Masonry – The Art and Craft of Building

Masonry is the art and craft of building with stone, brick or concrete block. It includes the skill of laying and bonding these blocks together with mortar.

Many seemingly frivolous details of a Gothic cathedral, for example, had a structural purpose. Decorative patterns strengthened weak points and helped the cathedral withstand heavy weight. Click to know more.

Masonry has been around since the beginning of human civilization, making it one of the oldest skilled trades. While it may seem like an old, timey trade, the truth is that masonry continues to play a vital role in modern construction, thanks to innovative materials and technologies.

Some of the earliest examples of masonry date back to the first caves people built for shelter. Early masons adapted these basic constructions by shaping the underlying stone into a more durable form. Later, people began to build more complex structures by using stones and mud bricks that were baked in the sun. The earliest masonry buildings were simple, circular and partially buried, but over the years the craft has evolved to include many different styles and techniques.

For instance, the Renaissance saw a new type of architecture that used arches, which are masonry construction elements that distribute weight evenly across their surfaces. During this period, people also developed the ability to create concrete, a material that radically changed the way that buildings were constructed. The 20th century saw a return to the use of brick and other block masonry in homes. The material is ideal for insulating against daily temperature fluctuations and is highly resistant to fire.

While the modernization of masonry construction has happened at a rapid pace, it is important to note that the principles and values of this ancient craft remain steadfast. This enduring nature has helped the fraternity to continue to grow and thrive, even as it has adopted many new technologies. In fact, a Mason is likely the inventor of the Mason jar, a reusable glass jar with an airtight screw lid that was patented in 1858.


Masonry requires the use of durable materials that can stand up to weather and environmental conditions. Common masonry construction materials include limestone, granite, basalt, marble, and concrete blocks. These materials can be colored in earth tones, neutrals, bold hues, or custom blends for design flexibility. These versatile materials allow architects to incorporate masonry in a wide variety of project types.

A key ingredient in masonry projects is mortar, which acts as the binding material for the singular masonry units such as bricks or stone. Mortar is made from a combination of restricting material and sand, and water activates the cement for hardening and strengthening of the masonry units. These adhesive and bonding materials are essential in ensuring the durability and quality of masonry projects.

Bricks are a common masonry construction material, and are known for their versatility and ease of handling. Brick masonry can be adapted for a variety of architectural styles, from Northern Europe’s Gothic brick cathedrals to the industrial-style brick structures of Le Corbusier’s Unite d’Habitation in Marseille. Bricks are also relatively lightweight and cost-effective compared to stone or concrete block masonry. They are easier to handle and lay for walls of a given size, and can be cut into openings for doors or windows.

Concrete blocks are larger than bricks, and are commonly used for commercial or residential masonry projects, such as foundations or walls. Concrete blocks are more durable than brick, and can withstand a high level of pressure and impact. These blocks can be shaped for unique architectural forms, and may be rendered with stucco or other finishes to enhance their visual appeal.


Masonry walls provide thermal and acoustic insulation, which may help reduce a building’s energy costs and make it more comfortable for its occupants. They also offer a high degree of structural strength, which can be an important consideration in regions prone to natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes. Unlike walls constructed from wood, masonry will not warp or shrink over time.

Concrete block masonry offers a variety of construction possibilities, including load-bearing or nonload-bearing walls. The hollow cores of concrete blocks, for example, can be filled with concrete or steel rebar to add tensile and lateral strength to structures. The resulting reinforced masonry units (RMUs) are typically used in buildings with light transverse loads, or where a combination of both lateral and longitudinal loading is present.

Using concrete or brick masonry as exterior walls can reduce the overall size of a building, which in turn helps lower its cost. Bricks, for instance, are lighter than stones and have lower dead loads, which makes them a more economical material for construction. Brick masonry can also be easily made into openings for doors and windows.

The strength of masonry walls depends on the type, thickness and size of its constituent blocks, as well as the mortar used to adhere them. For this reason, masonry should always be designed according to the requirements of a relevant standard. BS EN 1996-1-2: 2005 provides a general guidance on the structural design of masonry structures. This includes an introduction to strength design concepts, background on structural masonry, requirements for reinforcement and anchor bolts, and the methods of calculation required for achieving the Ultimate Limit Design and Serviceability Limit for a given wall.


Masonry is one of the most durable construction materials available. It is strong enough to withstand earthquakes and high winds, and is impervious to fire and water. Brick, natural stone and concrete block are some of the most common types of masonry products. These are often used in the building of walls, homes and other structures.

Masonry contractors can help builders and homeowners select long-lasting, durable materials. They can also provide expert advice on construction techniques, material handling and installation methods. Experienced masons can accurately align masonry units in courses per design plans and use mortar to join them together. They can also help builders meet green building standards.

A masonry wall acts as an effective acoustic barrier, reducing unwanted sound transmission in a home or office. The density of the bricks and mortar can also reduce the transfer of heat, making it a great choice for hot or cold environments.

Masonry can be a great choice for landscaping because it adds depth and color to a yard. It can also help prevent erosion and protect the ground from floods. The natural, non-toxic materials can be used to build pathways, patios, driveways and gardens.

Many people ask whether masonry is the same as concrete, and the answer is no. While concrete is a specific type of building material, masonry refers to the practice of using brick, natural stone and other solid materials with mortar to construct buildings and other structures. The strength of masonry depends on the proper combination of elements, such as an aggregate, cement and water. It is important to understand the difference between masonry and concrete so you can make the right choices for your next project.


Masonry structures require regular maintenance to preserve their value, beauty and integrity. A robust maintenance program minimizes the likelihood of major problems and reduces repair costs over time.

Load-bearing walls are particularly susceptible to damage from moisture and should be regularly inspected. Cracks, spalling or leaning are red flags that structural integrity is compromised and must be addressed promptly. Masonry repair techniques like repointing, crack stitching or partial rebuilding can stabilize these walls. Arches and vaults also rely on intricate masonry configurations to support their loads. Repairing these components in a timely fashion ensures they can continue supporting their intended loads safely.

Cleaning masonry surfaces prevents the growth of mold and mildew, which can affect air quality and lead to health hazards for building occupants. Cleaning contractors can apply mould-resistant coatings and use pressure washing techniques to clean masonry surfaces.

Concrete masonry is less costly to maintain than other types of building materials, and offers an environmentally friendly construction option. It requires less energy to produce than other building materials, doesn’t deplete forests, pollute the earth or drain natural resources and is a greener alternative to steel framing. In addition, the laying of masonry can be done in-place, which saves on construction time and provides cost savings by minimizing the need for steel reinforcement.

The most common reason for masonry failure is water damage, which can occur from both above and below. Above-ground sources of damage include splashback from rain, which can seep into the bricks and deteriorate the mortar joints; and rising dampness, where groundwater rises and leaves behind a tide line of salts dredged from the soil, which cling to the brick and erode masonry. Keeping up with routine inspections and hiring professional maintenance services will catch these issues in their early stages, allowing them to be repaired before they become severe and expensive.