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Masonry – A Traditional Construction System with High-Performance Capabilities
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 December 2006

Masonry – A Traditional Construction System with High-Performance Capabilities

Masonry is a traditional building system with several thousand years of historical use. However, over the last 75 years, advances in materials, design, and construction technology have enabled masonry to be used in arenas of performance and form that were not possible in past centuries. Historic units were often natural stone, cut to fit together tightly with thin joints.

Modern units are predominantly manufactured, generally sized to nominal modular dimensions that assume placement using 3/8-in.- (9.5-mm) thick mortar joints. Over time, the function of mortar shifted from filling cracks between tight-fitting units to providing a bedding material for placement and positioning of standard-sized units. Mortar is expected to harden more rapidly than in the past, binding units into structural elements or a cladding system. While traditional masonry is strong in compression and weak in tension, grouted reinforced masonry efficiently uses the tensile and ductile properties of reinforcing steel in combination with masonry grout to produce structures and structural elements that are strong in both compression and tension, capable of resisting extreme loads such as occur during high winds or earthquakes.

Masonry is not used solely for structural applications; it often serves as a veneer or cladding. As such, it provides a low maintenance, weather-resistant, durable, and aesthetically versatile exterior. Construction techniques often include use of metal accessories (such as ties and anchors) embedded in mortar.

In summary, modern masonry is designed to meet a broad range of performance expectations. It is site-constructed under varying weather conditions by skilled craftsmen using units, mortar, grout and metal accessories. Trends toward more efficient, safe and serviceable masonry construction have placed an emphasis on speed of construction, the use of grouted reinforced masonry in structural applications, and incorporation of ties and wall drainage systems in veneer applications. Masonry has become a high performance construction material and system, which has impacted requirements for mortar and grout.

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