Learn all about the different types of concrete blocks as building materials for a wide range of construction applications.
Whether you’re planning to initiate a construction project, renovate your home, or prepare for an event, you’ll probably need concrete blocks at some point during the project. Concrete blocks are a form of construction material, also known as a masonry unit, composed of concrete, cement, sand, water, and other additives. These concrete masonry units are used in different types of construction situations.
There is a common misconception that concrete blocks find themselves most useful in controlling traffic in the form of large concrete barriers. While concrete walls function tremendously in that situation, concrete blocks perform well in numerous residential, public, and industrial applications as well.
As a highly adaptable and versatile material, concrete has been used by architects and engineers to construct sturdy, long-lasting buildings for ages. Concrete’s most significant properties include resistance to fire, a variety of aesthetic qualities and appeal, their high structural capacity, strength, longevity, resistance to water, and insulating and acoustical advantages. In many situations, concrete blocks serve as minimal-maintenance yet economical building materials, while meeting any specialized requirements a client may have.
Table of Contents
- Uses of Concrete Blocks
- Properties of Concrete Blocks
- Types of Concrete Blocks
- Concrete Bricks
- Solid Concrete Blocks
- Aerated Autoclaved Concrete Blocks
- Hollow Concrete Blocks
- Lintel Blocks
- Concrete Stretcher Blocks
- Jamb Concrete Blocks
- Concrete Pillar Blocks
- Concrete Corner Blocks
- Partition Concrete Blocks
- Bullnose Concrete Blocks
- Paving Blocks
- Expanded Clay Aggregate Solid Construction Blocks
Uses of Concrete Blocks
Concrete blocks have a wide range of uses. They are commonly used as partition blocks, and in retaining walls in both residential and commercial contexts. They also serve as security barriers, and are often lined up on roads to control the flow of foot traffic at any given event. Event management companies often use concrete blocks to organize special entrances and exits. Concrete blocks are an incredible source of vehicular traffic control, too. Large blocks can be lined up side by side to organize traffic. Lightweight blocks can be easily moved and repositioned for these purposes.
Concrete blocks are designed in a variety of ways, which makes them adaptable to different applications and contexts. Learning about the different types of concrete blocks and their uses is important so you can select the right one for your project. This will ensure longevity and stability of the structure you plan to build. But before we jump into the different types, let’s look into their properties.
Properties of Concrete Blocks
Concrete blocks are in demand due to their compressive strength that’s common in all the types of concrete masonry units. There are numerous methods in place to estimate the strength of the concrete, as well as other methods that ensure whether the manufactured concrete meets standard strength requirements. To produce a significantly stronger concrete block, solid grouting into the cells can be added. This involves inserting steel rods called rebar into openings in the blocks.
A drawback of a standard concrete block is that it absorbs water. Thus, to produce a more waterproof concrete block, a mixture of coarse and fine particle material should be used during manufacturing. What determines the degree of permeability of a concrete block is the amount of cement used in production. The higher the cement content in the mixture, the lesser the permeability of the concrete masonry unit.
In addition to this, applying various washes that are available or using waterproof compounds after placing the blocks also helps to keep the water out of any concrete block masonry structure, such as a concrete block foundation.
Besides this, the fire resistance of concrete blocks depends on the type of masonry unit used and its coverage area. To obtain in-depth information on the fire resistance properties of various types of concrete blocks, please peruse the document issued by the American Concrete Institute. It includes their fireproof values for different types of concrete blocks.
As far as aesthetic properties are concerned, manufacturers now offer blocks in a multitude of textures, colors, and finishes, as demanded by architects and engineers. The ever-evolving construction industry continues to demand new concrete block shapes and sizes to cater to innovative building designs.
When it comes to the insulating properties, concrete block masonry varies with the density of the blocks as well as by manufacturer. The insulating properties of the concrete blocks are recorded using thermal conductivity tests performed by the manufacturers. When manufacturers aim to produce concrete blocks with high heat-insulating properties, they reduce the concrete block density by volume and generate lightweight blocks. Further, the insulating properties of a concrete block wall can also be increased through solid grouting of the cells.
The acoustic properties of concrete blocks are determined by multiple aspects of these masonry units. The characteristics of the material used during the manufacturing of these concrete masonry units are an important factor in this regard. In addition, the junctions and connections between the blocks and construction type also play a crucial role. To obtain maximum acoustic control, the best approach is to follow the guidelines issued by the ACI on concrete block installation.
Types of Concrete Blocks
Concrete bricks are systematically piled blocks that are rectangular in shape and primarily used to build rigid walls. Normally made of concrete or cooked clay, this brick masonry is ideal for building fences, giving them a slick and aesthetic look. While some manufacturers use cement and lightweight aggregate or aggregates to make these blocks, others stick to solid concrete. Based on the requirements of different clients, other materials may also be used to tint the concrete into different shades and colors.
Solid Concrete Blocks
Solid concrete blocks are among the most commonly used concrete blocks. These blocks are much bigger and denser than concrete bricks are. Solid concrete blocks are designed to be heavy and strong, and are produced using naturally dense aggregates. Due to their strength, these solid blocks are mostly used for building load bearing walls and other structures. Although similar to concrete bricks, it’s the weight and cost of a solid block that distinguishes it from its concrete brick counterpart. Also, the larger size of a solid block means that it can allow for quicker construction of a structure compared to structures made using concrete brick walls.
Source: Quality Engineers guide
Aerated Autoclaved Concrete Blocks
Often confused with concrete bricks, aerated autoclaved concrete blocks are composed of the same aggregates as bricks, but the composition or mixture varies. This results in a larger yet lighter version of a concrete brick. Their size can enable a significant reduction in cost of building materials. Plus, research suggests that the high durability of these concrete brick types has led to a reduction in the overall consumption of steel by 15% and concrete by 10%. Aerated autoclaved blocks overshadow bricks not only in terms of cost, but also in terms of construction time, fire resistance, and surface adaptability. However, this concrete block type is more expensive than traditional concrete and wood-frame construction materials are. Plus, the strength of aerated autoclaved block is one-sixth to one-third that of the strength of a traditional standard concrete block.
Aerated autoclaved concrete blocks can be drilled and cut using traditional woodworking tools, such as simple power drills and band saws, making them highly workable units. However, their low density and lightweight nature mean that their compressive strength, bulk density, moisture content, and shrinkage must be assessed prior to use to ensure that these factors are adequate for the job at hand.
Aerated autoclaved concrete blocks come in lengths of 24, 32, and 48 inches. Their thickness varies from four to 16 inches, whereas their height is typically eight inches. As these concrete blocks are much more versatile than their standard concrete block counterparts, they are used in the construction of walls, roofs, and floors. Besides being strong and fire-resistant, aerated autoclaved concrete blocks are excellent for both sound and thermal insulation. However, to ensure maximum longevity, they must be coated using an applied finish such as a polymer-modified stucco, finished with a siding, or covered with a natural or engineered stone.
Aerated autoclaved concrete walls used in the construction of basements must be covered with thick waterproof material or membrane to prevent the AAC blocks from becoming damaged by water. In addition, exposure to weather or soil moisture can cause AAC surfaces to break down. So, further protective actions must be taken.
On the other hand, no coatings are necessary when AAC blocks are used in interior applications. They can even be safely left exposed. Yet people normally apply finishes to them, such as plaster, paint, drywall, or tiles. Because of their lightweight nature, AAC blocks are not only easy to install and handle, but are also recyclable. They allow for easy cutting to create chases and holes for plumbing and electric lines, as well. In contrast with solid concrete blocks, AAC blocks are so lightweight that they can make shipping and handling much more economical.
However, you may experience diminishing quality and fading color of AAC blocks over time. When used externally, AAC blocks will break down quickly unless a tough coating is applied to them. When installed in areas with high humidity, external finishes demand high vapor permeability, while internal finishes demand low vapor permeability.
Source: The balance small business
Hollow Concrete Blocks
A hollow concrete block is defined as a concrete block containing a void area that’s 25% greater than the gross area of the block, with a solid area that should be greater than 50%. Since a hollow concrete block is made from a lightweight aggregate or aggregates, the block will be lightweight, which also these concrete block types easy to install. Depending on the application of the block, the hollow area may be manipulated. For example, one may decide to divide a hollow concrete block into components or make slight adjustments in the shape of the void area. Let’s have a look at the variations of hollow concrete blocks.
Lintel blocks, also known as channeled blocks, are U-shaped concrete masonry units. They are primarily used in the preparation of lintel beams. Attached on top of windows and doors, lintel blocks bear the load coming from the top of the structure. The deep groove present in a lintel block is filled with concrete, along with reinforcement bars, once the lintel block is placed.
Given the solid bottom of a lintel block, the underside of this type of concrete block can be exposed at openings, which means lintel blocks don’t allow vertical reinforcements to extend through them. Since wall systems typically have a combination of vertical and horizontal reinforcement, lintel blocks aren’t used in the construction of walls. However, the bottom of the lintel beams can be removed to allow for the extension of the vertical reinforcement through it. In this way, lintel beams can be used to create bond beams in walls with vertical reinforcing, too.
Lintel blocks are more often used in load bearing walls, without vertical reinforcement, below the ends of steel joints. Yet, a steel-bearing plate for the bar joints is normally placed in the grout of a lintel block.
Source: Concrete construction
Concrete Stretcher Blocks
Concrete stretcher blocks are commonly used as hollow concrete blocks. The primary purpose of a concrete stretcher block is to join the corners of masonry units. While these blocks look quite similar to a normal hollow concrete block, their faces are designed in a way that they are placed parallel to the face of a wall.
Jamb Concrete Blocks
Jamb blocks are used to deal with an elaborated window opening in a wall. Connected to a stretcher and corner blocks, a jamb block can often help provide space for the casing members of the window, particularly in the case of double-hung windows.
Concrete Pillar Blocks
Unlike a stretcher concrete block or corner block, a concrete pillar blocks is designed in a way that both its ends are visible. This is why these concrete block types are also known as double corner blocks. Concrete pillar blocks are most commonly used in building pillars or piers.
Concrete Corner Blocks
Concrete corner blocks serve as the corner blocks in masonry, or as the ends of door openings or windows. One corner of a concrete corner block is plain, while the other is a stretcher design with the face parallel to the wall. The plain side of a concrete corner block is exposed to the outside, while the other serves as a stretcher lock towards the inside.
Partition Concrete Blocks
Partition concrete blocks are the same as concrete pillar blocks, except that a partition concrete block, or partition block, has a larger height than breadth. The hollow part of a partition block is often divided into two to three components. These blocks are ideal for the construction of partition walls.
Bullnose Concrete Blocks
Bullnose concrete blocks are the same as concrete pillar blocks. The only minor difference between the two concrete block types is that a bullnose block has rounded edges, while a concrete pillar block does not. So, if you prefer rounded edges, bullnose concrete blocks may be the right option for you.
Source: The constructor
Paving blocks are square or rectangular shaped boxes made from reinforced concrete. Simply put, using paving block is a decorative technique for creating pavements, making a paving block a type of decorative concrete block. While mostly used in road construction, paving blocks are also useful in the construction of car parks and walkways. When used for building road shoulders and paving, paving blocks must be coated with high-visibility paints so that they are easily visible to drivers and motorists.
Expanded Clay Aggregate Solid Construction Blocks
This concrete block variant is created from lightweight, expanded clay aggregates with a dry density of up to 750 kilograms per cubic meter. Masonry units known as Ecasolid Construction Blocks are made using expanded clay aggregates of class F fly ash and cement. As lightweight construction blocks, these blocks help reduce overall structural load by 40 to 50 percent.
Expanded clay aggregate solid construction blocks are not only waterproof; they are also chemical- and fire-resistant. These features help enhance the versatility, durability, and ease of use of these lightweight blocks. Apart from offering excellent thermal and sound insulation, expanded clay aggregate (ECA) solid construction blocks are considered to be environmentally sustainable.
In addition, ECA construction blocks are relatively more economical than other concrete blocks, and are considered a premium type of eco-friendly solid construction blocks. These easy-to-modify blocks can be nailed, carved, drilled, and shaped with ease. This means that ECA construction blocks can be easily cut to install conventional or concealed wiring and pipes. While these blocks allow for easy installation using regular cement mortar, decorative paints are often applied or coated at the end of installation, as well.
The application of ECA construction blocks reduces mortar expense(s) by 70 percent when compared to standard concrete blocks. In addition to this, using ECA construction blocks can allow a builder to save on any reinforcement costs.
In conclusion, different types of concrete blocks are designed and manufactured for different purposes. Concrete blocks are extremely versatile construction materials that have various uses, such as at events, in homes, and for storage purposes. All concrete blocks come with approved mortar, reinforcing bars, and paste material. Prior to purchasing concrete blocks, we advise you to consult a few different concrete block suppliers to ensure that you end up purchasing the concrete block type that fits your purpose(s). Many manufacturers even provide a demo of how the blocks must be installed.