Concrete block, also commonly referred to as cement block, is a rectangular brick made for use in general construction. Since it is generally made with a mold and cast prior to use, they are part of the precast family.
Their design and implementation can vary between manufacturers and construction jobs. For instance, sometimes they will be made with hollow centers to improve insulation or provide for lighter weight workability.
Retaining walls built with concrete blocks are more and more common. They usual require special footers, specific wall thickness, and usually some steel reinforcing. Many residential basement walls use them.
Their use depends on the size and type of wall being constructed. Since there is a big difference between a free standing retaining wall and a residential foundation, how and when they are used varies greatly from one construction project to the next.
When columns and tie beams are joined with concrete blocks, the result is an incredibly sturdy structure. These structures are typical of load bearing walls seen in most building construction.
The holes inside allow rebar and concrete to compensate for lack of vertical strength by connecting to the block, reinforcing it significantly. For very large structures however, tilt wall construction is becoming a more popular alternative
Much like pottery, glazing can be applied to blocks to create a hard, glossy finish to improve its appearance. With this aesthetic improvement also comes a functional improvement in that aggregate materials can be added to resist water or other naturally erosive elements. This makes these glazed products ideal for moisture rich areas and places where sanitation is paramount.
Some examples are:
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