Masonry (noun) is the building of structures from individual units, which are often laid in and bound together by mortar; the term masonry can also refer to the units themselves. The common materials of masonry construction are brick, building stone such as marble, granite, and limestone, cast stone, concrete block, glass block, and adobe. Masonry is generally a highly durable form of construction. However, the materials used, the quality of the mortar and workmanship, and the pattern in which the units are assembled can substantially affect the durability of the overall masonry construction. A person who constructs masonry is called a mason or bricklayer. These are both classified as construction trades.

Masonry is commonly used for walls and buildings. Brick and concrete block are the most common types of masonry in use in industrialized nations and may be either weight-bearing or a veneer. Concrete blocks, especially those with hollow cores, offer various possibilities in masonry construction. They generally provide great compressive strength and are best suited to structures with light transverse loading when the cores remain unfilled. Filling some or all of the cores with concrete or concrete with steel reinforcement (typically rebar) offers much greater tensile and lateral strength to structures. Masonry workers are typically paid hourly depending on their position.

Masonry has high compressive strength under vertical loads but has low tensile strength (against twisting or stretching) unless reinforced. The tensile strength of masonry walls can be increased by thickening the wall, or by building masonry piers (vertical columns or ribs) at intervals. Where practical, steel reinforcements such as windposts can be added.

A masonry veneer wall consists of masonry units, usually clay-based bricks, installed on one or both sides of a structurally independent wall usually constructed of wood or masonry. In this context the brick masonry is primarily decorative, not structural. The brick veneer is generally connected to the structural wall by brick ties (metal strips that are attached to the structural wall, as well as the mortar joints of the brick veneer). There is typically an air gap between the brick veneer and the structural wall. As clay-based brick is usually not completely waterproof, the structural wall will often have a water-resistant surface (usually tar paper) and weep holes can be left at the base of the brick veneer to drain moisture that accumulates inside the air gap. Concrete blocks, real and cultured stones, and veneer adobe are sometimes used in a very similar veneer fashion.

The strength of a masonry wall is not entirely dependent on the bond between the building material and the mortar; the friction between the interlocking blocks of masonry is often strong enough to provide a great deal of strength on its own. The blocks sometimes have grooves or other surface features added to enhance this interlocking, and some dry set masonry structures forgo mortar altogether.

The wide selection of brick styles and types generally available in industrialized nations allow much variety in the appearance of the final product. In buildings built during the 1950s-1970s, a high degree of uniformity of brick and accuracy in masonry was typical. In the period since then this style was thought to be too sterile, so attempts were made to emulate older, rougher work. Some brick surfaces are made to look particularly rustic by including burnt bricks, which have a darker color or an irregular shape. Others may use antique salvage bricks, or new bricks may be artificially aged by applying various surface treatments, such as tumbling. The attempts at rusticity of the late 20th century have been carried forward by masons specializing in a free, artistic style, where the courses are intentionally not straight, instead weaving to form more organic impressions.

"Architectural masonry is the evolvement of standard concrete masonry blocks into aesthetically pleasing concrete masonry units (CMUs)." CMUs can be manufactured to provide a variety of surface appearances. They can be colored during manufacturing or stained or painted after installation. They can be split as part of the manufacturing process, giving the blocks a rough face replicating the appearance of natural stone, such as brownstone. CMUs may also be scored, ribbed, sandblasted, polished, striated (raked or brushed), include decorative aggregates, be allowed to slump in a controlled fashion during curing, or include several of these techniques in their manufacture to provide a decorative appearance.

Gabions are baskets, usually now of zinc-protected steel (galvanized steel) that are filled with fractured stone of medium size. These will act as a single unit and are stacked with setbacks to form a revetment or retaining wall. They have the advantage of being well drained, flexible, and resistant to flood, water flow from above, frost damage, and soil flow. Their expected useful life is only as long as the wire they are composed of and if used in severe climates (such as shore-side in a salt water environment) must be made of appropriate corrosion-resistant wire. Most modern gabions are rectangular.



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