What Is the Thickness Required Of a Masonry Wall?

 Learn how thick masonry walls should be to meet different requirements

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Are you going to build a masonry house? In this case, you want to know how thick its walls should be so that the building is able to bear all the weight and last as long as possible. But then, you will definitely face a common question: how thick is a brick wall?

In a previous article, we discussed the concept of stone house walls. But this article, we will tell you about the required thickness of masonry walls used for different types of constructions. Also, you will find out more about the general requirement for the thickness of masonry walls in buildings. In particular, we will tell you how thick different types of masonry walls should be so that they could perform their job well.

How Thick Should Masonry Walls Be?

Before you build a house, you need to do a lot of measurements, as well as calculations regarding how thick the walls of the future building will be as well. But you should also consider that typically at the design stage, there are going to be many different requirements regarding the thickness of masonry walls that need to be considered. 

Brick wall one and a half bricks wide
By vista.com

For example, it is recommended to use constant masonry wall thickness between lateral supports. The lateral support for masonry is provided by cross walls, pilasters, and structural frame members.

Also, it is important to consider the fact that masonry wall thickness changes between floor and roof, and between different floors, it is usually enforced in order to reach thermal, sound, and fire safety requirements. All these factors should be taken into consideration along with the fact that regarding the variation of masonry in a vertical direction, the distance between floors, structural frames, and roofs should be considered when the thickness of masonry wall is varied. 

Since masonry wall thickness is such an important measurement, it is recommended to extend the thicker wall to the lower support level if the masonry wall thickness is changed for some reason. In particular, building code requirements and specifications for masonry structure (ACI 530-11) state that, when the thickness of a masonry wall constructed from hollow masonry units is changed, then it would be required to provide a layer (or several layers) of solid masonry units or completely grouted hollow masonry units between thicker masonry wall and the thinner masonry wall. 

The aim of providing a solid masonry course between thicker and thinner masonry walls is to properly transfer loads from the above wall (thin wall) to the wall below (thick wall). There are also several limitations and restrictions which should be considered for masonry walls. The only exception is in the case where the walls are designed for reinforcements based on certain engineering principles. 

Below, you can check out the information about the limitations associated with masonry thickness for different masonry wall types.

Thickness Requirements for Load Bearing Masonry Wall

The thickness of load bearing masonry wall should be at least 304.8 mm (1 ft.) thick for a maximum wall height of 10.668m (35 ft.). Moreover, the thickness of the masonry wall needs to be increased by 101.6 mm (4in.) for each successive 10.668m (35 ft.) height or fractions of this height measured from the top of the masonry wall. 

However, you should know that there are several cases when the conditions described above may not be applied to load-bearing masonry walls. These exceptional cases involve: 

  1. stiffened masonry wall
  2. top storey masonry wall
  3. residential masonry wall
  4. masonry walls of penthouses and roof structures
  5. plain concrete and grouted brick masonry wall
  6. hollow masonry wall
  7. faced masonry wall
  8. non-bearing masonry wall

Stiffened Masonry Wall

A stiffened masonry wall is the type of wall that is made stronger (strengthened or stiffened) by reinforced concrete floors or masonry cross walls. In this case, if the load-bearing masonry wall is stiffened, then it is possible to adopt a thickness of 304.8mm (1 ft.) for a maximum wall height of 21.33m (70 ft.). 

The thickness of the masonry wall should be increased by 101.6mm (4 in.) for each successive 21.33m (70ft.) height or fractions of this height measured from the top of the masonry wall.

How Thick Should Top Storey Masonry Walls Be?

The thickness of a top-storey masonry wall will vary. It is permitted to use a thickness of 203.2mm (8 inch) for top-storey bearing masonry of a building with an ultimate height of 10.668m (35 ft.). Also, note that this type of wall should not experience lateral loads and its height should not exceed 3.65m (12 ft.) otherwise such thickness cannot be considered.

What Should Be the Thickness Of a Residential Masonry Wall?

The thickness of the bearing masonry wall of a residential building can be assumed to be 203.2mm (8 inch) if the building has a maximum of three storeys. However, this thickness should not be used if the building is higher than three storeys! Otherwise, if you keep using these measurements, the height of the wall exceeds 10.668m (35 ft.), or the wall is subjected to lateral forces. Additionally, the wall thickness can be decreased to 152.4mm (6 in.) for one-storey building if the maximum wall height is 2.74m (9 ft.).

Masonry Wall of Penthouses and Roof Structures

The thickness of bearing wall masonry with a height of 3.65m (12 ft.) above roof level or penthouses can be assumed to be 203.2mm (8 inch). For the masonry walls made of plain concrete and grouted brick, it is possible to adopt a 152mm (6 ft.) thickness of plain concrete and grouted brick masonry wall.

Hollow Masonry Wall

If you are working with hollow masonry walls, it is recommended to restrict the height of the cavity or bonded hollow masonry wall to a maximum of 10.668m (35 ft.). In addition to that, the height of the cavity wall should not be greater than 7.62m (25 ft.) above the support if its thickness is equal to 254mm (10 inches).

What Should Be the Thickness of Non-Load Bearing Masonry Walls?

You can assume that the minimum thickness of the parapet wall can be 203mm (8 inch). Also, note that its height should not be larger than three times the wall thickness! At the same time, if it is reinforced to resist earthquakes, it is possible (and even recommended) to use a smaller thickness for the parapet wall. 

Regarding thickness requirements of an exterior nonbearing masonry wall, the same specifications provided by ACI 530-11 for bearing masonry wall should be used which is 152mm (6 inch) for single-storey building and 203mm (8 inch) for more than one storey building

Like this, now you know how thick different types of masonry walls should be in order to be able to perform their job properly. Now that you are aware of this information, when you start building your own home, you will be able to measure and calculate the thickness of its walls depending on their type and future functions.

 What Does Thickness Of Masonry Walls Depend On?

Now after you have learned how thick masonry walls should be, you might have another question: how come the thickness of different wall types is so different? And why is it so? Below we will try to explain this to you as simple as we can, without any complicated words!

In general, when you start building a masonry home or another building of this type, and you need to calculate the thickness of a masonry wall, you should keep a few important factors in mind. Depending on these factors, the thickness of your masonry walls may be varied.

  • Masonry walls thickness will depend on the dampness and temperature of the location
  • The thickness will differ according to the place of a constructing wall
  • The thickness of the exterior and interior walls of the building will vary as well
  • The thickness of a masonry wall also depends upon load-bearing and non-load-bearing wall

For example, did you know that the load-bearing wall above the ground should be thicker to bear a huge amount of load on it? A non load-bearing wall may also be thick but it should be tightly attached above the ground and ceiling.

Speaking of exterior vs interior walls, their thickness also differs. If the walls are exterior, then they should be thicker by about two to three bricks. But if the wall is an interior or partition wall, then the wall is constructed generally of one brick.

Why Should I Bother About the Thickness Of My Masonry Walls?

Now you may be curious about the reason why you should be concerned about the thickness of your masonry walls. What if the wall is slightly thicker or, on the contrary, thinner than is recommended? 

Well, following the construction codes and rules is a must if you want your home or the construction you are building to last as long as possible. Besides, walls of proper thickness ensure that the house is stable, which means that it is much safer to live in than a house with too thin walls! 

Besides, the thickness of masonry walls will contribute to other benefits of your future home! For example, properly measured and calculated thickness of your house’s walls can help provide adequate insulation to a structure. It means that you will most likely not have to waste extra money and time on installing insulation. But even if you would have to do that, the price would anyway be lower than for insulating the walls that have the wrong thickness.

And finally, if your masonry walls are of proper thickness, it can save the budget of the project! See, it is important to do all the measurements correctly at once, and your mason will have the primary say in the thickness of the wall. This is why it is important to choose a skilled and experienced professional! Like that, you will not have to pay extra later for fixing the walls.

So, now you know more about the thickness of masonry walls. You have learned how thick different types of walls should be, when it is ok to make them slightly thicker or thinner, and when it is not. In addition, we explained why it is so important to follow construction codes when it comes to the wall thickness. Finally, now you know what benefits you can get if you calculate the thickness of your walls correctly at once.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Minimum Thickness Of A Load-Bearing Masonry Wall?

Minimum thickness of a load bearing wall is 9".Maximum is four bricks thickness used in foundation footings I,e 36".

What Are The Thickness Requirements Of Rubble Stone Walls?

The thickness of stone wall should not be smaller 406mm (16 in.) in any case.

Are There Wall Thickness Restrictions Regarding Cement Walls?

Yes, there are. ACI-318 limits plain concrete wall thickness to a minimum of 7-1/2 inches.

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