Concrete block masonry is an alternative option to bricks and stone. Concrete blocks — or concrete masonry units (CMUs) — are used for building walls, pillars and other structures. Concrete blocks offer several advantages, including:
Concrete blocks are available in many compositions, styles and sizes. Understanding the different types of concrete blocks and choosing the right combination will help you set your construction project up for success.
There are two different types of concrete blocks — hollow and solid.
Hollow blocks have holes in one-quarter to one-half of the total area, with the hollow part together or split into components. These holes make hollow blocks lightweight and allow you to run wires and pipes through them for building structures. Running rebar in the holes enhances stability, ideal for boundary fences and large structures.
Solid blocks are large concrete bricks manufactured with dense aggregate. Since these blocks don't have holes, they're ideal for applications requiring durability and strength, such as walls, planters, steps, firepits and foundations. Solid blocks are also more cost-effective than hollow blocks.
Several types of hollow concrete blocks are available.
Bullnose blocks are like corner blocks with rounded edges. You can use a bullnose block when you want a rounded appearance on a structure's corners.
Column blocks are square-shaped and have one hole. You can add reinforcements inside the gap to stack several column blocks together for construction.
Corner blocks are used in corners, door openings and window ends. The plain side faces the exterior, while the stretcher side is parallel to the wall.
Jamb blocks have a shallow groove across two holes and one deep groove at the end of the block. The casing members of a window, which are typically double-hung style, fit into these grooves.
The lintel block — or beam or channeled block — has a deep U-shape along the block's length. This U groove allows room for the lintel beam, and the rest of the space is filled with reinforcing concrete. Lintel blocks are used above windows and doors to bear the load above.
Partition blocks are longer in height than width, and they feature two or three hollow components. These blocks are used for partition wall construction.
Pillar blocks — also called double corner blocks — are a more common concrete block option. They're designed so both ends can be visible. Pillar blocks are used most often in pillar and pier construction.
Splitface blocks are similar to pillar blocks, with the addition of a rough edge exposing the inner block aggregates. These blocks are porous and offer a low risk of fire damage and termite infestation.
Stretcher blocks connect the corners of masonry units in construction projects. The block face is laid parallel to the wall face.
Solid blocks don't come in as many varieties, but there are a few main types to choose from.
An aerated autoclaved (AAC) block is lightweight, and it receives its name since most of the block is air. AAC blocks are shapeable, fire-resistant and able to insulate temperature and sound. Side walls, partition walls and similar applications use AAC blocks.
Cellular lightweight blocks are made from cement, foam and fly ash. Some of the advantages of these blocks include excellent temperature and sound insulation, fire resistance, eco-friendly construction and low costs. Depending on their density, cellular lightweight blocks can be used in load-bearing walls, partition walls, parapet walls, compound walls and wall panels.
Expanded clay aggregate blocks are made from fly ash and cement, creating a lightweight block to reduce the structural load. This type of block is waterproof, fire-resistant and insulative from sound and temperature.
Fly ash blocks are made of fly ash, a fine powder substance common in concrete. These blocks create a smooth, detailed surface. They reduce cracking and permeability and resist the effects of cold weather.
Paving blocks are brick-shaped and ideal for applications including road shoulders, walkways and paving.
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