Getting Stoned: What You Need To Know About Masonry

Should it be brick or stone and is there really even a difference? When you are building a new home, you have to make critical design decisions. One of them may involve masonry work. Masonry means construction with stone. From the cement blocks that form the foundation to the bricks laid to build your dream fireplace, understanding the many facets of this work will help you pick the right masonry styles for your home.

Advantages of Masonry

Why use masonry at all when building your new home? The Arizona Masonry Guild explains that using brick or stone:

  • Improves fire resistance
  • Prevents termite infestation
  • Protects the structure against mold and fungus
  • Lowers the utility bills by insulating the interior

Masonry is the environmentally-friendly approach to home construction, as well, because you use fewer natural resources like wood.

Different Types of Masonry Materials

For home construction, the most common masonry materials are brick, cinderblock and stone, but there are other possibilities.

  • Marble
  • Granite
  • Travertine
  • Limestone
  • Cast stone
  • Glass block
  • Tile
  • Cob

Each has its own distinctive style. For example, travertine is a type of compressed limestone. It was used by the Romans to build their famous Colosseum, according to Travertine Mart.

The material depends on the section of the house under construction. Brick is a common choice for the exterior while concrete block is right for the basement and foundation.

Masonry Techniques

There are different methods of masonry, as well. The traditional technique involves laying down the stone and filling the spaces, or joints, with mortar. DIY Network provides a simple example of this process in their tutorial on building a brick garden wall.  

With veneer masonry, you lay the stone or brick around another structure, a concrete wall for instance. This technique creates the illusion that the structure is made entirely of stone, even though it has a solid center. According to Masonry Magazine, stone veneer is lighter and easier to install. This is a practical way to give your new home a stone or brick front.

Dry masonry requires less bonding material. The stones or bricks fit together like a puzzle. This technique offers a more rustic appearance and a proper choice for a garden wall.

Mortar Classifications

Mortar is the substance the bonds it all together. It is a paste that fills in the gaps between the stone. Mortar types are classified based on strength and bonding ability. FineHomebuilding reports that Type M is the right choice for pathways and retaining walls while Type N is for the exterior of the house.

Mortar Applications

There are different ways to apply mortar, as well. Initially, you lay the mortar between each row of stone. Every three or four rows, you go back and tool, or point, the joints to compress it. This involves running a pipe or tool across the mortar to fill in any defects and create a concave shape.

Tuckpointing is a special type of mortar application that uses two different colored mortars. The goal is to make the joints, or spaces between the bricks appear tighter. One color matches the stone and the other contrasts it, so the mortar appears as a fine line.

Northeastern Chimney LLC, explains tuckpointing is a common technique for repairing chimneys. Over time, the mortar and bricks degrade and gaps appear. With tuckpointing, red mortar fills in the defects in the bricks to form even lines between the stone rows. A different colored mortar goes into the line to give the bricks a fresh, uniformed look.

The Arizona Masonry Guild states masonry homes have a higher retail value and require less maintenance. Ask your contractor or look at a site like to see if adding a brick face to your new home will reduce the heating and cooling costs.