The term “abreuvoir” is used in two different ways. The word is French in origin and means “trough” or “watering place,” a usage of the term that can be seen in France and in some regions heavily influenced by French culture. In English, the term has been borrowed to talk about the gaps between masonry stones designed to be filled with mortar in the process of constructing a project. The meaning intended is usually clear from the context.
In the case of the French meaning, the abreuvoir is a trench or trough designed for animals to drink from. Historically, such trenches were often installed in public places to provide places for riding animals as well as livestock and working animals to drink. Public abreuvoirs can still be seen in some regions of the world, and some continue to be used for their intended purpose.
In discussions about masonry, the abreuvoir is a carefully calculated and planned component of a project. Masons want to fit stones together in a way that will be aesthetically pleasing, and thus have to think carefully about the sizes of the gaps between them. Extremely wide or narrow abreuvoir spacing and gaps with mismatched sizes can attract unwanted attention. The strength of the project is another consideration, as the stones and gaps have to be carefully placed to keep the structure strong and distribute the weight evenly to the base or foundation.
The abreuvoir joint can be filled with a variety of types of mortar, depending on the project and stylistic preference. Some complicated masonry techniques like tuck pointing involve using a mixture of mortar types and the mason must sit down to sketch out plans for the project, including discussions of gaps, at the start. Failure to plan ahead can result in problems like uneven masonry work, leading to instability in the finished project as well as an undesirable look.
Mortar is often the weak point in a masonry project and the abreuvoirs must be periodically inspected for signs of cracking, crumbling, and other damage to the mortar. If issues are identified, the masonry needs to be carefully cleaned and prepared for restoration. Failing to act when the early signs of damage start to appear can result in a costly repair in the future and in some cases may mean that a structure collapses or becomes so unsafe that it must be torn down. It is advisable to use a masonry specialist for inspections and repairs to keep masonry in good condition.