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Concrete Blocks – a quick primer

Jul 16, 2021

5 min read


All the materials we use are carefully chosen to ensure that they contribute effectively to making your home safe, comfortable, and secure--Concrete blocks are one of those.

Hollow concrete blocks are perhaps the most popular of the precast concrete materials. First invented in the 1890s, they were originally so heavy they had to be lifted into place by a crane. Nowadays, they are a staple in construction, and their weight is no longer a challenge. Originally made by hand, it would take a person approximately an hour to produce 10, compared to the technology we have today, with machines producing up to thousands of blocks per hour. 

So why do Parasol Properties use concrete blocks for walls?

It’s strong and durable.

Concrete block is inherently strong and resistant to structural loads, impacts, mechanical damage, abrasion, forced entry, and abuse. Historically, unreinforced concrete block masonry walls have been used to resist wind and weather pressure against exterior walls. Now, with reinforced masonry, using metal rebar to tie everything together, the concrete block walls can safely resist even higher pressures. Blocks provide a rigid, straight, and continuous surface to which any cladding or finish, exterior or interior, is easily attached.

Block masonry offers long-term performance and unparalleled durability without the need for maintenance. It provides superior resistance to nearly all types of deterioration caused by moisture, chemicals, corrosion, ultraviolet radiation, mold, and mildew growth.

It’s sustainable

Masonry products are the original green products, with concrete block masonry having a carbon footprint 66% smaller than cast-in-place concrete wall systems. At manufacture, environmental impact is minimized because a concrete block is made locally from a virtually inexhaustible supply of abundant raw materials and recycled materials and is typically produced within a few hundred miles from home. During construction, block versatility helps minimize on-site waste and disposal. Once constructed, the masonry lasts for decades without deterioration and the need for maintenance. At the end of its service life, a block can be salvaged and reused or recycled in various forms.

It’s energy-efficient and quiet.

Unlike light-frame construction materials, concrete block offers a high degree of thermal mass — up to twice that of poured concrete — helping to stabilize interior heating and cooling, in turn lowering energy costs and providing a more comfortable indoor living area. Block masonry walls can be easily insulated with various products ranging from rigid boards to loose-fill insulation. Insulation can be placed on the interior or exterior surfaces of the block to provide a continuous plane of thermal resistance without heat loss through thermal bridges. And block’s sound-insulation qualities help keep your home quiet over a wide range of sound frequencies, minimizing intrusive outdoor noise pollution.

It resists fire, termites, and severe weather.

A concrete block is a noncombustible material that neither ignites nor supplies fuel to a fire. Fire studies and laboratory tests show that no building material offers better protection against fire, smoke, and heat. For example, industry-standard fire tests show that wood and gypsum board materials burn or rapidly deteriorate, while block remains intact even after prolonged exposure to intense heat. In fact, because of its proven fire performance, concrete block is used to build firewalls in large wood-frame buildings. Block foundation walls offer these same attributes, protecting against the spread of fire, yielding no smoke or toxic gasses under heat, and ensuring structural integrity both during and after a fire. Protection from termite infestations is another benefit provided by block. Termites feed only on cellulose materials, most notably wood, and cannot feed on concrete blocks. Overall, block masonry provides superior property and personal protection. In addition to withstanding fire and insects, a block is highly resistant to strong winds and impact from wind-borne debris. Its use in basements provides refuge from severe weather such as tornadoes and hurricanes.

Concrete Blocks provide better air quality.

Concrete block walls help maintain healthy, comfortable indoor environments. Unlike many other construction materials, including wood products and gypsum boards, blocks do not provide a food source for toxic mold. Typically, moisture resulting from construction — for example, the thousands of kilograms of water contained in cast-in-place concrete walls — can contribute to mold growth, the decay of moisture-sensitive materials, and odors. Block, however, is pre-cured and pre-dried, meaning faster dry-out to facilitate interior and exterior finishing, less risk of mold growth, less drying shrinkage, and less cracking. Also, block and mortar do not emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a byproduct of many other construction products that can pose serious health risks. Moreover, blocks can be used as a wall finish, eliminating the need for paints and other finishes that release VOCs or promote mold growth.

Concrete Blocks are convenient and versatile.

Concrete blocks can be installed as is, with no need to wait for custom form-work and framing or pre-fabricated panels that later can’t readily be modified on-site. And with concrete block, doors, windows, and other openings and penetrations can be easily added, moved, or eliminated during construction. Similarly, when renovating or expanding, a window or door can be cut out of a block wall much more easily and cost-effectively than other wall systems. Unlike other foundation systems, concrete block masonry can be constructed in any shape to easily accommodate non-standard floor plans, lot specifications, and foundation wall heights, as well as stepped footings and foundations and last-minute changes during construction. Even complex foundations that use arcs, tees, and angled corners to construct intersecting walls, bays, bows, and fireplaces can be built efficiently.

Concrete block foundations offer:

  • Up to twice the thermal value of poured concrete
  • Versatility in design
  • Drier walls
  • Reduced risk of shrinkage cracks and honeycombing
  • Built-in quality control

Concrete Blocks – Our Installs

  • Block Walls and Pillars – Union Street, Clearwater, FL

Are you considering concrete blocks as well in your next Tampa, Lutz, Clearwater, or Dunedin project? We hope you do. If you're still wondering, seek guidance from trusted custom home builders/renovators/general contractors. It is always worth it!

This article was last updated on Aug 8, 2022