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What Is a Masonry Wall?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 22, 2024
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A masonry wall is a wall made from materials which have traditionally been cemented together with the use of mortar. Masonry walls can be used as structural walls in buildings, and they can also be utilized to create barriers between property lines or different areas on a property. People have been working with masonry in construction for thousands of years, as ample examples of surviving masonry walls from all over the world illustrate. Properly maintained, masonry can also last a very long time; masonry walls from the medieval era, for example, are still in use in parts of Europe, and the Great Wall of China is a particularly notable example of a masonry wall.

Brick, stone, tile, ceramic blocks, adobe, and glass blocks can all be used in the construction of a masonry wall. In dry set masonry, no mortar at all is used, with the pieces of the wall being carefully fitted together to create a stable wall with excellent drainage. Dry setting is often used for the creation of livestock walls. Solid masonry, made with mortar, can also be reinforced with a backbone of steel or a similarly strong material.

Masonry walls can have a wide variety of shapes, looks, and feels. Some are low and broad, while others are thin and tall, and they can include varying sizes of material for more visual interest, or uniformly shaped and sized material for a more regular look. When designing masonry walls, people need to think about how the wall will be used, the level of reinforcement which may be necessary, and the desired aesthetic look of the wall and surrounding environment.

There are a number of advantages to building with masonry. In areas with ample rock deposits or deposits of materials which can be used to make substances like glass and brick, masonry can be a cheap construction method. It also creates increased thermal mass, contributing to efficiency, and it can bear a great deal of weight when it is well designed. A masonry wall also confers fire protection, as it will take some time for a fire to break through such a wall.

One of the main disadvantages to working with masonry is that it is very heavy, and it can add to production costs for a building in addition to being dangerous in an earthquake if it is not properly supported. It's important to use a masonry contractor with experience and familiarity with regional building codes to ensure that a masonry wall is built to the appropriate standards.

What Are the Different Types of Masonry Wall?

There are several different types of masonry walls, each of which has its own job in the construction process.

Load-Bearing Walls

A load-bearing masonry wall is most common in large buildings, such as large houses or tall commercial buildings. Usually created with bricks, stones, or concrete blocks, load-bearing walls transfer the weight from the building's foundation to ensure even distribution and create a safe structure. Without load-bearing walls to support the weight of the building, the foundation can become unstable. Load-bearing walls are necessary on both the exterior and interior of buildings.

Cavity or Hollow Walls

Cavity walls are made with cement blocks and are essential for protecting the inside of a building from excess dampness. Hollow walls create space between the exterior and interior walls to protect the inside from the elements. Modern versions combine the hollow and solid masonry units.

Composite Walls

Composite walls are created with at least two different building materials, such as hollow and solid bricks or stones and bricks. Composite walls reduce the cost of construction without compromising the integrity of the structure. The materials are still very high-quality and create safe walls that maintain a beautiful look as well. These types of walls typically have bricks or other aesthetically appealing materials in the visual area and the concrete or rubble backing where the naked eye can't see it.

Post-Tensioned Wall

A post-tension wall creates an additional axial load for structures, increasing their abilities to resist lateral forces. Post-tensioned walls typically have increased in-plan strength and do not see any wall displacements post-earthquake. They are common in parking structures, elevated residential and commercial buildings, and bridges. They also help architects to have more freedom with their work by creating more open spaces within a structure.

Reinforced Walls

Like load-bearing walls, reinforced walls are made with brick, concrete, or other strong materials. These types of masonry walls create more resistance for weight-bearing walls so that they fight back against deterioration. Typically, reinforced walls are exterior walls that have steel rods worked into their bricks or concrete. Reinforced walls are common in buildings that could see heavy compression loads and in buildings where an earthquake is a possibility. Reinforced walls are less likely to crack and can be divided into several subcategories.

  • Confined Masonry
  • Reinforced Cavity Masonry
  • Reinforced Grouted Masonry
  • Reinforced Hollow Unit Masonry
  • Reinforced Pocket-Type Walls
  • Reinforced Solid Masonry

The Benefits of Masonry Walls

Cost-effectiveness is one of the biggest benefits of masonry walls. Some research shows that buildings of up to 10 stories tall see significant savings when building with reinforced masonry techniques because it eliminates the need for formwork and the cost for the associated labor. Masonry is also low-maintenance and durable, which means building owners spend fewer dollars on repairs over the years.

Saving money isn't the only benefit of using masonry walls. They are also energy-efficient. Concrete masonry is especially beneficial, as it protects the interior of a building from the heat or cold outside in a feature known as the "thermal mass effect." This means the interior of the building stays at a more comfortable temperature without the need for additional insulation or higher energy bills.

Other benefits of masonry walls include being fire-resistant, durable, and acting as a sound barrier. Insurance providers love masonry because they are less likely to need to pay out benefits due to a fire, and the durable structure is also helpful for insurance bills when other natural disasters are commonplace in an area. Finally, masonry is common in buildings that sit near airports or along freeways because they prevent the sound of the traffic outside from entering the building through the walls.

Choosing a Company To Build Your Masonry Walls

Before you hire someone to complete your masonry wall work, research your project and the materials you'll need. Knowing what materials you want for your project, the scope of the skills your masonry company will need, and the average price of other masonry jobs in the neighborhood will help you determine what you need of a company and ensure you aren't overcharged.

Once you have an idea of what your project might cost, start looking at companies in your city. Read their ratings and reviews, looking for specific information about how well the company communicates, whether the project manager is always on-site for a job, and how the company handled problems that arose on past jobs. Narrow your search down to about three different companies and contact them for full bids.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon1003443 — On Jun 26, 2020

Masonry wall is composed of materials that have traditionally been cemented together using a mortar, masonry walls are most utilised as a form of structural walls in building. Along, with that they are also used for creating barriers between property lines.

By webwillie1 — On Dec 18, 2009

Another help to get a good Mortar Joint Bond is by using Spacers.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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