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Introduction, Masonry units, materials

and Types


History of Masonry, characteristics of brick, stone, clay block, concrete block, stabilized
mud block. Masonry units
strength, modulus of elasticity and water absorption. Masonry materials classification
and properties of mortars, selection of mortars


Masonry is one of the oldest forms of construction known to humanity. The terms
masonry refers generally to brick, tile, stone, concrete-block, etc., or combination
thereof. Bonded with mortar. However, many different definitions of masonry are in
vogue. The international building code (IBC 2000) defines masonry as a built up
construction or combination of building units or materials of clay, shale, concrete, glass,
gypsum, stone or other approved units bonded together with or without mortar or grout
or other accepted methods of joining. ASTM (American society for testing and materials
E631) defines masonry as construction usually in mortar of natural building stone or
manufactured units such as brick, concrete block, adobe, glass, block tile, manufacture
stone or gypsum block. The McGraw Hill dictionary of scientific and technical terms
defines masonry as construction of stone or similar materials such as concrete brick. A
commonality in these various definitions is that masonry essentially is an assemblage of
individual units that might be of the same or different kind. And that have been bonded
together in some way to perform intended function. An increasing discussion about the
various definitions can be found.

From structural engineering perspective masonry is classified as plain masonry and

reinforced masonry. Plain masonry or masonry units refers to natural or manufactured
building units of burned clay, concrete, stone, glass, gypsum or other similar building
units or combination thereof. Made to be bonded together by a cementitious agent. Plain
masonry refers to a form of construction that depends on high compressive strength of
masonry units like plain concrete, plain masonry possess little tensile strength , therefore
it can be used as an efcient building material for structures or structural elements that
must resist tensile forces. For example: plain masonry because of its poor tensile
resistance, cannot be used for horizontal spanning structural elements such as beams
and slabs that resist loads in fexure and thereby are subjected to tensile stresses.
Similarly, it also cannot be used for columns subjected to eccentric loads that will
produce tensile stresses in them. To alleviate this draw back, plain masonry is reinforced
with steel reinforcing bars, which generally enhance strength of masonry in tension as
well as in compression. This form of masonry construction is referred to as reinforced
masonry. Stated simply,
reinforced masonry construction is masonry construction in which reinforcement acting
in conjunction with the
masonry is used to resist

History of

History of masonry construction truly can be considered the account of the beginning of
civil engineering. Natural availability of stones has been responsible for masonry being
the oldest building material known to humans. Wall The first use of stones for any forms
of construction was perhaps random rubble dry masonry. A form of construction in which
stones of various sizes were stacked randomly on top of each other to build the wall
without the use of any mortar (hence, the term dry masonry). Smaller stones were used
to fill the voids between the large stones. This form of construction is still in use today in
some third-world countries. Used mainly for building temporary walls fences for rural
farm areas and land and for retaining walls. Sometimes mud was used to bond the
stones together. A small variation of random rubble masonry uses horizontal and vertical
bonds of lime or cement mortar at regular intervals in otherwise dry wall unreinforced
masonry has been in use for several centuries throughout the world, and is still in use
today for construction of buildings and dams.

Following the natural stone came the man-made building material called brick. The art of
brick building is reported to be some 10,000-20,000 years old. Called adobe, they
evolved as sun dried mud. Sun dried bricks are known to be widely used in Babylon,
Egypt, spain and south America.

Since masonry and timber were practically the only construction materials used until
about 1850, and since most wood structures built prior to that time decayed rapidly, the
study of architecture prior to 1850 is essentially the study of masonry. This introduction,
though quite broad, is by no means complete. It is intended to give an overview of
architectural history from the perspective of masonry, in major regions of the world.

1. In middle East 8,000

4,000 BC
a) Mesopotamia 8,000 BC beehive domes - ten thousand years ago. Specifically,
we start in Mesopotamia (the land between two rivers), in the valley formed by
the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, in what is now Iraq.
b) The ancient city of Ur, Iraq: 2125 2025 BC - built 4,000 years ago, lies in what is
now Iraq, and was built of fired clay masonry. The Assyrians had learned that sun-
dried clay masonry, placed in an oven (kiln) at high temperatures, would become
much harder and stronger, and would not dissolve when exposed to water.

c) The ancient city of Babylon, built hundreds of years later, had walls with an outer
coating of glazed brick.
Since building the city of Ur, the Assyrians had learned to fire clay masonry units
twice, the second time at a higher temperature, with a coating of sand, to produce
a glassy exterior. The photo on the right is a half-scale reproduction of the Ishtar
Gate, one of the gates of Babylon.

d) A thousand years later, in what is now the Iraqi city of Ctesiphon, the Assyrians
built a masonry vault with a span of 83 ft. It stands today.
2. Egypt 5000 BC first century AD

a) Sakkara, Egypt brick pyramid 3,900 BC: The earliest Egyptian pyramids, built
over 6,000 years ago, did not have the smooth triangular shape that they acquired
later. Their dependence on masonry is very clear. This pyramid at Sakkara, almost
6,000 years old, is made of sun-dried clay units.

b) Gizeh, Egypt Sphinx & pyramids (3,733 3,566 BC): These pyramids at Gizeh,
built three hundred years later, were faced with sandstone, giving them the shape
that we know today.
c) Stonehenge, England (3100 BC): These stone monoliths at Stonehenge in
England, constructed at about the same time, show a much more rudimentary
architecture, but an equally impressive construction technology. Their stones were
brought from more than 30 miles away.

3. Greece (700 BC 146 BC):

a) Parthenon, Athens Acropolis (447 432 BC): The Parthenon, built on the
Acropolis overlooking Athens, is one of the worlds most impressive historical
monuments. It was designed to be architecturally attractive. The columns are
narrower at the top than the bottom, giving it an apparent lightness in spite of
its massive construction.

b) Erectheion, Athens (421 405 BC): As shown in this slide of the Erechtheion, a
temple constructed near Athens at about the same time as the Parthenon, the
Greeks had learned how to combine structure and art.
4. Rome (146 BC 365 AD):

a) Rome Coliseum (72 80 AD): The Coliseum was a large stadium, used for
many types of public spectacles,
Including gladiatorial contests. In addition to being distinguished by its uses, the
Coliseum was also a masterpiece of structural engineering. Its walls were built
entirely of fired clay masonry (more about that later), and were covered with
marble. The Romans were master engineers. They perfected the circular arch,
and invented the fat arch.

b) France- Pont du Gard (150 AD): It has three levels: the lowest for wheeled and
horse-mounted trafc; the next for pedestrian trafc; and the highest for the
open water channel. Still visible today are the projecting stones used to support
the shoring for the arches

5. Byzantine Empire (324 1500 AD):

a) Istanbul, Turkey Hagia Sophia, 532 537 AD: Between 532 and 537, in the
last days of the Holy Roman Empire, the church of Hagia Sophia was built. It is
distinguished by a masonry dome almost 180 feet in diameter. After the
capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire in 1450, this Christian church
was converted to a Muslim mosque, and the minarets were added in 1453 AD.
6. China (5,000 BC 1500 AD):

a) Bridge over Grand Canal (605 AD) & Great wall (214 BC): The Grand Canal,
completed in 605 AD, was 100 ft wide and 1000 miles long. It was spanned by
many masonry bridges that were elegant examples of the circular arch. And the
Great Wall of China, completed in 214 BC, was originally built to keep Mongol tribes
out. It is stone and fired clay unit masonry; its immense scale is difficult to convey
by a picture.

b) Temple of Heaven, Beijing (1420 AD): The Temple of Heaven, also in Beijing,
has roofs of distinctive glazed tiles and a stunning architectural shape.

7. Islamic Empire (622 present): We now go back to the Middle East, where the religion
of Islam began in 622
AD. At its greatest extent, the Muslim Empire reached from India to southern Spain. In
terms of pure form, Muslim architecture is often regarded as the finest in the world.
a) Dome of the Rock Jerusalem (688 AD) & Masjid I Jami Mosque, Isfahan, Iran
(1150 AD): The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, finished in 688 AD, is notable for its
simplicity and mosaics. The Maslid-I-jami Mosque in Isfahan, Iran, finished in 1150
AD, is a masterpiece of masonry. Note how the masonry arches that support the
masonry dome are almost lace-like. A similar technique was developed in Europe
to reduce the weight of masonry domes.

b) Taj Mahal - Agra, India (1630 1653 AD): The Taj Mahal, southeast of Delhi in
Agra, India, was built between 1630 and 1653 AD. It is regarded by many as the
most beautiful building in the world. Note the distinctive Muslim arches, pointed
rather than circular like Roman arches.

8. Romanesque Architecture (800 1300 AD)

a) Pisa, Italy - Duomo Baptistery (1063 1092), Campanile (1174): Another example
of the same technique is seen in the Duomo (Dome), Baptistery, and Campanile
(bell tower) of Pisa, Italy. The Duomo and Baptistery were built between 1063
and 1092 AD; the Campanile was finished almost 100 years later, due to
foundation problems that have made it famous.
9. Gothic Architecture (1100 1500)
a) Notre Dame Cathedral - Paris, France (1163 1235): Notre Dame Cathedral, built
in Paris, France between
1163 and 1235, is an excellent example of Gothic church architecture. It is
symmetrical. The photo at the left shows the buttresses supporting the side and
back walls. The photo on the right shows the Gothic arches.

10. Modern Masonry

a) Skyscrapers Chicago, USA (1890s) & Monadnock building, 1889: After the
disastrous fire of 1870, downtown Chicago was built anew, in many cases with
buildings of bearing-wall masonry. One of the most famous of these is the
Monadnock Building, 16 stories tall. Its bearing walls are 1 foot thick at the top
foor, and 6 feet thick at the base, increasing in thickness from the top to the
bottom of the building by about 4 inches every floor. The Monadnock Building is
still in use today.
b) Santigo, chile (1980) & Los Angeles, California (1975): This next slide shows
examples of masonry bearing wall buildings in zones of high seismic risk. The
photo on the left shows a four-story apartment complex, built in Santiago, Chile
using reinforced masonry codes from the US. The building was undamaged by the
1985 Chilean earthquake. Subsequent analysis showed that the building would
have remained essentially
un-cracked under ground shaking of about 0.15 g, and would have withstood
ground shaking of more than 0.40 g without collapse. The building on the right, a
17-story hotel near Los Angeles, California, was built in 1975, and remained in
operation during and after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.

Thats the first 10,000 years the next 10,000

are up to you. Characteristics of Brick:

Outer crust is harder and more dense than the inner material
Long life when properly maintained
Low maintenance when
properly laid
Found in wide range of colors and
May be cast in decorative
May be
Bricks made during the 18th and 19th centuries were soft and porous; they
absorbed 20-25% of their weight in water (by the end of the 19th century, 10%
or less was considered the accepted maximum).
Soft, underburned bricks may absorb as much as 35% of their weight in water;
the absorbency factor is important to know when comparing modern bricks with
historic ones

Characteristics of
Stone is extensively used in construction industry. Not every stone can give great results
because it depends upon various factors which assign different properties to stone. Main
Characteristics of a Good Building stone are following.

Appearance & color Uniform color, darker shades are preferred. Should be free from
clay holes, bands or spots.
Structure Not dull in appearance, crystalline homogenous, close and fine grained is
good. Stratification should
not be
Weight Heavier are compact, less porous and are good for hydraulic structures.
Strength Generally compressive strength is needed. Igneous rock stones are stronger.
Hardness Resistance to abrasion, friction and wear. Its measured on Mohs Hardness
Toughness Withstands impact, vibrations, moving and dead loads.
Dressing Uniform texture and softness for fine surface finish. Important for face work
of public buildings.
Porosity and Absorption Exposed surface absorbs rain water which forms acids
causing crumbling action. Less porous stones absorb less fuid hence are more durable.
Seasoning Hardening and weathering affect due to evaporation of quarry sap and
formation of crystalline film. 6 to 12 months for proper seasoning is essential to
make the stone worth using in construction applications.
Weathering Should withstand rains, frost, wind and all other extremities in weather.
Resistance to fire If free from calcium carbonate or oxides of iron, it will show
considerable resistance to fire.
Durability Compact stones are more durable.
Cost Should have minimum cost in quarrying, transportation, dressing and installation.
Characteristics of clay

Modern clay blocks are precision engineered walling units designed to be thermally and
acoustically efcient. During manufacture clay is prepared with sand, straw or recycled
materials, extruded, dried and fired. The addition of these other materials helps enhance
their unique properties as they are burned off during firing leaving behind innumerable
small holes and connecting pores. The air trapped within these pores helps retain heat
and reduce sound transmission. After firing the blocks are precision ground within +/-
0.5mm allowing for the construction of highly accurate and precise walls.

Although facing bricks or a modern wall cladding system are options, traditionally clay
blocks are best finished with lime render to allow the building to 'breathe'. Although on
first appearance the price of each unit can be a little higher than other construction
methods, when costs for materials and laying are taken into account clay blocks become
an attractive, cost effective and realistic alternative to traditional brick and block cavity
walls. In some cases using a clay block construction system can also help increase the
overall value of the project in question.

Available in wide variety of natural colors

and texture
High compressive
High thermal
excellent sound
Toxicity and
Durability and moisture
Less Environmental impact during their manufacture than most other
building materials
Clay block does not rust
or warp
Resistant to attack from
They require very little immediate or on-going

Characteristics of
concrete block:

Made from a mixture of Portland cement, blended cement, various types of

aggregates, and water.
Also referred to as concrete masonry
units (CMU).
Advantages: Inexpensive, lightweight, durable, easy to install, fireproof, low
maintenance, and could be ornamented.
Face plates were used to create a variety of surface finishes, including cobblestone,
brick, ashlar and rock face (the most common type); more decorative finishes
included designs of scrolls, wreaths and roping.
Typical size manufactured is nominally for a stretcher block 8 by 8 by 16 inches; this
was the standard size manufactured by 1930 (actual dimensions 8 by 7 3/4 by 15
3/4 inches).
They may be solid or hollow with two or three cores for such stretcher blocks;
various other types of standard shapes are also often available and one should
consult the local market to determine availability.
Block ends may be fat or
Compressive strength and fire resistance of the each block is dependent upon the
block's configuration.
Lightweight aggregates were introduced around 1917 and cinder
blocks were patented.
Advantages of using cinder blocks included its strength, ability to receive nails
and ease of installation.
Lightweight aggregates were either natural materials, by-products
or manufactured.
Natural aggregate materials
included pumice.
By-products aggregate materials included cinders and slag; Pottsco or Celocrete is
one example of slag product used around 1930 in the manufacture of blocks; Way
lite is another example introduced in the late
Manufactured aggregate materials included expanded shale, clay and slate;
Haydite is one example of an expanded shale product used in the early 1920s in
the manufacture of blocks.

Characteristics of Stabilized
mud block:

Soil mixed with cement could be compacted at optimum moisture in to a high density
block using a machine. Such a block can be termed as Stabilized Mud Block (SMB). The
soil used for making mud blocks should have low clay content (10 to 15%) and high sand
and silt content (60 to 70%). The cement content in the stabilized soil will be at least 5%
by weight.

The stabilized mud blocks are

characterized by

1. Moderate compressive strength

(5.5 N/mm2),
2. Low thermal
3. High water
4. High fire resistance and good sound
5. SBMs are extensively used in low cost building
6. Fly ash, iron-ore tailing, and red mud (from aluminium plants) can be used for
SMB production thereby eliminating environmental problems associates with disposal
of such waste products.

Masonry Units strength, modulus of elasticity and

water absorption: Introduction to masonry units:

Masonry typically is laid of prefabricated units of different materials, shapes and sizes.
The common types of units usually rectangular in shape and can be broadly classified as
clay bricks, clay tiles, concrete blocks, light weight cellular concrete blocks, sand-lime
bricks and natural building stones.
Masonry Units of shapes other than rectangular, particularly bricks are also available.
Both clay and concrete
masonry units (CMU) are available in several colors, textures and aesthetics appeal as
desired by engineers and architects.
Masonry construction typically involves placement of masonry units one by one which is
like any other type of construction such as steel, concrete and wood a time consuming
process and weather dependent. To reduce the construction time, the concept of
prefabricated masonry was developed and is becoming increasingly popular.

Masonry units, as noted below, can be classified in a variety of ways as

shown in the table below:
unfired clay masonry units adobe
fired clay masonry units roofing tile
drain tile
brick wall
glazed facing tile (terra cotta, ceramic veneer)
structural clay
products structural
d floor
brick (solid, frogged, cored, hollow)
facing and building
brick glazed brick
floor and paving
brick industrial
concrete masonry units concrete block (solid, hollow)
other masonry units glass
stone (artificial shape)
rock (natural shape)

Strength of
masonry unit:

Different types of masonry units such as mud blocks, stones, burnt clay bricks, concrete
blocks (solid or hollow), fy ash, gypsum blocks can be used for masonry construction and
strength of each unit varies depending on their composition and process of manufacture.
Generally, bricks and concrete blocks are widely used for masonry wall construction and
they have high compressive strength. Using good mortar in masonry wall construction
also increases compressive strength.

strength test:

The method of testing of solid and perforated bricks for compressive strength as per IS:
3495 (part-1)-1976 is briefy explained as follows:

1) Solid bricks:
The brick specimen are immersed in water for 24hours.
Then they are removed from water and the frogs are filled and fushed with
the face of brick with
1:1 cement sand mortar.
The sample are cured for 4 days (one day under damp jute bags and three
days in a clean water).
Then the specimen is placed in a compression testing machine with fat
faces horizontal and mortar filled face upwards.
The load is applied at the rate of 14 N/mm2 min till the brick specimen fails.
The maximum load which the specimen fails is divided by the average bed
area of the bed faces of the brick to get the compressive strength.

2) Perforated bricks:
The samples are immersed in water at room temperature for 24 hours.
The perforated faces of the specimen are kept horizontal in the compression
testing machine.
Load is applied axially at the same rate till the specimen fails and the
maximum load at failure is noted.
The maximum load at which the specimen fails is divided by the average net
area of the two faces under compression to get the compressive strength.
Flexural strength test:

The brick specimen is immersed in water at room temperature for 24 hrs.

The test specimen is placed centrally on self-aligning bearers A, B and C of the
testing machine as shown in fig below.
The load is applied at a uniform rate not greater than 300 N/mm through bearer C,
The individual breaking load is recorded and the flexural strength is calculated by
the formula.

F = 3PL/2B 2
P = load in Newtons
F = fexural strength of the brick in N/mm2
L = span in mm
B = width of brick in mm
D = depth of brick in mm

Water absorption test:

There are two types of water absorption test specified by IS: 3495 (part-II)-1976 for brick
which are briefy stated below:

1) 24 hour immersion cold

water test:
Over dry brick specimen is weighed and then immersed in cold water for 24
It is weighed again.
The difference in weight indicates the amount of water absorbed by the brick
and from which the percentage of water absorption is determined.
2) 5 hour boiling water test:
After taking the over dry weight of the brick specimens, these are immersed
in water.
The water is boiled for about six hours and then allowed to cool down to room
The weight of the brick is again taken.
The percentage of water absorption is found out by using these two weights.

Modulus of elasticity:

Bricks in India have a wide range of elastic moduli depending on the location.
Bricks in South India have moduli ranging from 300 MPa to 1000 MPa.
In the gangetic belt the moduli of bricks varies from 3000 MPa to 16,000 MPa.
Accordingly, the masonry using such bricks can also be expected to have similar
range of values.
Typical moduli values for Hollow concrete blocks for various mixes varies from 6300
MPa to 17,000 MPa.
It was found that adequate amounts of fine fractions leads to denser mixes and
corresponding higher moduli.
Use of fine additives like fy ash also increased the modulus.
The Elastic moduli of brick masonry in India were studied and two
situations were considered:
Compressive stresses normal to bed joints and compressive stresses
parallel to bed joints.
Table 1 below shows typical moduli of brick masonry for different mortars.

Table 1: Elastic modulus of Brick


Table 1 shows that the masonry modulus when the loading is normal to bed joints
is often close to the brick modulus. However, in the case of loading parallel to bed
joints a higher modulus is seen. This is due to the fact that 1:6 CM has a much
higher modulus and the bed joints and bricks behave like springs in parallel.
These studies show that brick masonry will have widely differing moduli in different
parts of India.
Bricks from the gangetic belt, with a modulus of more than 3000 MPa can be
expected to give rise to masonry of modulus around 2500 MPa,
Where as in South India brick masonry will have modulus between 300 to 1000
The masonry modulus will be an important input in computing the natural
frequencies of masonry buildings in different regions of India.
Strength and elasticity of bricks in India is as shown in table 2.

Table 2: Strength and elasticity of bricks in India

Masonry materials classification and properties of mortars, selection of mortars

Introduction to masonry and its materials:

Masonry is the building of structures from individual units laid in and bound
together by mortar; the term masonry can also refer to the units themselves.

The common materials of masonry construction are brick, stone, marble, granite,
travertine, limestone, cast stone, concrete block, glass block, stucco, 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 in which the units are
assembled can significantly affect the durability of the overall masonry construction.

Masonry units:

Choice of masonry units is generally made from the

consideration of: (a) Local availability,
(b) Compressive
strength, (c)
(d) Cost,
(e) Ease of
Brick has the advantage over stone that it lends itself to easy construction and requires
less labor for laying. Stone masonry, because of practical limitations of dressing to shape
and size, usually has to be thicker and results in unnecessary extra cost. Thus, the first
choice for a building at any place, would be brick, if it is available at reasonable cost.

Mortars are intimate mixtures of some cementing materials such as cement, lime and
fine aggregate (such as sand, burnt clay/surkhi, cinder, etc). When only fat lime is used,
which sets very slowly through the process of carbonation, it becomes necessary, for the
sake of better strength, to use some pazzolanic material, such as burnt clay/surkhi or
cinder. Plasticizers are used in plain cement-sand mortars to improve workability.

Bond between mortar and masonry units depends on suction rate of masonry units.
Masonry units, which have been previously used in masonry would not possess adequate
suction rate and may not develop normal bond and compressive strengths when reused.
It is therefore not advisable to reuse such units in locations where stress in masonry is

Requirements of good
Requirements of a good mortar for masonry are strength, workability, water
retentivity and low drying shrinkage.
A strong mortar will have adequate crushing strength as well as adequate tensile
and shear strength.
It is necessary that mortar should attain initial set early enough to enable work to
proceed at a reasonable pace. At the same time it should gain strength within
reasonable period so that masonry is in a position to take load early.
A workable mortar will hang from the trowel and will spread easily.
A mortar with good water retentivity will not readily lose water and stiffen on
coming in contact with masonry units, and will remain plastic long enough to be
easily adjusted in line and level. This property of good water retentivity will enable
the mortar to develop good bond with masonry units and fill the voids, so that
masonry has adequate resistance against rain penetration.

Main Characteristics and constituent materials of different types of mortar are as shown
in table below:
Sl. Mortar type Constituent material Characteristics
1 Lime mortar Lime and sand Good workability, slow
setting, low modulus,
better water
2 Cement mortar Cement and sand retentivity.
Poor workability, high
3 Composite mortar Cement, lime and sand Good workability, better
water retentivity
4 LP mortar LP cement and sand Good workability, better
water retentivity,
slow setting, low
5 Cement-soil mortar Cement, soil and sand modulus
Good workability, better
water retentivity, slow
6 Cement-pozzolana mortar Cement, pozzolana and setting
Good workability, better
sand water retentivity

Properties of
Apart from development of stiffness and strength for the fresh and set mortar, properties
like workability, water retentivity, development of bond with the masonry unit, etc. are
also important for proper masonry behavior. Details of some of these properties are
discussed in this section.

1) Strength of mortar:
Mortar compressive strength is weakly related to the masonry strength.
Increase in mortar strength does not significantly increase the masonry
compressive strength. For example generally 8 to 10 fold increase in cube
compressive strength of mortar could result in only 5 to 75% increase in
compressive strength of masonry.
It is general practice to select weak mortar and strong brick or block
combination for the masonry construction.
Typical cube compressive strength values of commonly used mortars are given
in table below.

For a given fow value of 100%, compressive strength of 1:6 cement mortar, 1:1:6
cement-Iime mortar and
1:2:6 cement soil mortar is in the same range of about 5.5Mpa.
It should be noted here that addition of soil to conventional cement mortar (1:6) did
not alter the mortar compressive strength even though there is dilution of cement
content of the mix.
Pure lime mortars and LP mortars generally lead to very low mortar compressive
strength values as shown in
Table below
2) Workability:
Workability of the mortar should be such that it allows the mason to spread
the mortar easily and adheres well to the masonry units.
Apart from the composition of the mix, generally water-cement ratio affects the
Workability of the fresh mortar can be measured by the tests, viz. Dropping ball
test (BS 4551), Cone impression test (I.S. 2250) and Slump test (A.S. 1289).
o Dropping ball test and cone impression tests generally do not give
consistent results and
o Penetration (of the ball and cone) is affected when the water-cement
ratio is >1.1 especially in case of pure cement mortars.
Flow table test specified in BS 4551 can be easily adopted to measure/quantify
the workability of fresh mortar expressed as fow value.

Table: flow values for fresh mortars collected from various

construction sites

3) Water retentivity:
Fresh mortar is sandwiched between bricks/blocks during construction.
Moisture fow can take place from water rich mortar joint to the brick.
The amount of water sucked by the masonry unit like brick from the mortar
depends upon the porosity and moisture content of the brick at the time of
construction and the ability of the mortar to retain water against brick suction.
Thus water retentivity can be defined as the ability of the mortar to retain water
against the suction of the brick or block.
Mortar-has cementitious materials, thus initially it requires certain amount of
water for the hydration
Process and development or strength. If the water loss from the mortar is large,
this leads to low water-
cement ratio and improper hydration of the fresh mortar, there by affecting the
mortar characteristics and the bond development.
Water retentivity of the mortar depends upon various factors like the mix
proportion, water cement ratio,
type of cementitious binder, etc.

Typical flow pattern for cement
soil mortar
Influence of water cement ratio on flow
of mortar

4) Development of Bond (adhesion) with the brick or block:

There should be good bond between the mortar and the brick or block for the
masonry to perform satisfactorily.
Bond strength becomes significantly important when the masonry has to
resist tensile and shear stresses.
Large number of parameters pertaining to bricks/ blocks, mortars and
construction practices infuence the masonry bond strength.
Surface characteristics of masonry unit (pore size distribution, porosity, etc.),
moisture content of the unit at the time of laying, absorption characteristics of
the unit, mortar composition are some of the important characteristics
infuencing brick-mortar bond.
Brick mortar bond strength can be measured by testing masonry in either
direct tension or fexural tension.
Brick-mortar interfacial bond strength can also be measured by conducting a
shear bond test.
Leaner cement mortars lead to low bond strength values.
Flexural bond strength increases with increase in strength of cement mortar
(increase in cement content) for both burnt brick and soil-cement block
Cement soil mortars give superior bond strength when compared to 1:6 cement
Bond strength for 1:4 cement mortar and 1:1:6 cement-soil mortars are
comparable even though there is a large difference in the cement contents of
these mortars.
It is clear that cement soil mortar instead of cement mortar can be
recommended for masonry construction.

Table: fexural bond strength of masonry using different types of mortar

5) Drying shrinkage of mortars:

Shrinkage that takes place during hardening of the mortar can be called as
drying shrinkage.
A part of drying shrinkage is recovered on immersion of mortar in water.
With time the rate of drying, drying shrinkage decreases.
The drying shrinkage of mortar could depend on various factors like water
cement ratio, cement content, type of cement / grading, clay content of soil,
curing period etc.
Drying shrinkage of mortar can cause shrinkage cracks within as well as at the
unit-mortar interface and it can also result in impaired bond between masonry
unit and mortar.

6) Stress-strain characteristics and modulus of mortars:

The nature of stresses developed in a masonry assemblage especially the
lateral stresses developed in the mortar and the masonry unit greatly depend
upon the relative modulus of the mortar and the or block. Thus the behavior of
the masonry is infuenced by the stress-strain characteristics of the masonry
The stress strain relationships for various mortars are shown in Fig. below.
Initial tangent modulus and the strain values at the peak stress for these
mortars are given in Table below.
Table: modulus and strain values for various mortars Fig: stress-strain curves for
various mortars

Selection of mortars:
Selection of mortar for masonry construction depends upon several factors- Some of
these factors are discussed below

1) Type of masonry and the strength of individual masonry unit:

Type of masonry means whether it is brickwork, stone masonry, concrete block
work, etc.,
It is preferable to have a lower modulus mortar - higher modulus masonry
unit combination for satisfactory performance of masonry.
Lower modulus mortars will be able to accommodate movement due to
settlement, temperature and moisture changes.
Stone has very high modulus and will absorb very little water from the fresh
mortar bed, and hence for stone masonry used for superstructure slightly richer
mortars are preferable to develop good bond strength.

2) Use of masonry:
Masonry is used for variety of applications like foundation, superstructure
(walls), roofing panels, retaining structures, shell structures like domes, vaults
Generally for applications like foundations it is preferable to use leaner and lower
modulus mortars which can accommodate movements due to settlements etc.
Super structure is subjected to both gravity loads and lateral loads due to wind etc.
Some walls may have to be designed to resist tensile stresses.
Similarly roof panels and masonry shells are subjected to tensile stresses. In such
cases the mortar has to be carefully selected to give maximum tensile resistance
for the masonry.
3) Load carrying capacity of the masonry:
Based on the masonry strength required to resist gravity loads masonry unit
strength and mortar strength combination gives the basic compressive stress
required. For example I.S. 1905 code gives a table to choose basic compressive
strength of masonry based on a combination of mortar strength and brick strength.

4) Moisture penetration, frost resistance, etc.

Impervious mortar is essential to keep away the rain water entry into inside of
the buildings, prevent leakage of water retaining masonry structures etc.
Composite mortars generally are more impervious than the pure cement mortars.
Mortars with masonry cement and use of plasticizer additives have better resistant
to frost attack during construction.