For countless generations, building with masonry has been a vital part of construction. From the ancient pyramids of Egypt to the towering modern skyscrapers of New York, masonry has been the driving force behind these enduring and timeless structures. Natural, durable and attractive, masonry products such as block, brick and stone have and continue to be one of the most popular building materials used around the globe.
Building with masonry products offers many unique benefits that other building materials lack. Strength, durability and affordability are just a few of the many reasons this amazing product has been so popular in more recent times. Whether constructing a small residential building or erecting a huge commercial structure, masonry has many benefits that make it attractive to architects, builders and owners alike.
One of the major reasons masonry construction is in such high demand is its ability to resist natural damages such as fire, weather and insects. Noncombustible materials found in masonry products ensures that if a fire occurs within the structure, building egress is properly protected, fire spread is limited and the integrity of the bearing structure can be maintained before and after a fire. In some masonry construction methods, fire walls can have an hourly safety rating of up to four hours, allowing fire personal to safely contain a fire before it has a chance to spread to other areas of the structure.
Heavy wind loads play an important role in designing any structure and masonry products are considered one of the more stable materials used to resist dangerous weather conditions such as hurricanes or tornados. Even when dangerous weather conditions don’t factor into the construction of a building, weather conditions such as snow, rain and even sunlight can create dimensional changes in a structure. A properly constructed masonry wall can easily accept the changes in dimensional load without becoming damaged over time.
Natural phenomenon like termites, ants or even fungus has a difficult time affecting a masonry building. With no cellulose products to cause decay, masonry buildings have the ability to easily resist the effects of insects, mold and fungus. Since masonry construction is nearly air tight, outdoor contaminants like pollen, mold and fungus have little effect on the occupants of the structure, thereby increasing indoor air quality considerably.
Lower Overall Costs
While initial residential wood-frame construction methods virtually cost the same as masonry residential construction, the overall costs of a masonry project are much less than wood frame construction—especially over time.
Unlike wood products which require significant maintenance as it ages (termite and fungus protection), masonry products are virtually maintenance free. In fact, masonry materials such as brick need very little in the way of maintenance. The masonry joints in brick may require repointing or tucking every 50-100 years whereas wood construction requires pest and fungus control applications every 8-10 years. Exposed wood products will also need to be painted every 4-6 years while masonry stuccoed walls may need repainting every 10-15 years.
But it’s not just about maintenance costs that make masonry products cheaper in the long run. When concrete block construction is combined with thermal mass insulation systems, it can lower utility bills more so than other construction methods. That’s because masonry stores thermal energy which allows the structure to absorb sunlight and hold higher temperatures during the winter. In the summer, the opposite effect takes place as masonry stores cooler energy temperatures releases them slowly throughout the day, thereby reducing air-conditioning costs in the process.
Even after the structure is complete, masonry constructed buildings keep reducing costs of the structure. Lower insurance premiums can greatly reduce the overall costs of a masonry building. Because masonry products are more secure, resistant to natural damages and are fire resistant, many insurance companies will discount homeowner’s insurance costs for the masonry building owner.
Masonry buildings also allow for a higher resale value than many of their other construction counterparts. Due to the low maintenance/high strength abilities of masonry products, many masonry built structures sell for more money long after construction, particularly when compared to wood-framed structures.
Unlike other building materials, masonry products can be found in nearly all facets of the construction process. Masonry products have a versatility that other building materials such as steel or wood can’t compare to. Whether masonry is used for a foundation or as a driveway, its ability to come into contact with the ground without decay makes it the number one application for structural construction.
But masonry certainly isn’t limited to structural applications. When combined with wood fibers, foam or polymers, materials like exterior siding, tile backer boards and even roofing products can be created using masonry materials. Because masonry products aren’t affected by moisture like wood or steel materials, they can also be used to hold water as well such as in swimming pools and tubs as well as repel it.
Since masonry products can be manipulated into virtually any shape, design or style, they offer an aesthetically pleasing appeal that no other building material can match. Whether you’re remodeling in the bathroom or you’re working on a bridge overpass, masonry plays an important role in the success of nearly every construction project built today.
Photo by Martin Pettitt