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PART A Chapter 5 Contents

Properties 5.1 introduction

This chapter describes the typical properties of 5.2 properties

concrete masonry units.
5.3 references

Properties QUIT
Quality Control And Quality Australian Standards Designers are required to specify the AS/NZS 4456.8 Determining moisture
Assurance dimensional tolerances, compressive content and dry density
The use of concrete masonry in buildings
strength and resistance to salt attack using
In concrete masonry manufacture, the is governed by the National Construction AS/NZS 4456.12 Determining coefficients of
the following standards:
selection of raw materials and the design Code (NCC) National Building Code of contraction
and proportioning of mixes are equally as Australia(Ref 2) (BCA), which is adopted into AS/NZS 4456.3 Determining dimensions
AS/NZS 4456.14 Determining water
important as for structural concrete. legislation in each of the state Building
AS/NZS 4456.4 Determining compressive absorption properties
Regulations. NCCBCA in turn calls up
For the finished concrete masonry to strength of masonry units
AS3700(Ref 3), which sets out rules governing AS/NZS 4456.15 Determining lateral modulus
possess the required properties of strength,
the use of unreinforced, reinforced and AS/NZS 4456.10 Determining resistance to of rupture
density, resistance to water penetration,
prestressed masonry. salt attack
colour, texture, acoustics, thermal insulation AS/NZS 4456.17 Determining initial rate of
and fire resistance, the concrete masonry The NCCBCA Volume Two also calls up For face masonry, which does not have an absorption (suction)
units must have consistent mix proportions AS 4773.1 and AS 4773.2 for masonry in applied finish, designers may also wish to
and aggregate grading. Proper curing small buildings (design and construction specify limits for efflorescence potential and
conditions and techniques play a vital part respectively). permeability to water using the following
in product properties. standards:
From the perspective of a structural
Good control of curing methods and raw designer, it is particularly useful that AS/NZS 4456.6 Determining potential to
materials grading, quality and proportioning AS3700 has combined design rules for both effloresce
ensure that variations in the finished reinforced, unreinforced masonry into a
AS/NZS 4456.16 Determining permeability to
product are kept within acceptable limits. single document.
Automatically controlled proportioning,
Concrete masonry units must comply with
mixing, moulding and handling equipment The following standards are also available
AS/NZS 4455.1(Ref 4). This standard combines
and curing controls eliminate human error for use by manufacturers and in abnormal
the requirements for all masonry units of
from these processes. circumstances (such as research or product
concrete, clay, calcium silicate and stone,
development), and should not be routinely
Most concrete masonry manufacturers together with the requirements for paving
called up by specifiers or designers.
adopt sound management techniques units of these materials.
and some have quality systems complying AS/NZS 4456.1 Sampling for compliance
The tests relevant to masonry units and
with AS/NZS ISO 9001(Ref 1), which set out testing
pavers are specified in AS/NZS 4456(Ref5). This
internationally-recognised quality assurance AS/NZS 4456.2 Assessment of mean and
standard consists of eighteen parts, but only
requirements. standard deviation
some of the parts are applicable to concrete
masonry wall units and only a few are AS/NZS 4456.7 Determining core
relevant for commonly-available products. percentage and material
The testing standards that are relevant to thickness
the supply of concrete masonry walling
units to most projects are as follows.

Properties QUIT
Dimensions And Tolerances AS/NZS 4455, Corresponding Shell Thickness and Web .
permissible average/unit Thickness of Hollow Blocks
The work sizes of a masonry unit are the Work size DW1 deviation deviation
principal dimensions from which any Minimum thicknesses of face end shells
deviations are measured and are nominated Under 150 mm 50 mm 2.5 mm and webs of hollow concrete blocks can be
by the manufacturer. For example, overall 150 to 250 mm 90 mm 4.5 mm calculated from AS/NZS 4455, which states:
lengths, heights and widths of prismatic
Over 250 mm 100 mm 5.0 mm Masonry units and segmental pavers shall be
units are work sizes. So too are the principal
dimensions of the cores and face shell in able to be handled, transported to the purchaser
hollow units, since they influence strength and laid.
and weight. Thus, dimensional deviation category DW1
NOTE: Integrity does not include aesthetic
permits the average length of units to be
AS/NZS 4455 Clause 2.1 requires characteristics of masonry or paving units. lc ls
outside specification by up to 5 mm, with
manufacturers to make available the work no controls on the lengths of individual For hollow masonry units, this requirement Wc Ws Wh
sizes, face shell width of hollow units and units at all. is deemed to be satisfied if the characteristic
the characteristic unconfined compressive unconfined strength is at least 3 MPa for cored
strength (fuc), discussed in detail below. Because of the method of manufacture,
units and 2.5 MPa for solid units
concrete masonry units can be
AS/NZS 4456.3 provides two methods of manufactured to much tighter tolerances r
determining dimensions, one based on For solid and cored masonry units, this
than other masonry units and they generally
averaging the dimensions over 20 units requirement is deemed to be satisfied if the
meet category DW4. Category DW4 requires
and the other based on measuring the average measurements of each part of five
not only the average dimension of units to
dimensions of individual units. random-sampled units (measured at the same
be within 3 mm of the work size, but also
positions on each unit) are not less than the Figure 5.1 Proportions of Units
AS/NZS 4455 Table 2.1 sets out dimensional that the dimensions of individual units be
values given in Table 2.4 [Based on AS/NZS 4455 Figure 2.1]
deviation categories from DW0 (no controlled by requiring that the standard
requirements) to DW4 (the tightest deviation of dimensions be not more than
requirements) for masonry wall units. It 2 mm. This limits the potential for big Table 5.1 Minimum Average Width of Section of Hollow Units
[Based on AS/NZS 4455 Table 2.4]
requires that, unless specified and agreed variations in the size of concrete masonry
otherwise, masonry wall units (including units, which is common for other types of Minimum average width of section, W,
concrete units) should comply with category masonry units. for characteristic unconfined
Identification of
DW1. compressive strength of
Category DW1 requires that, when 20 walling section under 10 MPa 10 MPa or over
units are placed in a line (end to end or side Width of section supported
to side) the cumulative dimension should at one end only (Wc) 0.3 lc 0.2 lc
not deviate from 20 times the particular work Width of sections supported
size (the dimension being checked) by the at both ends (Ws) 0.15 ls 0.1 ls
following limits. The corresponding average
Edge distance of core holes (Wh) 0.3 r 0.2 r
tolerance per unit based on 20 units is also
tabulated. NOTE: Symbols in the above table are defined in Figure 5.1, above

Properties QUIT
The most commonly applied minimum face- Core Percentages And Material
shell dimensions and web dimensions for Thickness
hollow concrete blocks, complying with
The core percentage of cored units and
AS/NZS 4455 Table 2.4, are given in
the material thickness of hollow units are
required when determining a masonry walls
fire resistance level for insulation.
Table 5.2 Typical Face-shell and Web Dimensions for Hollow Concrete
The material thickness of units with a core
Blocks, Complying with AS/NZS 4455, Table 2.4
percentage of greater than 30% is the net
Minimum total volume of material in a unit, divided by its
Minimum Minimum web thickness per face area. In other words, it is the volume of
Hollow face shell thickness course in any material compressed solid without cores.
block width thickness of any web 200 mm length
(mm) (mm) (mm) (mm) The material thickness of units with a core
percentage of less than 30% is the gross
90 or less 25 25 25 volume of the unit (neglecting any cores)
over 90 to 140 25 25 30 divided by its face area. This is numerically
equal to the external thickness of the unit.
over 140 to 190 30 25 30
Testing for core percentage and material
over 190 35 30 38
thickness does not need to be carried
out as part of routine quality control. If a
These minimums apply for structural test is required, it should be carried out in
reasons. They are frequently exceeded for accordance with AS/NZS 4456.7.
production purposes, or where acoustics or
fire resistance requirements govern. When
dimensions or mass of units are critical,
information should be obtained from the

Properties QUIT
mass And Density Table 5.3 Mass of Various Masonry Blocks
Mass of unit, (kg), based on density(2) of
The mass of masonry units depends on: Length Height Width Percentage Material
the external dimensions; of unit of unit of unit solid(1) thickness 2180 2000 1800 1600
the core dimensions, and hence the (mm) (mm) (mm) (%) (mm) (kg/m3) (kg/m3) (kg/m3) (kg/m3)
material thickness (effective thickness if 390 190 90 70 90 10.2 9.3 8.4 7.4
all cores were compressed); and 110 100 110 17.8 16.3 14.7 13.0
the density of the material. 140 55 77 12.4 11.4 10.3 9.1
190 51 97 15.7 14.4 12.9 11.5
The external dimensions are dictated by
390 140 90 70 90 7.5 6.9 6.2 5.5
structural considerations and the economics 110 100 110 13.1 12.0 10.8 9.6
of manufacture and construction. 140 55 77 9.2 8.4 7.6 6.7
The core dimensions are commonly dictated 190 51 97 11.5 10.6 9.5 8.5
by fire and sound requirements and, if 390 90 90 70 90 4.7 4.3 3.9 3.4
required, the ability to include grout and 110 100 110 8.4 7.7 6.9 6.2
reinforcement. 140 55 77 5.9 5.4 4.9 4.3
190 51 97 7.4 6.8 6.1 5.4
Dense-weight concrete masonry units 290 162 90 70 90 6.5 6.0 5.4 4.8
have a density of approximately 2100 to 110 100 110 11.3 10.3 9.3 8.3
2250 kg/m3. Units for fire resistance, thermal 140 55 77 7.9 7.2 6.5 5.8
performance or lightweight concrete 190 51 97 9.9 9.1 8.2 7.3
masonry units are often produced down 290 119 90 70 90 4.8 4.4 4.0 3.6
to 1600 kg/m3. These densities are the 110 100 110 8.3 7.6 6.8 6.1
stockyard densities (ie the weight of units 140 55 77 5.8 5.3 4.8 4.3
as sampled divided by their net volume) 190 51 97 7.3 6.7 6.0 5.4
and are the sum of the dry density and the 290 90 90 70 90 3.7 3.4 3.1 2.8
ambient moisture content. AS/NZS 4456.8 110 100 110 6.3 5.7 5.2 4.6
provides the test method for determining 140 55 77 4.4 4.0 3.6 3.2
these parameters. 190 51 97 5.5 5.1 4.6 4.0
290 76 90 70 90 3.1 2.9 2.6 2.4
Table 5.3 gives the mass of various masonry
110 100 110 5.3 4.8 4.4 3.9
units. 140 55 77 3.7 3.4 3.1 2.7
190 51 97 4.7 4.3 3.8 3.4
230 76 90 70 90 2.5 2.3 2.1 1.9
110 100 110 4.2 3.8 3.5 3.1
140 55 77 2.9 2.7 2.4 2.2
190 51 97 3.7 3.4 3.0 2.7
1 Percentage solid will vary, depending on the manufacturer 2 Some low densities may not be available in various locations

Properties QUIT
Compressive Strength A common characteristic unconfined Lateral Modulus Of Rupture Salt Attack Resistance
compressive strength specification, set out
AS/NZS 4455 specifies a characteristic Lateral Modulus of Rupture is a measure of The Salt Attack Resistance Grade is a
in Part C:Chapter 2, is as follows:
unconfined compressive strength (fuc) of the sideways bending strength of masonry measure of the resistance of the masonry
at least 5 MPa for hollow units, 3 MPa for 10 MPa for cored or solid loadbearing units. If the lateral modulus of rupture of unit to deterioration under the action of
solid or vertically covered units and 2.5 MPa masonry (determined using full-bed area) units is too low, a wall could crack vertically various salts resulting from sea spray or
for horizontally cored units. These values 15 MPa for reinforced hollow masonry or when subjected to horizontal out-of- ground water. AS 3700 Table 5.1 sets out
are in the standard to ensure that the units loadbearing hollow masonry (determined plane loads such as wind or earthquake. the requirements for various applications,
have a basic level of resistance to breakage using face-shell area). AS3700 uses a default value of 0.8 MPa for the most common being General Purpose
during handling and transport. However, characteristic lateral modulus of rupture. Grade.
AS 3700 requires the designer to nominate
It is not common, nor is it a requirement Protected Grade units may only be used
the required strength on the drawings, and
of AS/NZS 4455, to test for lateral modulus in mild environments, in the interior of
it is recommended that this be done in
of rupture. If a test is required, it should be buildings above the damp course, or above
consultation with the manufacturer.
carried out in accordance with the damp course as exterior walls that are
Compressive strength tests should be AS/NZS4456.15. This test requires three coated with a waterproof coating and are
carried out in accordance with AS/NZS units to be glued together end-to-end, the properly flashed.
4456.4. A masonry unit is placed in a resulting beam to be supported on its side
Exposure Grade units should be used
compression testing machine and subjected and subjected to a breaking load, see
in severe marine environments, interior
to increasing load until it fails. From the Figure 5.2.
environments subject to saline wetting and
maximum load, the unconfined compressive
Unless required otherwise, it is a reasonable drying, in contact with aggressive soils, in
strength may be calculated. Solid or cored
expectation that hollow concrete masonry saline or contaminated water and within 1
units must be fully bedded in the test
units have a characteristic lateral modulus kilometre of industry producing chemical
and the compressive strength calculated
of rupture in excess of the AS 3700 value pollutants.
using the full-bed area. On the other hand,
of 0.8MPa, probably in the range 1.0 to
hollow units must be bedded only on the It is not common, nor is it a requirement of
face shells, and the compressive strength AS/NZS 4455, to routinely test for salt attack.
calculated using the face-shell area. An If a test is required, it should be carried
aspect ratio factor is applied to account for Blocks glued Loading bars out in accordance with AS/NZS 4456.10
the confining effect of the machine platens together MethodB. Specimens are cut from masonry
on short, wide units, such as bricks. units and are subjected to cycles of soaking
in salt solution, oven drying and cooling.
When particle loss occurs, the total mass of
the particles lost is determined by weighing.

Test specimen Support bars

Figure 5.2 Lateral Modulus Of Rupture Test

Properties QUIT
Permeability The requirement for uniformity of colour
and texture effectively precludes a use of
Permeability is a measure of the amount of Graduated
a slick.
water that will pass through a masonry unit, cylinder
or the face shell of a hollow masonry unit, The splitting of units to create a split face Sponge rubber 60-mm bore
when a 200 mm hydraulic head is applied. removes any slicked surface. packing approx.
10-mm thick Locking
The specification of a particularly high
Hollow blocks with thin face shells exhibit a bolt
lateral modulus of rupture and transverse
higher permeability than hollow blocks with
strength places a requirement for the mix
thick face shells or solid blocks of the same
to include sharp angular aggregates, thus
mix, because the water traverses a thinner
increasing its coarseness, lowering the
section of concrete to escape from the test
density and increasing the permeability.
apparatus. Thin face shells are more difficult
to fill with concrete and are therefore of It is not common, nor is it a requirement of
lower average density than thick face shells AS/NZS 4455, to test for permeability. If a Perforated base plate Test specimen
or solid blocks of the same mix. They are test is required, it should be carried out in SECTION AA
therefore more permeable. accordance with AS/NZS 4456.16. A masonry
unit is subjected to a measured head of
Low permeability (high impermeability)
water in a cylinder sealed to the face of the
is gained by good mix design to achieve
unit. The passage of water through the unit A A
minimum voids and high density, and is
over time is used to determine permeability,
aided by proper curing. The quantity and
see Figure 5.3.
quality of the cement binder is a primary
determinant of low permeability and low Unless required otherwise, it is a
total absorption. These properties improve reasonable expectation that dense weight PLAN
with improvements in the binder. concrete masonry units have a maximum
Figure 5.3 Permeability Test
permeability of 2 mm/minute.
The common method of lowering the
permeability is to increase the fines content
of the mix and, if necessary increase the
cement content to compensate. This
provides more paste, which not only fills
the voids within in the body of the block,
but also provides a slick on the block
surface as it is extruded from the mould.
The slick tends to cover the face, making it
more impermeable than the body of the
unit. However, three common specification
requirements combine to increase the
difficulty in achieving impermeability:

Properties QUIT
Efflorescence Potential It is not common, nor is it a requirement Contraction Coefficient of Drying Contraction is
of AS/NZS 4455, to test for efflorescence the change in length which takes place
Efflorescence is the white encrustation of Concrete masonry units shrink as the
potential. If a test is required, it should be in concrete units (when dried from a
salts, which may occasionally appear on the cement cures. To ensure that this does not
carried out in accordance with fully-saturated condition to a stable
surface of masonry walls. It occurs when contribute to cracking of the completed
AS/NZS 4456.6. A number of units are dry condition). It is an indication of the
soluble salts, usually of sodium or potassium, masonry, units should be properly cured
placed in a dish of water, allowed to soak for likelihood of shrinkage-related cracking
or calcium hydroxide are borne to the before delivery to the site. Saturated units
seven days, followed by air curing for two as a result of expelling all of the moisture
exposed surface of the wall by moisture in should not be laid as they could lead
days. These units are then compared and from the units. When combined with the
the units. Sometimes, the salts are present to subsequent drying shrinkage as the
assessed with respect to a matching unit, shrinkage caused by the mortar, it gives
in the masonry units from manufacture, but moisture evaporates from the wall.
which has not undergone the soaking, for an indication of the upper bound of the
often they are leached into the units from
the development of efflorescence above the AS/NZS 4456.12 provides two tests, possible shrinkage in the wall.
the mortar binding them together in the
waterline on each external face. Coefficient of Residual Curing Contraction
wall. For example:
and Coefficient of Drying Contraction, for
Unless required otherwise, it is a reasonable 0.6 mm/m represents at least 4.8 mm in
Soluble salts can be readily washed off, contraction of concrete masonry units.
expectation that concrete masonry units an 8 metre length of wall.
but the calcium hydroxide reacts with These tests are not routinely performed, and
have an efflorescence potential of nil or
the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to are specified only when dealing with specific 0.8 mm/m represents at least 6.4 mm in
form insoluble calcium carbonate, which is problems related to shrinkage and cracking. an 8 metre length of wall.
extremely difficult to remove.
Coefficient of Residual Curing Contraction No limits are set in AS/NZS 4455 or
Reduced risk of efflorescence deposits on a is the shrinkage which takes place in AS/NZS 4456. A value over 0.6 mm/m would
wall can be achieved by: newly manufactured concrete units (at probably be considered to be quite high.
minimising moisture entering the wall by constant saturated moisture content). It is
using correct flashings; an indication of the likelihood of shrinkage-
related cracking as a result of cement
inhibiting the migration of moisture to
hydration in the units. It is indicative of the
the exposed surfaces by venting cavities
lower bound of shrinkage in the wall.
and cores;
ensuring that mortars are impermeable For example:
to moisture and manufactured only from 0.1 mm/m represents at least 0.8 mm in
clean materials; and an 8 metre length of wall.
ensuring that the concrete units are 0.3 mm/m represents at least 2.4 mm in
manufactured from materials free from an 8 metre length of wall.
soluble salts and that they are correctly
Although there are no limits set in
AS/NZS 4455 or AS/NZS 4456, a value over
0.1 mm/m would probably be relatively

Properties QUIT
Moisture Content Initial Rate Of Absorption Generally, it is found that concrete masonry Total Absorption
units have considerably lower suction than
Moisture content is the quantity of free Initial Rate of Absorption (IRA) is not The total absorption of a masonry unit
most clay masonry, and so require mortar
moisture present in the unit expressed as necessarily related directly to the properties measures its total capacity to absorb
with lower water retentivity. An experienced
the mass of moisture per unit volume of total absorption or permeability. Initial moisture. It is, in effect, a measurement
mason, familiar with bond strength
(kg/m3). Moisture content must be rate of absorption is the property of of the voids content of the units, but not
requirements should be able to adjust the
distinguished from total absorption and masonry units commonly known in the necessarily of the permeability, which is the
mortar appropriately. Typical values of initial
initial rate of absorption, which will be dealt building industry as suction. It is a measure units resistance to passage of water under
rate of absorption for concrete masonry
with in the following sections. of the quantity of water absorbed in one pressure.
units are:
minute per unit area of the bedding face of
It is not common, nor is it a requirement of AS/NZS 4456.14 provides a standard test
a unit under standard conditions, and may Top of concrete
AS/NZS 4455, to test for moisture content. method for assessing this property. No limits
be used to compare the suction of different hollow block 2.7 kg/m2/min
However, if it is required, the test should be are given in the standard. Table 5.4 gives
carried out in accordance with Bottom of concrete the levels of total absorption common in
AS/NZS4456.8. A reasonable expectation A test method for initial rate of absorption is hollow block 1.8 kg/m2/min concrete masonry.
is that concrete masonry units have a given in AS/NZS 4456.17. A masonry unit is
Bedding surface of
maximum moisture content before laying oven-dried, then cooled and placed with its
concrete brick 0.9 kg/m2/min. Table 5.4 Typical Levels of Total Absorption
of 80 kg/m3. This is to ensure that units are bed face in contact with water for a period
in Concrete Masonry Units
constructed in reasonably dry condition, of a minute. From the increase in weight
so that the tendency to drying shrinkage from water absorption, the initial rate of Oven-dry Maximum
Test specimen Tap density of water
of units after placing in the structure is absorption is calculated, see Figure 5.4.
Type of concrete absorption
reduced. Tank
Bond developed between masonry units unit (kg/m3) (kg/m3)
and mortar depends to a great extent on Ultra-lightweight <1400 320
the initial rate of absorption of the unit, the
water retention properties of the mortar, and Lightweight 14001700 290
the balance achieved between them. 3 mm Medium-weight 17002000 240
If units with low initial rate of absorption Normal-weight >2000 210
are combined with mortars of high water-
retentivity, the mortar will take too long to
Support bars Overflow
set and good bond will not occur. If units
with a high initial rate of absorption are
combined with mortar of extremely low Figure 5.4 Initial Rate of Absorption Test
water-retentivity, the mortar will stiffen too
quickly and bond again will be lost. The
ideal solution in this case is a compromise
mortar design. Careful matching of the
water retentivity of mortar to the initial rate
of absorption of the units is important.

Properties QUIT
1 AS/NZS ISO 9001 Quality management
systems Requirements, Standards
2 National Construction Code (NCC) BCA
Building Code of Australia Volumes One
and Two
3 AS 3700 Masonry structures, Standards
4 AS 4773.1 Masonry in small buildings
Part 1 Design, Standards Australia.
5 AS 4773.2 Masonry in small buildings
Part 2 Construction, Standards Australia.
6 AS/NZS 4455.1 Masonry units, pavers, flags
and segmental retaining wall units Part 1
Masonry units, Standards Australia.
7 AS/NZS 4456 [Set] Masonry units, pavers
and flags Methods of test, Standards

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