Knowing construction and masonry terminology is challenging. There are specialized terms for materials and techniques used by professionals that can confuse the DIY amateur. Learning the terminology will help getting the most out of dealing with contractors, sourcing supplies for a project, or self-learning in order to develop a home development plan.
Here’s a glossary of masonry terms that will help you get started.
Abutment– Abutment refers to the place where two concrete structures meet. Abutment joints are often found in roadways or bridges that allow for movement in concrete due to changes in temperature or seismic shifts.
American Bond – This is a systematic way of placing bricks to improve stability. American bond is the most common pattern of masonry bond because of its simple design. American bond uses headers for every fifth or sixth course.
Anchor Bolt – Threaded bolt used to attach wood, beam or other support to the top of a wall. Bolt is usually placed in grouted masonry unit opening.
Basket Weave Bond – Bricks laid at right angles to adjacent bricks to create a woven pattern.
Bed – Bottom side of a brick or masonry unit as it is laid.
Bed Joint – A horizontal masonry joint on which masonry units like bricks are laid. Similar to joints used in building a bad.
Brick – Piece of clay or shale that’s molded into a rectangle and fired in a kiln. Commonly used in masonry work. Can be hollow or solid.
Brick Anchor – Fasteners that can attach an item to a brick face. Can either be fixed to a brick or mortar. Usually made from steel or brass.
Brick Face – The surface of a masonry wall that shows exposed brickwork.
Brick Set – Tool used for cutting brick.
Brick Veneer (Brick Facing) – A brick face that is placed against a wall but is not bonded to the wall. Often used on structures to give the aesthetic impression of solid brick structures.
Brickwork Movement Joint – Joint that allows for movement between a brick wall and an adjacent structure. The joint maintains structural integrity of the wall and avoids damage.
Building Code – A set of rules that an authoritative body (government, building owner, co-op) implements. Any construction work on a property has to comply to building code. Code usually covers building standards as well as dictates safety, light and air, public health and other standards.
Building Brick – Refers to common brick used for building purposes and not specifically treated for color or design.
Caulking (Caulk)– A material made of silicone or rubber base used to fill a joint or crack. Typically placed in a caulk gun that squeezes caulk uniformly along edges that prevents leaks and is waterproof.
Cavity Wall – Typically an exterior masonry wall that is composed of an inner and outer layer with air space in between (cavity). The cavity allows for better temperature insulation.
Chimney – A vertical structure in a building that is often built in conjunction with a fireplace, boiler or furnace. Chimneys use flues (small hatches or doors) to allow exhaust to escape.
Collar Beam – The horizontal beam between two rafters. Collar beams are common in roof construction to add stability to higher levels of a structure.
Collar Joint – Holds together rafters and collar beams.
Common Bond – A widely used brick laying technique that adds to structural stability. Every fifth or sixth course uses stretchers.
Common Brick – Similar to building brick. Brick that is used for building purposes and not treated for special design, texture or color.
Concave Joint – A recessed masonry joined used in mortar work. The curved shape resists rain and other moisture penetration. Concave joints are typically used in areas that experience heavy winds and rains.
Concrete – Composite made from fine and coarse materials bonded together with paste that hardens over time.
Concrete Masonry Unit – Refers to bricks, blocks or other shapes cast from cement to be used in masonry construction work.
Construction – Describes any work done related to building or changing a structure. Can be used to describe any stage of building, from excavation to final assembly. Can also be used as a noun to mean a building.
Construction Joints – The place where any two construction components meet. Holds together two components and allows for some degree of movement between two structures.
Control Joint – Vertical weak planes purposely built into masonry work as a means of crack control. Over time, masonry work can be expected to shrink; control joints allow from shrinkage while preventing significant structural damage.
Corbel – A component that is attached to a wall that increases support for a structure above it. Corbels are used in masonry to support overhanging structures.
Coursed Stone Masonry – Method of stone masonry in which stone units are arranged in regular courses (patterns).
Dead Load – Vertical force of a wall due to the weight of the building.
Dowels – Steel cylinders used to hold stone in place.
Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS) – A material used to coat exterior insulation boards that resembles stucco.
Efflorescence – Crystalline deposit that grows on masonry surfaces as a result of moisture passing through. It is white in color and forms a coating over brick and concrete.
English Bond – Easy to use method of bricklaying that alternates between courses of headers and stretchers. Is used to increase masonry work strength.
Epoxy Mortar – Mortar made from thermosetting resigns with epoxy blends that form strong mortars.
Expansion Joint – A joint that is used in adjacent building components that allows for relative movement between structures due to temperature changes or other small movements.
Fieldstone – Stone collected from the surface of fields that is used in building.
Firebrick – Bricks made from refractory ceramics that can withstand high temperatures. Firebricks are commonly used in fireplaces and furnaces.
Flagstone – Flat stone commonly used as stepping stones or to line outdoor terraces. Slabs are usually 1-4 inches thick. Flagstone can be naturally occurring or split from larger rocks.
Flashing – Material used in masonry walls that prevents water leakage. Often used to cover cracks in adjoining structures, like where roofing meets a chimney, for example.
Flemish Bond – Style of bonding introduced in the 17th century where bricklayers alternate between header and stretcher on every course of bricks.
Flush Joint – Joint used that is flush (pressed up against) an adjoining surface.
Fluted Face (Flute) – Often referred to as ribs, flutes are vertical grooves in masonry units that
Furrowing – Use of a trowel to make small indentations into mortar to prepare mortar for bricklaying.
Glass Block – A hollow block of translucent glass that comes in a variety of textures. Is used in building design to increase light access.
Granite – A common type of igneous rock (rock that is formed by change of molten rock into solid rock) that is popular in construction because of its visible grain and color variety.
Grout – Mortar that has higher water concentration that makes it more viscous than traditional mortar. Grout can be poured between joints and cracks in masonry work, making it popular for use in slate and floor tile work.
Head Joint – Vertical joint between two masonry units (like bricks).
Header – A brick or stone that is laid with its greatest length perpendicular to the exterior face.
Header Bond – Brickwork that is constructed using a course of headers. Whenever a header is used in a course of brick, it is referred to as a header course.
Hearth – The bottom layer or floor of a fireplace. Hearths are usually made from tile, brick or stone. It can also refer to an area of flooring made with fireproof material that surrounds a stove.
Hollow Masonry Wall – Similar to a cavity wall, a hollow masonry wall has a space between exterior and inner walls that allows for thermal insulation.
Insulation – Material used to prevent sound or heat from passing through a wall.
Isolation Joints – Isolate slabs of concrete from another material like a column or pipe. Isolation joints allow some degree of movement in the concrete as a result of thermal, seismic or other expansion.
Keystone – Stone placed at the center of an archway that supports the rest of the arch.
Limestone – Sedimentary rock used as building stone. Limestone is less resistant than other stones like marble or granite to oils, acids and other chemical liquids. Popular for its natural tones.
Lintel – Structural horizontal block that covers the space between two vertical supports. Lintels are used to bridge the vertical supports of doors, windows and other portals. Sometimes also referred to as beams.
Low Lift Method of Grouting Reinforced Brick Walls – Method of grouting on masonry no higher than four feet to keep the cavity free of mortar droppings.
Mantel – Beam or shelf placed to the top of a fireplace than serves as a support for upward masonry.
Marble – Metamorphic rock made of recrystallized carbonite materials. Marble is commonly used in sculptures and in building materials because of its unique patterns and colors.
Masonry – Shaping, bonding, or building with stone, bricks, and other ceramic materials. Masonry is used to refer to any procedure in construction related to stone or brickwork.
Metamorphic Rock – Denotes type of rock that transforms from another rock due to heat and pressure.
Mortar – Mixture of cement-like materials with water and sand (or other fine material). Used in masonry work to bind two masonry units together and then hardens in place.
Portland Cement – Fine, gray powder made from burning clay, shale or limestone. Hardens when mixed with water and used as a base for mortar.
Precast Concrete Wall Panel – A concrete panel that can be used on a building exterior or to separate an interior area. Can either be load-bearing or non-load-bearing.
Quoin (Coign or Coin) – Masonry blocks located on the corner of a wall that improve strength in walls made from less sturdy materials.
Raked Joint – Joints in which the surface of a mortar layer is removed to create a more recessed look. Used stylistically to darken the appearance of masonry work but is not as water resistant.
Rebar – Steel bar that is placed in concrete in lines like ribs to strengthen masonry work.
Refractory – Typically a non-metallic material that can withstand high temperatures.
Reinforced Brick Masonry – Masonry work that strengthened with the used of other materials to increase stability.
Rowlock Arch – An arch in which voussoirs (wedge-shaped or tapered stone) are placed in concentric rings that form an arch that gives the appearance of two arches directly on top of each other.
Rowlock (Rolok or Rollock) – Can either mean a single portion of a rowlock arch or refer to a brick laying on its edge so only the end is visible.
Rubble – Rough stones that vary in size and shape. Also known as rubble stone.
Running Bond – All bricks or stones are laid length-wise in coursework. Also known as stretcher bond.
Scored Finish – Purposeful grooving of masonry faces during the manufacturing process.
Sedimentary Rock – Rocks formed from materials that are deposited as sediments in water or on land.
Slate and Marble – Brittle metamorphic rock made from clay materials. Sought after building material because of good cleavage lines. Typically used as sheets for panels, flooring and roofing.
Soldier – Masonry unit set on its end with face on wall surface.
Stretcher – Masonry unit set with its longest length along a wall face laid horizontally.
Stripped Joint – Similar to raked joint, where mortar is scraped off but on bricks with rough texture.
Struck Joint – Joint that removes excess mortar with a trowel that leaves a flush line on one side of the masonry unit. Typically slopes inward from top to bottom that leaves a recess at the bottom of a joint.
Trowel – Tool used for leveling, spreading and shaping mortar and cement. Flat-bladed with a handle.
Vee Joint – A mortar joint that is shaped like a “V” with the indentation located in the middle of the mortar joint.
Veneer Ties – Anchors veneers to walls.
Weathered Joint (Weather-Struck Joint) – Horizontal mortar joint opposite of a struck joint. The joint slopes inward from bottom to top. Helps to shed water easily
Weep Hole – Holes placed in mortar joints to allow escape of moisture during flashing.
Wythe – Used in chimneys to partition two flues.
Z-Ties – Wall tie made with a 90 degree angle and a leg on each side.