Stone masonry is a form of construction using natural stone and mortar to make load-bearing and non-bearing walls. Benefitting from the inherent durability and weather-resistant properties of natural stone, stone masonry is one of the oldest trades in human history that has been used for buildings, structures, monuments, cities, and sculptures around the world. Because of the differences between various irregular natural stone types, shapes, and sizes, multiple methods of stone masonry construction have been developed in order to respond to unique project demands and locations.
Stone masonry types are distinguished by how tooled and shaped the stones are, and whether the stones are laid in consistent mortared horizontal courses or organized in random or uncoursed ways. While traditional stone masonry walls were typically bearing walls, today stone is more commonly used as a non-structural facing veneer that is tied back to a structural concrete or masonry wall.
Stone masonry began with early humans shaping rocks to create tools and shelters. Ancient civilizations, like the Egyptians with their pyramids and Greeks with their temples, showcased stone's durability and grandeur. The Middle Ages saw majestic stone cathedrals rising skyward. Techniques like "ashlar", where stones were finely cut, and "rubble", using rough stones, emerged. Over time, masons passed down skills, blending artistry and engineering, turning raw stone into lasting monuments and structures.
Stone masonry's future combines age-old craftsmanship with modern technology. Laser-cut precision allows for intricate designs, while 3D printing with stone materials opens new creative avenues. Bio-limestone, grown from bacteria, introduces an eco-friendly dimension. Architectural wonders, like the Lumen Pavilion with its stone woven lattice, showcase what's possible. As sustainable building grows in importance, stone's natural insulation properties are increasingly valued. With technology's aid, stone masonry is evolving, making structures both green and breathtaking.
The thickness of stone walls varies based on the type of stone, the intended purpose of the wall, and the design requirements. Generally, stone walls range from 12 inches (30cm) to 24 inches (60cm) in thickness. Load-bearing walls, like retaining walls or boundary walls, are typically thicker, while decorative or non-load bearing walls can be thinner. Factors such as environmental conditions, structural loads, and seismic activity also impact the thickness of stone walls.
The most common type of stone used for stone masonry is granite. It is a hard, durable, and versatile stone with an attractive appearance, making it suitable for a variety of construction applications. Other types of stone used in masonry include limestone, sandstone, marble, and slate, which offer different colors and textures, but granite remains the most commonly used.
There are several disciplines within stonemasonry, including carving, shaping, and installation. Carving involves creating decorative or functional stone elements, such as sculptures or ornamental facades. Shaping involves cutting, grinding, and polishing stones for specific applications, like countertops or tiles. Installation involves fitting and securing stones in a structure, such as walls or floors, while adhering to structural and aesthetic requirements. Other stonemasonry disciplines include restoration, conservation, and repair, which focus on preserving and maintaining existing stonework in historic structures or monuments.