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Architectural Concrete Unit Masonry

by admin on July 27th, 2010

Architectural concrete unit masonry deserves special attention. Not only must it provide the stability and support of a normal concrete unit, but it also must also act as a design enhancement and a pleasant, eye-catching attraction. Architectural concrete unit masonry and concrete unit masonry have many similarities.

Architectural concrete unit masonry’s flagship unit is the architectural concrete block. This block is usually exposed to view, and thus, special emphasis is often put on its aesthetic and design qualities. It must provide the same qualities and strength that concrete block provides. Because the properties between architectural block and concrete block are essentially identical, aside from the design aspect of architectural block, many of the same types of blocks, such as insulated or sound-proofing can be utilized as architectural blocks.

Though it will vary slightly depending on the intended use, there are some core materials that are almost always used to form architectural concrete blocks. These include Portland cement, sand, water, and coarse aggregate. Other materials can be added to create desired effects, for example, color pigments for aesthetic properties. Glazed concrete blocks are a popular option for architectural concrete masonry. They are usually smooth and shiny in appearance, providing a pleasant effect. Also, as architectural concrete units are often in the public view and open to vandalism, these blocks are effective as they are highly water resistant and combat bacteria, chemicals, and graffiti well.

Even more so than concrete blocks, architectural concrete blocks are of concern in relation to the environment and outside forces, since they are often exposed. Concrete blocks themselves usually withstand outside forces well, but additional steps can be taken to enhance their abilities. These additional steps include adding flashings to protect from moisture penetration, and using types such as Glazed block which are usually somewhat resistant to bacteria and chemicals. As with nearly all masonry projects, special consideration should be taken with Hot and Cold conditions. Fire ratings for architectural concrete block can be calculated in a number of ways, including an online tool.

The most common size is 8″ x 8″ x 16″, similar in size to concrete unit masonry. An example of an enhancement is that of added cuts in sound or acoustic block, which act to absorb sound. Further details and designs for acoustic styles can be found on some manufacturer’s websites.

Project scopes and details with concrete block can vary from large projects such as structural units, to smaller tasks such as block retaining walls. Laying brick and laying concrete blocks is very similar, as the core ingredients are both a masonry unit and mortar. In some projects, however, like smaller retaining walls, railroad stakes or ties can be used to hold the unit together, in place of mortar.

With a wide range of applications, architectural concrete block can be used in a nearly limitless amount of ways. From arches, to fireplaces, to retaining walls, to exposed structural units, architectural concrete block is a popular option that adds design and style. Generally, any installation procedures that mention concrete blocks can also be applied to the installation of architectural concrete blocks. Overall, general instructions are available for an array of projects. Detailed installation instructions are available for projects like retaining walls and larger, structural walls.

Moisture penetration is always a concern with masonry. With architectural concrete blocks, however, it is a magnified concern as these units are exposed to the weather, and thus, moisture. Water proofing, or sealing, is recommended for these types of masonry units. Some blocks come with special repellents already applied to fight moisture. Other measures, however, can be taken, including adding flashings to prevent moisture from entering.