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Mortar is the name given to a mixture of sand or similar inert particles with cementing material
and water which has the capacity of hardening into a rock like mass. In general the maximum size of the
inert particles in mortar is less than 5mm, and the cementing material is Portland cement and/or lime.

In building construction, its uses are many and varied such as jointing medium in brick and stone
masonry, wall plaster or constituent of concrete and obviously its composition varies accordingly. The
main function of the mortar used in wall construction, is to transfer from stone to stone the pressure that
is produced by the weight of the masonry and the superimposed load if any. In such a case the
compressive stress on the mortar is as large as on the stones and bricks themselves, and it is therefore
clear that not only the building stone and strength if a durable masonry is to be built.

Wall plastering is the other wide spread use of mortar. If an even surface is desired on a wall, it is
given two or three layers of specially prepared mortar. By using appropriate tools, the outer layer can be
made smooth before it hardens.


The traditional mortar material for building work was lime, but later to an increasing extent it
was replaced by Portland cement. While the use of lime results in a relatively workable mixture, rapid
development of strength as well as stronger mortar is most conveniently obtained with Portland cement.
Nowadays, in order to combine the advantages of each, constructors prepare and use mortar made with
appropriate proportions of Portland cement, lime and sand which is known as compo-mortar.

In order to produce a durable mortar of required strength and other essential properties at a
minimum cost, careful attention must be given to the selection and proportioning of the component
materials. The following point must also be considered:

1. The mixture must be workable so that it can be placed and finished without undue labor.
2. Since Portland cement is the most costly ingredient in the mixture, its proportion used should
be as small as possible keeping the attainment of desired properties.

The most accurate method of measuring proportions is by weight however because of its advantage at the site
volumetric proportioning is often used.

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Properties of mortars vary greatly because they are dependent on many variables such as the
properties of the cementitious material used, ratio of cementitious material to sand, characteristics and
grading of the sand, and proportion of water.

For the same proportion, lime-sand mortar invariably gives better workability than Portland
cement-sand mortar. As pointed out above, sometimes both lime and cement can with advantage be
combined in the mortar –compo-mortar- which as a result is both plastic and strong. Sometimes
plasticizers and air-entraining agents are used in order to improve the workability of cement-sand
mortars, especially when they are lean (i.e. containing less amount of cement) mixes.


Results of tests on mortars and compo-mortars have shown that strength is affected by a number of
factors which include the quantity of the ingredients, their proportion, the curing method and age.

For the same proportions, lime-sand mix gives weaker mortar than cement-sand mix. This is due
mainly to two factors, the first being the difference in strength between Portland cement and lime pastes.
For the same proportions cement gives invariably stronger paste than lime. Secondly Portland cement is a
better cementing material than lime giving a better bond between the paste and the inert materials which
are the sand grains.

The compressive, tensile, shear and bending strength of cement mortar increase with an increase in
the cement content, and this is true irrespective of the grain size distribution of the sand. However, drying
shrinkage increases and the mortar becomes prone to shrinkage cracks.

The strength as well as the density of mortar made of the same class of sand decrease as the
proportion of fine grains in the sand increases.

The other ingredient that affects the strength of mortar is the water used in the mix. In general,
increasing the percentage of mixing water beyond that required to form a placeable mix lowers the
strength and density of the mortar.

The strength of mortar increases with age. The rate of increase is highest at early age and becomes
negligible after a year or so. This is associated with the degree of hydration of the cement in the case of
cement-mortar or the amount of carbon absorption in the case of lime-mortar.


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Sometimes mortar is used in parts of building exposed to dampness or moisture and might be
required to be water tight. In such cases, Portland cement should be used because of its hydraulic
property and the mix should be rich and dense. Such mortar can be produced by using higher amount of
cement, lower water/cement ratio and coarse grained sand.

Materials for Mortar

Sand used for making mortar should be well graded, that is the particles should not all be fine nor
all coarse. If the sand is well graded, the finer particles help to occupy the space (voids) between the
larger particles, thus resulting in a dense mortar and permitting the most economical use of cement and/or
lime in filling the remainder of the voids or air spaces and binding the sand particles together.

Sand should be clean, free from dust, loam, clay, and vegetable matter. These foreign materials are
objectionable because they prevent adhesion, thereby reducing the strength of the mortar and increasing
its porosity. Mortar made with dirty sand hardens very slowly even under the most favorable conditions
and may never harden enough to permit the mortar to be used for its intended purpose.


Mortars are classified in three ways:

1. on the basis of composition
-lime mortar
-cement mortar
-compo mortar
-gypsum mortar
2. on the basis of their density
-heavy mortar
-lightweight mortar

3. on the basis of their proposed application

-laying mortar
-protective mortar (plaster)
Lime mortars

For making lime mortars, a careful selection has to be made of the main components, that is, lime and
sand. Sand is added to the lime for giving strength to the mortar, for resisting shrinkage on setting of lime and to
increase the bulk volume of mortar.

Lime mortars are used commonly in many types of constructions except where sub-grade is moist o wher
very heavy loading is expected or where the structure is very thick.

Proportioning of raw materials is the most important step in making mortar of good quality. Different proportions
are recommended for different jobs:

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A. Foundations: Any one of the following mixes: These mortars are quite satisfactory
1. In DRY sub-grade, where water I) 1 lime, 2 sand for buildings upto 3 storeys height.
level is 2.4 meters (8 feet) below the II) 1cement , 3 lime, For moist subgrade only cement and
foundation level.(loading less than 12 sand sand mortar (1:3) should be used.
44 tonnes/m2 )

2.Foundation work in medium and 1 cement, 1 lime and 6 sand

heavy loading in dry subgrade
(loading more than 44 tonnes/m2
(only cement-sand mortar, with 1
3.Foundation   work   in   medium   and cement:3 sand, should be used
heavy   loading   in   dry
subgrade(>44tonnes)   but   when   sub
grade is moist

1 lime,2 sand Load below 44 tonnes/m2  

4.Load bearing walls with masonry
     a. Light loading 
1 lime,2 sand Load between 44-66 tonnes/m2
1 cement,2 lime, 9 sand
1 cement,3 lime, 12 sand
     b. medium loading 
1 cement,2 lime and 9 sand or 1
Load above 66 tonnes/m2  and below
cement 1 lime and 6 sand
88 tonnes/m2

 c. heavy loading                 
1 cement, 1 lime, and 6sand
Between 88-110 tonnes/m2
Suitable for most of masonry work.
d. Very Heavy Loading
1 cement, 3 sand

5.Cavity Walls 1 lime, 3 sand

6.Arch work in stones 1 cement, 1 lime, and 6 sand

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7.Non-load bearing walls


Cement mortars
These are similar lime mortars in function and required qualities. The cement mortars contain
Portland cement as one of the essential component s. They are better in strength and durability than lime
mortars. Hence they are recommended for use in all major construction work. For common type of
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construction a compo-mortar is generally preferred. It contains cement and lime in addition to sand. The
proportioning of cement mortar and compo-mortars are fixed on the basis of their application.

Table. Proportions Recommended for cement sand mortar

No. Type of situation of work Recommended Proportions

1. For ordinary masonry work with brick/stone as structural 1 cement, 3 sand to

units 1 cement, 6 sand

2. For reinforced brick work for all work in moist situations 1 cement, 2 sand to
1 cement, 3 sand.

3. Architectural work 1 cement, 3 sand

4. Load bearing structures 1 cement, 2 sand,

1 cement, 6 sand.


These are lean types of mortar with a fluid like consistency. They are used more for giving a stable
protective covering to a construction. Sometimes, plasters given to obtain a decorative look. These are
called decorative plasters.

Among the various types of plasters, the lime plasters, the cement plasters, the gypsum plaster and the
stucco plasters are well known. The gypsum plasters are decorative made by replacing cement with
calcined gypsum (CaSO4). These plasters have much greater resistance against heat, sound, and fire.
Further, they set and harden quickly and can take any intricate shapes. Hence they are also used to give
architectural fancies to the building work.


Materials used for making mortar should be accurately measured, especially when preparing
mortar for wall plaster. Cement is usually measured by weight in cement bags whereas site (wet) slaked
lime and sand are measured by volume.

Each cement bag, as delivered by the factories, contains a net weight of 50kg which corresponds to
about 35 liter loose volumes. For convenience, the other materials can be measured by using a measuring
box made to hold quantities in multiples of 35 liter would be 40cm long, 35cm wide and 25cm deep

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Care should be taken so as to have the sand surface dry. If surface moisture is present, bulking should be allowed

Mortar is usually mixed at the site, and mixing may be by hand or by mechanical mixer. Hand mixing must be
done on a proper mixing board which should be water tight and clean.

Any mortar containing cement should be thoroughly mixed in a dry state first, and then added before final
mixing. All cement or cement – lime mortars should be used within the first two hours of mixing.

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