from concrete or concrete block brick veneer is the mainstay of the brick-laying trade while concrete blocks are the structural end of the business. In addition many masons will also perform concrete masonry like stamped concrete and laying paving stones.
One of the oldest man-made building materials is the clay brick. These began as chunks of sun-dried clay but it was found that reinforcing them with fibers like straw increased their strength. The it was discovered that heating them in a kiln actually increased the hardness of the small blocks and made them more impervious to the elements.
Some other advantages came to light as building skills increased. Bricks, as well as stone, had the ability to absorb and store heat. This is called thermal mass today and the concept is one of the cornerstones of the passive solar movement. The sun's heat passes through glass and heats a brick wall and flooring covered with brick. Underneath these surfaces are thin air pipes. When the sun goes down and the home begins to cool off small fans push air through these pipes and the heat is released from the bricks and into the home. This is also how the thermal storage units work. Ceramic bricks are kept in an insulated case and heated up bye electricity when the power rates are low. In the day when the price of power is at its peak the heat is released into the home from the bricks.
Veneer bricks, or facing bricks, can be applied to almost any surface but there has to be a support system. A structure such as a fireplace or chimney will be built with either cheap bricks in the center and facing ones but the facing will be part of the structure. However, when facing a new home the brick is held to the walls using "brick ties," which are metal strips attached to the structural wall at the mortar joints so that the mortar will hold to them. Usually there is an air gap between the brick wall and inside wall.
Also called cinder blocks or concrete masonry units these provide much of the structure work in masonry especially masonry walls. Although they are heavy they are easy to use and a concrete block wall can go up very quickly. In addition, these blocks can be painted or stuccoed directly on the surface.
Besides their weight and strength another great feature of concrete blocks is that have two large voids in the center. This fulfills a few needs:
- Weight: The holes makes them lighter because a solid concrete block would be no better than a shaped stone and would be very unwieldy for masons.
- Easy to Handle: The second feature also has to do with being able to grab them in a work situation. The holes make them easy to lift and maneuver, especially when a mason is on a scaffold.
- Reinforcement: As a wall gets higher the need for steel-reinforcing bars becomes critical. These are easily placed within the voids of the blocks. Concrete is usually poured in after mortar between the blocks has set.
- Cost: By cutting down the concrete it takes to make each block the cost of manufacturing is lowered as is the transportation costs which is mostly based on weight.
- Insulation: In northern areas insulation is blown into the voids to assist in cutting down heating expenses. This also works with air conditioning costs in southern areas.
For decorative purposes cinder blocks are made in a split-face method where two are made at once and then split in half to create a rock-look. These blocks can come in other colors besides the plain concrete.
A fad of the Art-Deco period, glass blocks have been around for centuries. The appeal is that they let in light while offering privacy so they are a favorite for showers and entranceways. In addition they can come in a variety of shades and colors as well as thickness and textures. Like concrete blocks they are mortared together.
Masonry construction also includes precut or cultured stones, and basically anything else than can be mortared together. To have a masonry contractor look at your intended project consult our Contractor Directory or post you project online at www.trustedpros.ca and have one or several call you.Posted by: TrustedPros