For a lot of homeowners, searching for local masonry contractors near you is a stressful task. It may seem simple at first, but most homeowners don’t have the knowledge and experience needed to find the one that they’re looking for. A lot of them aren’t even aware of the many benefits of masonry!
This is why we’ve put this article together. Think of it as your go-to guide. It has everything that you need to know everything there is to know about masonry. More importantly, it’s packed with information and tips that can help you hire the right contractor for the job.
First, we’ll discuss what masonry exactly is. This information is important so you’ll have a better understanding and appreciation of the task on hand.
You’d also encounter bricks as a material. Is it a good material for your project? What are its advantages? You’ll know the cost, different types and comparison between real versus veneer.
This article will also talk about manufacturing and laying bricks. This is not meant to teach you how to do it yourself, although an experienced DIYer with the right tools, equipment and materials can do it. The information will just help you better appreciate what the professional has to do.
For best results, it’s better to just hire a masonry contractor, sometimes referred to as a block layer or brick masonry contractor. You probably agree and this is why you’re looking for one near you. You’re in luck because we’re also including a free tool that you can use to get quotes from competing contractors. By using this tool, you can grab the best deal from the best contractor nearest you.
What is Masonry?
It’s the act of working on single units using mortar to put a structure together. Alternatively, it can also refer to the units themselves, with brick being the most popular. Other masonry units include stone, granite, limestone, marble, concrete block, adobe and more.
Generally speaking, masonry is accepted in the construction industry as a durable way to build structures. However, it’s one of those methods that can only be as good as the contractor. This is why it’s very important that you do your due diligence.
It’s also highly-dependent on the material used, and we’re recommending the use of bricks. Of course, this is provided that the contractor (in this case they’re called masons or bricklayers) uses high-quality bricks.
It’s the preferred choice for buildings so that alone should tell you why it’s good. It’s also commonly used to put up walls and has many advantages over installing drywall.
By using masonry, you’re increasing the building’s thermal mass. This is the building’s ability to absorb heat energy and store it. This is why it’s also very popular in homes because having a high thermal mass can help improve the comfort level of the home because it safeguards the home and its occupants against the temperature that fluctuates all throughout the day.
Another benefit is the material is not combustible. This will help make the structure fire-resistant. It can also resist damages from elements including debris thrown against it by strong winds.
It’s not perfect just like any other material. It can withstand heavy vertical loads but can’t twist or stretch because of its low tensile strength. It can also degrade through the years of exposure to harsh weather changes. A lot of manpower is also needed for construction.
It’s still popular even with these disadvantages. This is because of the advantages that it offers especially if brick will be used.
Advantages of Brick
At the end of the day, it offers amazing returns on your investment no matter how significant the investment can be. If you’re not convinced, check out these advantages:
- It’s an energy-efficient material.
Energy-efficiency used to be just a buzzword but is now more of an expectation in homes and buildings. You’d want your structure to be energy-efficient for comfort and savings. It can help keep your home warm during the winter and cold during the summer. This can obviously make you more comfortable and as a bonus, lead to energy savings.
- It doesn’t require a lot of maintenance.
Most homeowners don’t like doing regular maintenance on their home. This is why homes go years without regular maintenance. If you use brick, you don’t have to worry about maintenance too much. You don’t need to seal or paint it. It’s tough and durable on its own and it has qualities that help protect it even against the harshest weather elements.
It’s basically an investment that will last a lifetime. This is why you shouldn’t concern yourself too much that it’s more expensive than the others, although options like EverLast siding also offers very durable exterior protection. It will pay for itself several times over.
- It’s beautiful.
It’s naturally beautiful. This is why it’s been in use since time immemorial. You don’t even have to do anything to it. You can bank on its natural beauty and elegance and expect to have a beautiful structure. It’s available in different colors and hues so it can fit with any environment perfectly.
Modern construction has made it possible to make it more beautiful.
- It’s sustainable.
Just like energy-efficiency, sustainability is also expected nowadays. We’re expected to make choices based on sustainability. Brick is made from materials that are abundant. It’s 100% natural. It also lasts a long time so whatever energy is used to produce it will be put to good use. It’s highly-durable and can even be re-used.
- It makes your home safer.
We all want a safer home. This also applies to any structure. It doesn’t contain any contaminants. It can resist pests. It can even resist fire.
- It’s good against humidity.
It’s amazing at absorbing humidity. This helps balance the humidity and the air. This can also lessen mildew risks.
- It absorbs noise.
Brick walls are thick. This material is also naturally heavy. This mass helps it absorb noise.
- It’s an affordable option.
There’s a common misconception that it’s expensive. While it’s more expensive than some options, it’s actually very affordable. Here are some reasons why it’s affordable:
- They come in a uniform size and shape.
An experienced masonry contractor will not charge a lot for labor cost because of this. It’s very easy for them to construct with bricks because of their uniformity. Make sure to research whether your state requires having the work done by a licensed contractor.
Their uniformity also helps with handling. Add that to the fact that they’re lightweight and a lower rate will be given because of easy handling. In addition, the light weight leads to a lower transportation cost.
- They’re readily available.
Something like stone has to be sourced from specific areas which can drive up the cost. On the other hand, bricks are readily available in most places. There’s no need to ship them from quarries in another state. This will lead to a lower transportation cost.
Real Brick vs Brick Veneer
A lot of homeowners have been settling for brick veneer when installing siding. Also known as fake brick, that should give you an idea as to why it’s not the better choice as compared to real brick. Just like in most things in life, there’s nothing better than the real thing.
Here are the things that should convince you that real wins over fake when it comes to bricks:
- It will last longer.
The manufacturing process is no joke. The mixture will be fired up in a kiln with a temperature that can reach up to 2,000 degrees. This can lead to a highly-durable product that will last longer.
On the other hand, veneer is manufactured using materials based in cement. They’re casted and colored to make them look like the real thing. They’re usually composed of lightweight components and are significantly thinner. These all lead to a product that’s not as durable as the real thing.
- It has safety features.
The real thing is made of up of clay and clay doesn’t combust. This is why it’s highly recommended by the National Institute of Standards and Technology if you’re looking for a masonry that can help with fire resistance. Together with the Brick Industry Association, fire tests have been conducted to showcase the brick’s resistance to fire – something that veneer doesn’t have.
- It’s more sustainable.
Since it’s more durable, it can last for a very long time. This makes it sustainable because you don’t have to replace them every decade or so. It can last for more than a century, making whatever carbon footprint of its manufacturing process worth it.
It’s also energy-efficient which can help you manage energy in your home. It won’t feel as warm on a hot summer day. It can also retain heat when needed which can help you on cold winter nights. This means less dependence on your HVAC system.
- It doesn’t have demanding maintenance requirements.
Real brick can stand up to harsh weather elements, including sunlight, quite well. This is why fading is usually not a problem. The color of the real thing is from the clay itself, rather than an artificial source like in the veneer. This is why regular maintenance is necessary to slow down the fading process of veneer.
In addition, moisture can be a problem with veneer. This is when it builds up underneath the panels of the veneer. This will lead to mold and mildew problems. This is especially true if you didn’t hire a good contractor for the project.
- It’s easier to install.
While generally an amazing choice of material, brick can only be as good as the installer. Choose a bad installer and it’s not going to do a good job. You also have to consider the complexity of the installation. The more complex the installation is, the more possibility of problems in the installation. Yes, even if you hired a good contractor.
Installation of real bricks is pretty straightforward. On the other hand, installation of fake bricks can be a complicated process. Even experienced contractors can make mistakes because of how complicated it can be.
Why does this matter? Simplicity of installation leads to lower cost. Contractors will charge lower because it’s a straightforward job. You also don’t have to pay to correct expensive mistakes that can be made with a complicated job such as installation of brick veneers.
- It offers good value for money.
At the end of the day, the better choice is the one that offers better value for money. The benefits listed above obviously make the cost worth it. You also get savings.
Cost of Installing Brick
It may look expensive if you’re not familiar with it. After all, it’s a classic that’s used on some of the most timeless homes and structures in the world.
It’s true that it’s more expensive than some materials. This is especially true if you’re only going to consider the initial cost. But look beyond the initial cost and consider the benefits that it will give you for the next hundred years and the initial cost suddenly becomes insignificant.
But still it’s a good idea to know how much it will cost. Just to give you an idea, it can cost you anywhere from $2 to $3.50 per square foot to install bricks. If you’re buying them separately, expect to pay around $550 for a thousand of them. Of course, you can get something cheaper. Consider yourself lucky if you find a thousand bricks for around $350, and don’t be surprised if they cost over $800 where you live.
You also have to consider labor cost. Expect to pay around $30 per hour for the installation. On average, a 1,500 square foot house will take up to 150 hours, so expect to pay $4,500 for the installation.
What if this is for a replacement job? That’s going to add to the cost because of the removal of the old siding since you can’t install brick over another type of siding. This can add around $2,000 to the cost.
There are also other important considerations that can add to the cost. For example, your house may need to have additional supports. You also have to consider the availability of bricks in your local area although as previously mentioned, availability is rarely a problem.
Please note that these are just estimates. The best way to know a more specific cost is to get in touch with masonry contractors near me and ask them to send you their best quotes. Later on, we’ll discuss a free service that can help you do just that.
Types of Brick
There are two general types:
The common type is actually low in quality. They’re best reserved for interior walls.
This is the strong type. It has high density and compressive strength. It has good load bearing numbers. It’s so strong that it can be used for engineering works.
It can also be classified in several ways. Here are the types based on quality:
- First class
This is the best type if you’re looking to experience its benefits. It’s the type that can last a hundred years. You can order them by the thousands and expect uniformity. It’s so high in quality that it’s the preferred type for buildings that are expected to last a hundred years and buildings that will be exposed to harsh weather elements.
What makes it first class is the absence of efflorescence. This is the white and salt-like material that sometimes shows up on the surface, totally ruining the appearance of bricks.
It also has an absorption rate of below 10%. The crushing strength is at an impressive mean of 280kg/cm2.
- Second class
At first glance, they may look first class. Even the second class ones are uniform and standard in size and color. It is burnt well, although some may be a bit over burnt.
The main differences start with the absorption rate since second class bricks have a higher absorption rate that maxes at 15%. It also has a lower crushing strength at a mean of 175kg/cm2.
It also has a bit of efflorescence although it’s negligible.
- Third class
It’s not recommended to use third class bricks. The irregularities in shapes and sizes are a pain to manage and could lead to a higher labor cost. Efflorescence is also noticeable. The absorption rate can go as high as 20%. Its crushing rate is just at a mean of 140kg/cm2.
You can also classify them by how they’re manufactured:
This type is characterized by 3 or 4 holes. A mixture of water and clay is forced into a die made of steel. You’d get columns that are then cut using wires before getting fired. This is the type for you if you’re working on a limited budget.
- Dry pressed
This is the most common manufacturing process. Clay is compressed into molds. It’s characterized by a deep indentation in one bedding surface and a shallow one in the other.
This type is molded by hand. You can get the 50 to 65 mm ones instantly, while you can pre-order other varieties and they should be ready in up to 2 months.
They can also be classified based on how they’re built.
All classes listed above fall in this category. Basically, you burn the clay in the kiln.
- Over burnt
This type is preferred if a higher absorption rate is needed. Also known as Jhama bricks, it’s also sometimes described as vitrified because it’s fired at a higher temperature. Just as the name implies, it is over burnt by firing it longer than the usual.
This is a bit of a misnomer. It’s not really unburnt. It’s actually half burnt. This explains its color which is yellow. It’s also very weak and is not supposed to be exposed to the elements.
Of course, it can also be classified according to the raw materials used:
- Burnt clay
This is the most common type. Clay is pressed into molds and fired in kilns.
- Fly ash clay
Fly ash is mixed with clay. The mixture is then molded using a temperature of 1,000 degree Celsius.
This type is needed for areas where the temperature is expected to be very high like chimneys and furnaces.
- Sand lime
Sand and lime are mixed with fly ash. Using pressure, the mixture is then molded together. It’s becoming a popular choice nowadays because of its gray color that’s not typical of the more common bricks.
This is not a recommended type because it’s considered to be low in quality.
If you live in an area that experiences harsh weather conditions, make sure to ask for the available weather-resistance types:
- Severe weather
You don’t have to worry about the freeze and thaw cycles. This is the logical choice if it snows in your area most of the year.
- Moderate weather
This is the logical choice for tropical countries. This type can handle high temperatures.
- No weather
This is just for interior walls.
They can also be classified according to how they’re shaped:
- Cow nose
- Curved sector
- Purpose made
Manufacturing and Laying Them
Gone are the days when you can expect bricks to come in different shapes and sizes. Nowadays, they usually come in a standard size of 8 by 4 by 2.
They do, however, come in different colors. While usually red, they can also be yellowish or purplish in color. They can also be smooth, rough, or somewhere in between. These variations are because of the natural variations of the clay’s minerals. They’re also caused by the different manufacturing processes.
Generally speaking, they’re manufactured by mixing clay with water until you get a mixture with the right mud-type consistency. This is then placed into molds before being fired in a kiln, although the old way of doing it is to harden it using the heat of the sun. This manufacturing process is still practiced today with Adobe bricks, although sand, straw and/or manure are also added.
Improvements were made in the 50s with the introduction of compressed earth blocks or CEBs. They’re more uniform in shape and size and are more compact therefore more durable. This was also when machineries came into the picture as manufacturers started using machines.
CEBs are also an improvement from an efficiency standpoint. Manufacturers use less energy to manufacture them. This makes it a popular choice around the world as a sustainable technology in their respective construction industry.
Nowadays, technology plays a big part in the manufacturing process. The process has become highly-dependent on machinery. The process is even automated. Here’s the modern manufacturing process:
- Clay is thrusted out to form a long column.
- The column is cut to form.
- A hydraulic press machine is used to improve its weather-resistance.
- The bricks are then fired and dried at around 1,000 to 1,200 degrees Celsius.
The changes in the manufacturing process are still coming. New materials are now being used including recycled glass. They’re being used to improve the process since they can help with energy-efficiency because firing times are decreased with their emission. Speaking of emission, toxic emissions are also reduced significantly.
The product itself is improved with the addition of these materials. You get something that’s stronger and more durable.
Laying them is pretty straightforward. Bricklayers basically lay them flat across rows. Such a row is called a course. They’re either laid with the sides or ends exposed. They’re called the stretcher and header respectively.
This process creates an overlap that’s referred to as a bond. The bond is the recognizable by the fact that the vertical joints do not line up. This is by design because this helps make the structure stronger.
They’re bonded using mortar that’s made of sand, water and a binding agent. The binding agent is either lime or cement which is more common nowadays. The mortar is smeared to the brick and placed on top of a brick that’s already in place.
The process usually starts with the masonry contractor applying mortar across the foundation. The ends of the structure are constructed first. A string is put in place from one end to another and this will serve as a guide.
Two layers are laid for additional strength to the structure. They shouldn’t be touching each other. There should be a gap for improved insulation.
Getting Quotes from Competing Contractors For Residential & Commercial Projects
As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the only way for you to know the cost for sure is to get in touch with the best commercial and residential masonry contractors near you and ask them to send you an itemized quote. It can be a time-consuming process and this is why we’ve developed a service that can help make this process faster, easier and generally better.
All you need to do is to use the form that you see on this site. Fill it up with the required details and send it. Just make sure that you put complete and accurate details for the best results.
Once you’ve sent the form, all you need to do is to wait for these contractors to send you their best itemized quote. By then you just have to compare them so you can choose the best deal. You can expect to get great deals since they know that they’re competing with one another so they’ll send their best deal so they’ll be considered.
This is a free service so try it today!