Masonry is the building of structures from individual units laid in and bound together by mortar, and the term "masonry" can also refer to the units themselves. The common materials of masonry construction are brick, stone such as marble, granite, travertine, limestone; concrete block, glass block, and tile. Masonry is generally a highly durable form of construction. However, the materials used, the quality of the mortar and workmanship, and the pattern the units are assembled in can strongly affect the durability of the overall masonry construction.
Masonry units, such as brick, tile, stone, glass brick or concrete block generally conform to the requirements specified in the 2006 International Building Code (IBC) Section 2103.
Masonry is commonly used for the walls of buildings, retaining walls and monuments. 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 structure
The use of materials such as brick and stone can increase the thermal mass of a building, giving increased comfort in the heat
of summer and the cold of winter and can be ideal for passive solar applications.
Brick typically will not require painting and so can provide a structure with reduced life-cycle costs, although sealing appropriately will reduce potential spalling due to frost damage. Non-decorative concrete block generally is painted or stuccoed if exposed.
The appearance, especially when well crafted, can impart an impression of solidity and permanence.
Masonry is very heat resistant and thus can provide good fire protection.
Masonry walls are generally more resistant to projectiles, such as debris from hurricanes or tornadoes than walls of wood or other softer, less dense materials.
Extreme weather may cause degradation of masonry wall surfaces due to frost damage. This type of damage is common with certain types of brick, though relatively rare with concrete block. If non-concrete (clay-based) brick is to be used, care should be taken to select bricks suitable for the climate in question.
Masonry tends to be heavy and must be built upon a strong foundation (usually reinforced concrete) to avoid potential settling and cracking. If expansive soils (such as adobe clay) are present, this foundation may need to be quite elaborate and the services of a qualified structural engineer may be required, particularly in earthquake prone regions.
Masonry boasts an impressive compressive strength (vertical loads) but is much lower in tensile strength (twisting or stretching) unless reinforced. The tensile strength of masonry walls can be strengthened by thickening the wall, or by building masonry "piers" (vertical columns or ribs) at intervals. Where practical, steel reinforcement also can be introduced vertically and/or horizontally to greatly increase tensile strength, though this is most commonly done with poured walls.