Tools and Materials for Basic Masonry Work

A red brick, hammer and chisel

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One of the great things about doing masonry work—aside from the pleasure of seeing a fantastic job well done—is that its tools and materials are basic, inexpensive, and easy to understand. As befits a trade that has been in existence since the days of the Ancient Egypt, masonry deals with some common elements as crush stone from the earth and simple metal tools.

Masonry Tools

  • Margin Trowel: A margin trowel is a long, thin trowel used for heaping small amounts of mortar on stone and spreading it. Margin trowel are used especially when dealing with narrow masonry units such as manufactured stone veneer, to avoid lapping excess mortar over the sides of the veneer units. Margin trowels, while not appropriate for every masonry project, are as close to a universal trowel as you can get.
  • V- or Square-Notch Trowel: The workhorse of masonry work, this trowel is large and has two sides that are straight and another two sides that are notched. These notches can either be square or V-shaped, and they act essentially as a metered system for dispensing mortar across a flat surface such as cement board. If you were to try to dispense the mortar evenly with the square side, it would be nearly impossible to disperse the mortar at even rates. By pressing the trowel's notches flat against the surface, the mortar extrudes from the notches evenly.
  • Cold Chisel: A cold chisel has a wide, flat head that is perfectly designed for slicing bricks or veneer stone in half with a blow from a hammer. It also has a myriad of other uses, such as chipping away excess mortar or removing a single brick from a brick wall.

    Masonry Materials

    • Veneer Mortar: a specialized type of mortar that is enriched with polymers to help the veneer masonry units stick to vertical surfaces. As this mortar can be quite expensive (running as high as $30 per 40-pound bag), use this material only for veneer stones, and be sure to mix it sparingly in small batches.
    • Portland Cement: lime, silica, alumina, iron, and gypsum in a mixture. Portland cement comes in 50 and 100-pound bags.
    • Aggregate: a material composed of sand or sometimes gravel.
    • Mortar: the mixture that you used to get the masonry units to stick together.
    • Grout: a mixture of Portland cement and some sand. Grout fills the seams between the masonry units.
    • Concrete: a mixture of Portland cement, sand, and gravel.
    • Rebar: Reinforcing bars or rebar are steel bars that are added and embedded throughout masonry to increase its strength.
    • Masonry or Masonry Units: The masonry unit is each individual brick or block.