What Are the Different Types of Natural Stone Masonry?

So, you’ve decided to add natural stone to your home.

Maybe you and your spouse have chosen fieldstone or granite, agreed on the exact location of your structure, and picked out complementary furnishings. But why do you find yourself getting different mockups from individual contractors and companies?

The problem is that stone masonry is a broad term. As a textbook definition, it only refers to stone units bonded together with mortar. This meaning doesn’t cover methodology, an aspect which can radically alter the appearance of a natural stone structure or façade.

Don’t worry! You won’t need years of expertise to understand the various construction styles (besides, we’ve got you covered in that department). Let’s go over the different kinds of stone masonry, so you can attain your ideal home environment.

There are two primary types of stone masonry. And many, many subtypes.

As with most subjects, a hierarchy of organization exists in stone masonry. Most of the industry’s work can generally be classified into the two following categories:

  1. Rubble Masonry – As you might’ve inferred from the title, rubble masonry uses undressed or rudimentarily dressed stones that resemble building rubble. This style was one of the earliest forms of stone masonry, and can be seen in both ancient structures and modern, rustic homes.
      • Due to the variability of natural stone’s shape, wide joints are often used to compensate for a lack of uniformity. While not necessarily as structurally sound as other forms of masonry, rubble masonry provides eye-catching texture and pastoral charm.

    Alair Minar Structure

  2. Ashlar Masonry – A more expensive form of natural stone masonry, this type requires finely dressed stones that are level with each other and mostly homogenous. These stones are then laid in cement or lime mortar, in the style of a traditional brick structure.
    • The refined shape permits thinner joints, which are subsequently applied with a uniform thickness.Ashlar masonry is more common in towering monuments, architectural buildings, arched bridges, and more. Finely dressed stones usually have right-angled edges running parallel to each other.Ashlar Wall

What are the main subtypes of rubble masonry?

  1. Random Rubble Masonry – So, this kind of rubble masonry is not random per se. In fact, stones have to be chosen with meticulous precision in order to fit together properly. The reason? They’re completely undressed (“raw” from the ground), or knocked into rough shape with a hammer. Though raw materials are cheaper as a result, the process requires more time to ensure pressure is distributed over the maximum amount of lateral area, while avoiding long vertical joints.
  2. Square Rubble Masonry – Square rubble masonry still has that rough-hewn look which all rubble masonry shares, but the face stones are squared (approximately) via hammer or chisel dressing. They can be coursed – a term referring to lining up the horizontal joints evenly throughout a structure – or uncoursed.
    • Coursed square rubble masonry is more common than uncoursed, often employed in the construction of public building, hospitals, school, markets and government institutions.
  3. Polygonal Rubble Masonry – Do you enjoy variety and complexity? Polygonal rubble masonry might be a good fit for your home or business. In this subtype, stones are hammer dressed into an irregular, multi-faceted shape with straight sides.
    • This style is most commonly associated a number of Central and South American ancient civilizations, such as the Incans and Mayans. It’s regarded as a strong, resilient building method, since it contains trace elements of the arch –  a shape known for its tensile strength.
  1. Dry Rubble Masonry – Essentially, this is random rubble masonry without mortar. It requires a sizable amount of expertise with little reward, since dry rubble walls are prone to falling over. We don’t recommend building a dry masonry structure over six meters.

What are the main subtypes of ashlar masonry?

  1. Rough Tooled Ashlar Masonry – In rough tooled ashlar masonry, the bed and sides are chisel-dressed, so as to be smooth and even. Then the face is made rough with various tools. The result is a visually-striking, coarse surface with the strength and uniformity of a brick structure or wall.
  2. Rock-faced Ashlar Masonry – Also known as quarry-faced ashlar masonry, this method is similar to rough tooling, except a chiseled strip (around 25mm wide) spans the perimeter of every stone. The rest of the face is left as it was found at the quarry.
  1. Chamfered Ashlar Masonry – Chamfering the edges of stone adds a degree of dimensionality to stone. The perimeter of the exposed face is chamfered at an angle of 45 degrees to a depth of 25mm. 
  2. Fine Tooled Ashlar Masonry – One of the more cost-prohibitive options, fine ashlar masonry necessitates each stone be cut into a uniform size and shape, mirroring a rectangular prism. This allows perfect horizontal and vertical joints with adjacent stones.
    • While it’s easily one of the most beautiful types of ashlar masonry, the style has fallen out of favor, due to its relative expense and the prevalence of artificial stone.

Specializing in extensive masonry repair and rejuvenation, Cirigliano Masonry serves home and business owners throughout the Pittsburgh area. From design to build, as well as complete restoration options, rely on us for Stone Masonrypointing and repair. We also offer general masonrystone repair, and more.  

Cleaning Natural Stone Do’s and Don’ts

There’s no denying the incredible beauty of natural stone. Of course, the fact that marble and other stone offers a unique look and delivers years of enjoyment adds to its attractiveness in the eye of many home and business owners!

Natural Stone StepsIt’s a popular material for fireplaces, floors, patios, stairways, walkways and other outdoor applications — which means it’s exposed to the elements, likely to receive a lot of traffic … and needs occasional cleaning to keep its beauty at its best.

The good news? For all the toughness associated with natural stone, it’s remarkably easy to clean and maintain! Some tips:

  • Do dust-mop stone floors or sweep regularly; sand and small stones can mar a good finish!
  • Do clean stone surfaces with stone soap or a mild detergent.
  • Do completely rinse with clean water after washing and dry stone surfaces.
  • Do blot up spills immediately; time enables them to sink in and become stains.
  • Don’t use cleaners that contain acids such as bathroom or grout cleaners or tub-and-tile products.
  • Don’t use abrasives such as dry cleansers or soft cleansers on natural stone.
  • Do use pH-neutral cleaners to remove mold and mildew. Conduct an internet search for the many commercial products available, or ask your natural stone contractor for a recommendation.
  • Do flush outdoor pool, patio or hot tub areas with clear water and a mild bleach solution to remove algae or moss.
  • Don’t ever mix bleach and ammonia; this combination creates a toxic and lethal gas!
  • Do use plain white vinegar or lemon juice (which are mild and natural cleaners) to remove hard water stains. Remove any stains regularly as the longer they are allowed to sit, the more difficult they are to remove. For older stains, larger areas or heavier concentrations, contact your natural stone contractor for help. And, be aware that stronger substances including acid can do much more harm than good!
  • Do apply a weather sealer and water repellent on your natural stone after cleaning, to help it last in the summer sun and the long winter snow and ice.

Natural Stone WallA final tip? Periodically inspect your exterior natural stone for structural defects, deterioration or staining — perhaps in the company of your natural stone contractor. With the right cleaning and care, you’ll enjoy your natural stone for years, if not decades, to come!

Specializing in exterior natural stone additions and repairs, Cirigliano Masonry serves home and business owners throughout the Pittsburgh area. From design to build and extending to your full satisfaction, rely on us for brick masonry, pointing and repair as well as indoor and outdoor fireplaces, stone masonry, stone wall repairs and more.

Benefits of Natural Stone

Natural Stone WallNatural stone products or other alternatives? Whether building new or updating, home buyers and commercial building owners quickly come to the fork in the road when considering materials for fireplaces, foundations, patios, stairways, walls and walkways.

While cement, engineered or faux stone, tile and other materials gain consideration, there’s no denying the appeal of natural stone. “Stone does not break down and can stand the test of time. Stone features are there for the long haul, which you cannot say for other materials,” says Jan Johnsen, principal of a design/project management firm and author of “The Spirit of Stone.”

So, what’s the attraction of granite and its popular cousins such as limestone, marble, quartzite, slate and soapstone, among natural stone options? Their benefits include:

  • Affordability: When assessing the cost of natural stone, consider durability, lifespan, uniqueness and quality. These characteristics make it clear that natural stone is often more economical in the long run.
  • Environmentally friendly: Choosing natural stone can benefit the planet. Because stone does not require energy for production, pollution is not generated in its creation.
  • Durability: When homeowners or designers choose construction materials, they should keep in mind the ability of natural stone to withstand hail, heat, fire, rain, snow and wind. What’s more, when stone is selected for structures like fireplaces and outdoor kitchens, it’s not easily burned, scratched or stained.
  • Economy: Because natural stone is nearly indestructible, you’ll forego the potential expenses of repairing scratches and stains that often occur with other materials.
  • Color: You’ll chose from bluestone, flagstone, granite, limestone, marble, sandstone, slate and travertine, among many other natural stone options! And given the wide selection of types let alone the uniqueness in shades and grains from piece to piece, your design possibilities are almost endless! As a result, the natural beauty your selection should be viewed and approved before purchase and installation.
  • Flexibility: Granite and marble slabs as well as other natural stone choices can be tailored to meet the needs of homebuilders, designers and architects. The only limit to the choice of natural stone is your imagination!
  • Care: When properly sealed, natural stone is remarkably simple to clean and maintain. What’s more for many, the appearance of natural stone improves over time!

Natural Stone PathOne more key benefit to nature stone? Value. According to, “Outdoor renovation projects with the highest return on investment” posted at inman.com, an exterior improvement can add curb appeal, deliver a feature you love … and increase the value of your home.

The article reports, for example, patio additions van have a return on investment or ROI of 30 to 60 percent, fire pits as much as 150 percent, and outdoor kitchen as high as 200 percent!

Specializing in exterior natural stone additions and repairs, Cirigliano Masonry serves home and business owners throughout the Pittsburgh area. From design to build and extending to your fulll satisfaction, rely on us for brick masonry, pointing and repair as well as indoor and outdoor fireplaces, stone masonry, stone wall repairs and more. Contact us today!