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What is Masonry Stone?

By J. Airman
Updated May 17, 2024
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Masonry stone is carved block cut from solid natural rock and used for construction. Skilled stone masons carve stone to precise uniform dimensions to create sturdy buildings, art sculptures, and monuments. Strong structures made from stacked masonry stone have been known to last several hundred years. Ancient masonry techniques require a steady hand and an ability to read the surface of the stone. Modern stone cutters often employ programmable liquid media cutters and diamond tipped saw blades to reduce error and waste.

Government buildings, churches, and courthouses are common places to find the work of stone masons. Monuments and elaborate tombstones are usually built from carved masonry stone. The classic look and well-known durability of stone make it an ideal material for structures intended to last beyond human lifetimes. Many buildings have a corner stone with engraved information about the construction date or dedication. The skill and equipment required for professional stone work combined with high material costs generally make stone masonry cost prohibitive for the average consumer.

Professional masons select rugged rock types from which to cut long stone building blocks. Metamorphic rock has been transformed by heat and pressure to create distinct looking and strong masonry stone options like marble and slate. Igneous stones, which were once flowing magma, cool to dense and durable masonry stone materials like granite. Hardened ocean floor sediment or sedimentary stones like limestone and sandstone have also been used by stone masons to build many world-famous structures still standing today. Each rock variety splits and breaks differently, which can create a new set of challenges for the stone cutter.

Construction done with masonry stone requires no fixative or mortar. The uniform edges and weight of quality masonry stones hold two stack blocks together solidly without the need for anything in between. Stone setters commonly make minor adjustments to masonry stones on site just moments before they are placed. Highly skilled stone carvers are sometimes brought in to add details after the stones are stacked. Many modern construction projects spare the expense of stone masonry by using bricks or synthetic stone building materials.

A masonry stone fireplace is a functional way to inexpensively add stone accents to a home. Durable stone surfaces are easy to clean and will not crack when exposed to heat from the fire. The dense masonry stone absorbs and radiates warmth from the fire to keep the heat going long after the flame has gone out.

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Discussion Comments
By Alchemy — On Aug 10, 2011

@Amphibious54- To be honest, modern freemaonsry has little or nothing to do with stonemasonry. While the lodges and grand lodges are prime examples of stonemasonry artisanship, being a stonemason has nothing to do with initiation into the organization.

On the other hand, you should check out some of the freemason grand lodges if you are interested in stonemasonry. The grand masonic lodges in both London and Pennsylvania are magnificent works of architecture, and they do look grand.

By Amphibious54 — On Aug 09, 2011

What tools does a stonemason use for carving stone? I have always wondered how the stones for some of the monuments and historic buildings across the country were carved. How does one train to become a stonemason? Is the profession similar to architecture, where one can learn how to design and build purely with stone? Is becoming a stonemason more of a trade craft, something that is passed down from journeyman to apprentice? Do all stonemasons belong to the Freemasons Organization?

Stone masonry seems like such a lost art, since all of the new constructions I see are constructed of plywood, plaster, and metal. I rarely hear of stonemasons anymore. Furthermore, I find that there is a lot of mystery surrounding stonemasons affiliated with the free masons. Stone masonry is such an old profession that I would like to know more about the process of becoming a stonemason.

By ValleyFiah — On Aug 08, 2011

@aplenty- How did you decide on the plans for your stone wall? Was this your first time building a stone wall? I went on a vacation to the Northeast, and the vacation home we stayed at had a great stone wall surrounding the property. Ever since staying in that house, I decided that I want to build a stone wall at my house. I finished remodeling the interior, and now I am moving on to the exterior and landscaping. If you have any resources on stone wall plans, or information on how to build them, I would be grateful.

The wall you built sounds amazing, and I want to find resources on different types and plans before I hire a stonemason or landscape architect to build my wall. I guess I could consult with the contractor on the type of wall, but I prefer to have a little information on what is available before I commit to hiring someone.

By aplenty — On Aug 04, 2011

@Parmnparsley- I built a nice rock retaining wall for my new pool and it came out great. The wall was curved, and I was able to build benches right into the wall. I used local flagstone because it was cheap and strong. The benches are actually cantilevered into the bank, and they serve the purpose of creating seating and supporting the wall. The facing angle is about 2 inches per foot, and the wall is about two and a half feet thick at the base.

When I constructed the wall, I capped it with large flagstone pieces that cantilevered about 18-inches from the face and 24-inches into the bank. I dug a 12-inch trench where the wall would be, and filled it with crushed gravel. This created a stable foundation for my wall.

I know that the article said stonework is expensive, but the project was not too bad. I needed the wall anyway, and I only spent $125 per ton of stone (delivered). I rented a bobcat for the day I dug the facing, and again for the day I did the fill. I completed the project with my brother over the course of a month, but we were working mostly weekends. You can build a really nice wall for a few thousand dollars that will really add value to your property.

By parmnparsley — On Aug 03, 2011

What is the best type of stone for building stone walls? I want to build a stone wall around my yard, so I can turn a sloped lawn into a tiered lawn that is more usable. I will need something that is sizable since it will need to support the fill that I will use to level the lawn. I want to do the project myself because I like the sense of accomplishment, and I want to save money. I would appreciate any ideas or thoughts on building a supporting wall.

The wall needs to be about three and a half feet tall to level the lawn enough so I can use it for barbecues and picnics. It only needs to be about 115 feet long, but I would like to incorporate a piano curve or haha into the design.

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