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Written by GJ Stott
Superior to traditional concrete block walls, the concrete industry is using the StoneTree® precast wall system because it offers less expensive installation and labor costs while providing stronger, more beautiful wall options. StoneTree® precast walls offer increased durability over block walls while also offering easier, faster installation as well as many more options for attractive designs.
Concrete block walls need to be constructed on a continuous foundation designed to meet local codes for wind load, soil conditions and seismic requirements (where applicable). To comply with these regulations, the blocks are carefully formed and placed. The old technology used to manufacture concrete blocks, also known as concrete masonry units (see CMU block walls ), utilized dry cast concrete. In this, the concrete was compacted into a mold designed for the desired shape and size of the finished units.
As concrete blocks tend to be larger than standard bricks, a block wall can be constructed faster than a traditional brick wall. Additionally, concrete and cinder block walls absorb much less water than bricks and, thus, tend to have a longer lifespan.
The main advantage of concrete block walls in comparison to smaller, clay-based brick wall is that a block wall can be reinforced by either fully grouting the voids or inserting vertical lengths of rebar posts and using grout to hold them in place. This way, a CMU wall can be built much stronger and more durable than many other types of walls.
Concrete block walls have also mistakenly been known as "cinder blocks." The term cinder block incorrectly describes the product. Cinder block walls are manufactured using a blend of coal cinders and concrete whereas concrete block is produced using only concrete cement. Concrete block is also called “hollow block” as they are not solid and have “cells” in the block design that allow steel reinforcing and cement to be placed in the wall.
Block walls are often used as the structural core for veneered masonry or may be used alone for walls where the overall appearance is not an important factor. Such concrete block can also be covered with stucco or plaster to achieve different finishes.
For a more appealing look, coloring and split face techniques that can be employed. Concrete split face block is a technique that results in two blocks being manufactured as one unit and later divided, or split, into two separate units. This technique gives the block walls a rougher face, mimicking the natural look and feel of quarried stone. For applications such as highway sound control walls, the design can be complex and artistic.
Decorative block walls began to gain popularity and appear in large homeowner associations, along noisy roads, around residences, by schools, near other municipalities and at virtually any location where an aesthetic but durable application was desired. Continuing with this desired look, StoneTree® precast walls offer better design and durability for like structures and areas.
Drawbacks to block walls include that they tend to be, by design, less decorative. While the plain surface can often be covered with veneered masonry, the decorative options are limited at best.
A great substitute for a standard or split faced block walls is the StoneTree® wall system built using the AFTEC precast concrete forming machine. StoneTree® precast concrete walls offer increased durability over block walls while also offering easier, faster installation as well as many more options for beautiful designs. Some of the textures available are different types of stone, rock, stucco, slate, and architectural designs and are visible on both sides of the wall.