Last edited 26 May 2021


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A mason is a person who builds with, or dresses, hard units such as brick, stone or block. The term ‘masonry’ can be used to describe the trade of masons, work done by them, or the actual, stonework, brickwork or blockwork that they construct.

Masonry is generally used to form the walls and other solid elements of buildings and structures such as bridges, tunnels and so on. It may be load bearing, forming an integral part of the structure, or non-load bearing, such as a partition wall or cladding.

Generally the size of the units is suitable for being laid by one person, although, increasingly, masonry is delivered to site in prefabricated panels that are craned into position. Masonry is often formed by laying a number of interlocking units, bound together by mortar, however, dry set masonry relies on the friction between the units to prevent movement, and does not require mortar.

Masonry is very strong in compression, but less effective at resisting lateral loading or tension forces. Additional strength can be achieved by increasing the thickness of the masonry, by the addition of piers or buttresses, or by the incorporation of reinforcement.

Masonry walls may have complex constructions to optimise performance, that may include hollow sections in the masonry itself, a cavity between internal and external leaves of the wall, insulation, a vapour barrier and internal and external finishes and decoration.

However, generally masonry does not require finishing and decorating and is very durable, so is relatively inexpensive to maintain and repair. It tends to offer good thermal mass, high acoustic insulation and good resistance to fire.

Masonry tends to be heavy, and so requires strong foundations. It can be prone to frost damage, staining and disintegration of joints.

To find out about the cleaning of masonry, see How to clean masonry.

NBS categorise masonry as:

F10 Brick / Block walling
F11 Glass block walling
F20 Natural stone rubble walling
F21 Natural stone / ashlar walling / dressings
F22 Cast stone ashlar walling / dressings
F30 Accessories / Sundry items for brick / block / stone walling
F31 Precast concrete sills / lintels / copings / features
F42 Straw bale walling systems

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