Masonry walls are made by stacking individual masonry units, such as bricks, stones, or concrete blocks, and binding them together with mortar. Masonry walls can be load-bearing, meaning they support the weight of the structure above them, or non-load-bearing, meaning they provide support and separation but do not bear the weight of the structure. Masonry walls are a versatile building material that can be used for a variety of purposes, including exterior walls, interior walls, and retaining walls.
The first masonry walls were built by ancient civilizations, such as the Egyptians and the Romans. These early walls were made of stone and were often very large and impressive. In the Middle Ages, masonry walls became more common in Europe. They were used to build castles, churches, and other fortifications. In the 19th century, masonry walls began to be replaced by other materials, such as wood and concrete. However, masonry walls are still used today for some applications, such as building fireplaces and retaining walls.
A 'wythe' in masonry refers to a continuous vertical section of masonry that is one unit in thickness. For example, in a brick wall, a wythe would be a single layer of bricks. Multiple wythes can be laid parallel to each other to construct a thicker, more stable masonry wall. The wythes may be either bonded together or separated by a cavity for additional insulation and moisture protection.
Failure in masonry walls can be caused by several factors including excessive loads, leading to cracking or collapse. Foundation settlement or movement can induce stresses. Moisture penetration can cause deterioration or frost damage. Lack of or improper reinforcement and poor mortar quality can weaken the wall. Additionally, inadequate design, substandard construction practices, or use of low-quality materials may contribute to failure. Earthquakes can also cause failure if the masonry is not properly designed for seismic loads.
Masonry walls are less common today because lighter, quicker, and more cost-effective construction materials like steel, wood, and concrete blocks are available. Additionally, masonry walls have limited flexibility and are not as resistant to seismic activities. The labor cost for masonry is also comparatively high, and modern construction often favors materials that offer better energy efficiency and insulation than traditional masonry.