PATH - A Public Private Partnership for Advancing Housing Technology

Affordable Masonry: A Dream Come True

The third little pig built a house so strong, it kept out the Big Bad Wolf. But greater strength and wind-resistance wasn't the only benefit of Pig's masonry home. It also saved him money because it was more energy efficient and required less maintenance. Now that's a story with a happy ending.

Builders and homeowners looking for these properties typically turn to brick or stone. Split-face concrete block is a third option that can be designed to look like these other materials, but costs a lot less.

A Unique Look

Jon Crump, an architect with DLR Group in Minnesota, has been designing homes with split-face concrete block for 20 years. He likes the product's stone-like facade so much, he recently designed his own home with it.

The unique look of split-face block is created by splitting the block during production. The split faces are exposed during construction. The appearance of split-face block is reminiscent of a medieval stone house or the rock-faced masonry so popular in the mid-1880s.

Four-inch high split face block looks like brick, and according to Crump, "the colors and textures are almost limitless." The installed cost of split-face "brick" is also cheaper than brick veneer.

"The initial cost is higher than traditional construction but total cost of the home is actually less expensive when amortized over the life of the structure. Reduced maintenance and insurance costs, improved resale, and greater longevity-not to mention peace of mind-are all benefits of a masonry home," says Mirk Buzdum of Buzdum's Development in Wisconsin.

[IMAGE: Detail of split-face concrete block on a home]

Lower Insurance Costs

Some insurance companies offer discounted policies for masonry homes because of their added protection from fire, termite, and storm damage.

Like all concrete masonry units, split-face block offers superior strength, which is particularly appealing in regions subject to frequent hurricanes and tornados.

Energy Efficient

Compared to wood, insulated concrete block stays warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Since it has a higher thermal mass, it has a greater ability to store heat and 'cold'. In the long run, that means lower utility bills.

Lower Maintenance

Concrete homes are less susceptible to dry rot, mold, termite, and storm damage. This means fewer repair costs.

"It simply looks great and does not need to be painted or otherwise covered with another material," says Buzdum. "The color is integral, meaning that it is mixed in during the manufacturing process and will not fade. If a block is chipped, it is the same color throughout."


Compared with traditional building materials, masonry blocks out noise better.

Learn More

PATH’s Technology Inventory: An overview of split-face concrete block, costs, benefits, and installation information.

Building Your Concrete Home: An article that explains concrete building alternatives, insulation options, and benefits.

Benefits of Concrete Homes: A list of the benefits attributed to concrete homes.

National Concrete Masonry Association: The national trade association representing the concrete masonry industry. Their Web Site lists suppliers by state.

Content updated on 8/7/2006

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