No matter if you’re planning on starting a construction project, preparing for an event, or adding an extension onto your existing house, you’ll need one concrete block type or another at some point during the project. Concrete blocks are a popular construction material, and they’re also known as a masonry unit. They’re made up of sand, cement, concrete, water, and additives. Your concrete block types are popular in various construction situations.
Many people mistakenly believe that concrete block types are most popular and useful in helping create larger concrete barriers that control traffic. While it may be true that concrete walls help tremendously in this instance, they also work well in dozens of public, residential, and industrial applications.
Because they’re a highly versatile and adaptable material, concrete block types have been used by engineers and architects to create long-lasting, sturdy buildings. The most significant properties of concrete include fire resistance, high structural capacity, longevity, strength, water resistance, acoustical advantages, insulating properties, and aesthetic qualities. Additionally, concrete block types work as an ecormocial building material that has minimal maintenance needs.
There are several popular concrete block types available, and we’re going to break down the top 16 options you have on the current market. You can use these items to complete your building projects and create structures that last for decades.
Concrete blocks are incredibly versatile, and you can use them for a huge range of projects around the house to ensure that they last for years with minimal maintenance. Concrete Blocks by Ishikawa Ken / CC BY-SA 2.0
1. Aerated Autoclaved Concrete Blocks
It’s very easy to confuse this concrete block type with concrete bricks because this style is composed of the same aggregates that you find in bricks. However, the composition or mixture will vary. In turn, you’ll get a lighter but larger version of a traditional concrete brick. The much larger size means that you need fewer bricks to complete your deck build, and this can lower the overall costs.
Aerated autoclaved concrete block types are better than bricks in terms of construction time, costs, surface adaptability, and fire resistance. However, this is also more expensive when you compare it to wood-frame and traditional construction materials. Also, the strength level of this concrete block type is one-sixth to one-third of the strength levels you’d find with a standard concrete block.
You can cut and drill aerated autoclaved concrete blocks using traditional tools for woodworking, including band saws and power drills, and this makes them highly workable materials. However, the lightweight nature and low density mean that the brick’s bulk density, compressive strength, shrinkage, and moisture content should be heavily assessed before you use them to ensure that they meet your project’s minimum requirements.
They are available in 24, 32, and 48 inches long, and the thickness can range anywhere from 4 inches up to 16 inches, and the height typically falls around 8 inches. Since these blocks are a lot more versatile than the standard concrete block types, you’ll find them heavily used in roof, wall, and floor construction. Besides being fire-resistant and strong, these blocks have great thermal and sound insulation properties. However, to make sure that they last as long as possible, you have to coat them or apply a finish like siding, polymer-modified stucco, or engineered or natural stone.
You find this concrete block type used when people create basements that they want to cover in a thick waterproof membrane or material to prevent the blocks from getting water damage. Also, exposure to soil moisture or weather can cause the surface of these blocks to break down, so you have to take more protective actions.
When you use them for interior applications, you won’t have to worry about applying protective coatings. You can even safely leave them exposed. However, most people still choose to apply finishes like paint, drywall, plaster, or tiles. Because they have a lighter weight to them, the blocks are recyclable and easy to handle and install. They let you cut them very easily to create holes and chases for electrical lines and plumbing fixtures as well. When you compare them to traditional concrete block types, these ones are so economical that they make shipping costs drop.
However, it’s common to have issues with fading colors or diminishing quality with these blocks as the years roll by. When you use them externally, they tend to break down quickly unless you apply a tough coating to them. When you install them in areas where the humidity is high, any external finishes require higher vapor permeability. On the other hand, internal finishes need very low vapor permeability.
2. Bullnose Concrete Blocks
Bullnose concrete block types are the same thing as concrete pillar blocks. There is one minor difference between the two options, and that is that the bullnose blocks come with rounded edges. A concrete pillar doesn’t have this edge type. So, if you prefer to have rounded edges as a finish, bullnose concrete blocks can work. They could look nice as deck railing supports or more decorative elements.
3. Concrete Bricks
You systematically pile concrete block types during the construction process. They’re rectangular in shape, and you’ll find them used the most to build rigid walls. They were originally made out of cooked clay or concrete, and this is a brick masonry material that you use to build fences to give them an aesthetic and slick look. Some companies will use cement and lightweight aggregate or aggregates to make these types of blocks while others stick to solid concrete. Based on different client requirements, they could add other materials to tint the concrete into different colors or shades.
4. Concrete Corner Blocks
As the name suggests, these concrete block types work as the corner blocks in masonry projects. You may also see them used as the ends of your door openings or windows. One corner of this concrete block type is usually plain, and the other side has a stretcher design with the face that runs parallel to the wall. The plain side will get placed so it is exposed to the outside, and the other side will be the stretcher lock toward the inside.
5. Concrete Pillar Blocks
Unlike the corner block or concrete block, this concrete block type comes designed to have both ends visible. This is exactly why you may hear people refer to them as double corner blocks. As the name suggests, these blocks are predominantly used to build piers or pillars.
Concrete pillars are very common in industrial settings, and you can see them on large buildings or in highway overpasses to help support the huge amount of weight that goes over them every day. Concrete by ms.akr / CC BY 2.0
6. Concrete Stretcher Blocks
This concrete block type is typically used as hollow concrete blocks. The primary use of this block is used to join two corners on masonry projects. These blocks look a lot like normal hollow concrete blocks, but the faces of these blocks get designed so that you put them parallel to the face of your wall.
7. Expanded Clay Aggregate Solid Construction Blocks
This concrete block type gets created using expanded, lightweight clay aggregates, and it has a dry density of up to 750 kilograms for every cubic meter. Concrete blocks in this category are known as Ecasolid Construction Blocks, and they feature clag aggregates of cement and class F fly ash. They are lightweight construction blocks, and these blocks will help to reduce the structural load by as much as 50%.
This concrete block type is waterproof,and they’re also fire and chemical-resistant. These two features help enhance the block’s durability, versatility, and ease of use due to the lighter weight. They’re also considered to be environmentally sustainable.
Additionally, this is a more cost-effective choice when it comes to deciding on concrete block types, and this works well for people on a budget. They’re widely considered to be a premium type of eco-friendly block. They’re very easy to modify to suit your needs, and you can cut them to install them easily around concealed or conventional pipes or wiring. Additionally, it’s very common to apply a decorative paint at the end of the installation process to match your preferred aesthetic.
8. Hollow Concrete Blocks
A hollow concrete block is a concrete block type that has an empty space that is 25% greater than the block’s gross area. The solid area should be greater than 50% of the entire block’s makeup. Since this type of block gets made using lightweight aggregates or an aggregate, the block will be more lightweight. This also makes the block much easier to install. Depending on how you want to use this block, you can easily manipulate the hollow area. For example, you may want to divide a hollow concrete block into different components or make small adjustments to the empty space shape.
9. Jamb Concrete Blocks
You’ll find jamb blocks to fill in an elaborated window opening in your wall. You connect it to corner and stretcher blocks, and this concrete block type can give you space to put the casing members of your window. This is very popular in double-hung windows.
10. Lightweight Aggregate Block
This concrete block type gets produced in greater volumes, but they’re much less dense blocks to work with. They’re lightweight, and you use them in both external and internal walls where the loading is more restricted. They also work well as infill blocks in block and beam flooring. The main advantage over more dense aggregate blocks is that they have higher insulating properties and a lighter weight. The lighter block allows you to save in material costs and labor because they’re easier to work with. They’re the same size as more traditional concrete block types.
Lightweight blocks feature cement and a host of man-made or natural expanded aggregates, including expanded shale or clay, foamed or granulated blast-furnace slag, pulverized fuel ash, furnace bottom ash, or pumice. The aggregate’s density is usually proportional to the block’s overall strength. A very lightweight aggregate like pumice or expanded clay offers great thermal performance with a lower compressive strength.
11. Lintel Blocks
Lintel blocks are concrete block types that are also called channeled blocks. They come with a U-shape to them, and they’re popular for use to help prepare lintel beams. They attach to the top of doors or windows, and they bear the load that comes from the top of the structure. The lintel block has a very deep groove to it that you fill with reinforcement bars and concrete once you get the block in place.
The lintel block has a very solid bottom to it, and the underside of this concrete block type can have exposed openings. This means that you won’t be able to put in vertical reinforcements through them. Since most wall systems come with both horizontal and vertical reinforcement, you won’t find these blocks used in wall construction. However, you can remove the bottom of the lintel beams to extend the vertical reinforcement through it. In turn, this allows you to create bond beams in the walls that have vertical reinforcements.
You’ll typically find these blocks in load bearing walls that don’t have any vertical reinforcements, especially below steel joint ends. You’ll place a steel-bearing plate for your bar joints in the grout of your lintel blocks.
12. Partition Concrete Blocks
This concrete block type is the same as concrete pillar blocks. However, this type of block has a minor difference that is a larger height than the width. The hollow portion of this block often gets divided into two or three components. As the name suggests, you’ll use these blocks to create partition walls.
13. Paving Blocks
Paving concrete block types are rectangular or square-shaped boxes that feature reinforced concrete. This is a decorative technique that allows you to create pavement, and this makes this block fall into the decorative category. They’re usually used in road construction, but they’re also used to create walkways or car parks. When you use them to build road shoulders and paving, you have to coat this concrete block type with high-visibility paint that allows drivers to see them in varying conditions.
14. Scored Concrete Blocks
The scored concrete block type is very similar to a smooth-faced one except it has shallow lines running along the surface. If you look at this concrete block category, you’ll find that there are several variations. You can find double scored, single scored, tripled scored, and more. Single scored concrete gives you a look of a square concrete block that adds more scores to give you a rectangular look.
15. Solid Concrete Blocks
This concrete block type is one of the most commonly used ones on the market. THe blocks are a lot bigger and denser than normal concrete blocks. Solid blocks come designed to be strong and heavy, and they use naturally dense aggregates in their construction. Due to the strength of these blocks, you find the used to create load-bearing walls and other structural pieces. They’re very similar to concrete bricks, and the price and weight set them apart. Also, the larger size on this concrete block type means that you get a quicker building process compared to any structures that use brick walls.
16. Split Face Concrete Blocks
The final concrete block type on the list is a split faced model. They have a very rough finish to them. Depending on how many rough sides you want, the molds that the company uses to create this block work to keep the block connected but scored at the top. In turn, this gives you a place for your chisel to break the concrete, just like you’d use it to remove tile. Once the blocks finish curing, they pass under a mechanical, high-pressure, chisel-like machine. It will split the concrete to give you the rough sides.
Single sided concrete block types are made with one big smooth faced block that gets scored once and then broken down into two pieces. Double sided split concrete is where a bigger piece gets scored and split several times. This results in several rough pieces with dual rough sides.
Why Use Concrete Blocks
A concrete block wall is a great way to add depth and height to an outdoor area or garden. They’re hollow but strong, and this helps to keep the weight of your materials at a minimum so you get a more stable wall. Concrete Walls by pelennor / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The concrete block gets designed so that when an edifice or wall gets installed, you can place rebar inside the core of the cinder block to help reinforce the structure. The hollow cores come in two or three per block, and can take up roughly 50% of the block’s total volume. This lends the blocks a unique ability to build a taller structure without the risk of it breaking or falling under its own weight.
You may also hear them referred to as cinder blocks. They get ordered under the professional code called CMU, and this stands for concrete masonry units.
How to Read the CMU Number
The CMU encompasses the nominal and actual dimensions of the block, just like with red clay bricks. The nominal dimension is the actual dimension of the concrete block, including the mortar joint width added. The average CMU for the mortar joint is ⅜-inches. The nominal dimension works inside standard construction materials that use a four-inch grid. To get a better understanding of this concept, you should consider:
A four-inch CMU’s actual size is 3 ⅝-inch by 7 ⅝-inches by 7 ⅝-inches. This is the depth, height, and length. The nominal size would be 4-inches by 8-inches by 8 inches. This is the smallest concrete block type you can buy.
Standard Concrete Block Sizes
Having a list of the standard CMU sizes can be useful if you have questions regarding the mortar joint or project. The most common ones are:
- Actual Size: 3 ⅝-inches by 7 ⅝-inches by 7 ⅝-inches
- Nominal Size: 4-inches by 8-inches by 8-inches
- Actual Size: 5 ⅝-inches by 7 ⅝-inches by 7 ⅝-inches
- Nominal Size: 6-inches by 8-inches by 8-inches
- Actual Size: 7 ⅝-inches by 7 ⅝-inches by 7 ⅝-inches
- Nominal Size: 8-inches by 8-inches by 8-inches
- Actual Size: 9 ⅝-inches by 7 ⅝-inches by 7 ⅝-inches
- Nominal Size: 10-inches by 8-inches by 8-inches
- Actual Size: 11 ⅝-inches by 7 ⅝-inches by 7 ⅝-inches
- Nominal Size: 12-inches by 8-inches by 8-inches
Other Size Considerations for CMU Sizing
Most concrete jobs or walls won’t get finished as perfect squares. Aside from the standard full concrete block, there are also half sizes. You can measure them either horizontally or vertically, and you’ll find them typically used for end blocks on walls, lintels, beams, or design elements.
Usually, they have some type of u-shaped or hollow cores. Specialty blocks for window trim, doors, pipe and rafter fittings or other building areas are usually solid and similar. They are typically 2 ¼-inches by 4-inches by 8-inches, and you typically use them instead of red clay bricks.
Advantages of Using Concrete Block Types
The main advantages of using concrete blocks include but they are not limited to:
- Durable – Concrete block types are great when you build a foundation because it’s immune to issues with extreme temperature swings or termites.
- Inexpensive – When you compare concrete block types to other building materials, concrete is usually cost-effective.
- Insulating Properties – You can use concrete as a form of insulation against cold or heat, and this can help reduce your energy bills.
- Lightweight – This is very beneficial when you have a project coming up that requires heavy manual labor.
- Versatile – You can use concrete in several different ways, including in backyard landscaping, soundproof rooms, and partition walls.
Different Uses of Concrete Block
When it comes to using concrete block types, you’ll find a huge range of uses for them. Capitalizing on this block’s versatility can help ensure that you get all of your projects around the house done without breaking your budget.
Since this is a very versatile building product, it’s very popular in outdoor landscaping. There is an endless range of possibilities when it comes to it. You can use them to create a more minimalist bench, plant holders, steps, or walkways. It’s a cost-effective way to create solid projects that help enhance your landscape.
If you’re someone who is looking for an effective but simple way to keep your place secure, adding concrete blocks will create a solid security barrier. You can use them for different types of building sites or special events without having to spend a lot of money or have actual security there.
Various concrete block types are the perfect building material to have when you’re creating a retaining wall. It has the unique ability to keep certain elements away from your space, like unwanted landscape or water. What makes concrete the top pick for this type of wall is that it’s extremely durable while being lightweight. This combination creates a material that is much easier and quicker to work with while getting high-quality results.
We’ve outlined 16 popular concrete block types for you to consider for your next building project. You can look through them and find the ones that fit your budget and needs the best, buy them, and create lasting and professional-grade projects right in your own backyard.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.