What is Masonry Cement?

Sonal Panse

Masonry cement is a special blended cement that is mixed in specific proportions with sand and water to form a strong binding mortar. This mortar is notable for its strength, durability, aesthetic appeal and resistance to atmospheric and chemical deterioration. It is widely used for mortar and stucco work in stonework, block and brick masonry, but is not considered suitable strength-wise for concrete masonry.

Masonry cement is used to bind bricks in construction projects.
Masonry cement is used to bind bricks in construction projects.

Originally, masonry cements were created as time-saving, more reliable alternatives to on-site preparations of Portland cement and hydrated lime. They are a blend of Portland cement clinker, limestone or hydraulic lime filler and various additives. This blend is manufactured under controlled conditions in cement factories.

Dry cement powder.
Dry cement powder.

This cement is also checked and tested to ensure it conforms to American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard specifications. The additives added in the manufacturing process give it durability as well as water-repellent and coloring properties. Masonry cements of different properties are used for different kinds of masonry works.

Masonry cement is often used in brick work for its aesthetic appeal.
Masonry cement is often used in brick work for its aesthetic appeal.

The ASTM classifies masonry cements into three main types: N, S, and M. Type N is used to prepare general purpose mortars that can be used in the construction of non-load bearing and exterior veneer walls. Type S and Type M are used in mortars for load bearing structures as well as below grade level and paving masonry.

Cement powder is commonly made of limestone and clay and is a key ingredient of concrete.
Cement powder is commonly made of limestone and clay and is a key ingredient of concrete.

These cements are machine-mixed in ASTM specified proportions to ensure good workability. Workability is important as the mortar must be plastic enough to be readily scooped and applied with a trowel. The mortar's board life, which is the time it remains workable, can be affected by conditions on the work site and cause it to dry at a faster rate.

Using dry mortar gives inadequate bonding support to the masonry units, and remixing it with water saps the cement bond of strength. Furthermore, the mortar becomes entirely unusable after two hours. For this reason, it is advisable to mix mortars only in small, required amounts.

Apart from the masonry cement's mortar properties, the durability of the masonry work depends on the mason's level of workmanship. It will help to mix a mortar that color complements the masonry units, apply it to adhere evenly between them and properly detail the different masonry joints. The finished masonry work will then be waterproof, and perhaps stand for a good many years without requiring much maintenance or repair.

Type S masonry cement is commonly used in building foundations for home construction.
Type S masonry cement is commonly used in building foundations for home construction.

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Discussion Comments


anon 261438 is pretty much right on the money.


Does the type S achieve its strength by using more Portland? If I add gravel to my type S, will I have concrete?


I have five leftover bags of masonry cement and one yard of premixed gravel sand (for concrete). Can I use my leftover masonry cement to make a small concrete foundation?


Portland cement is just that: "portland cement" in its raw form. It is used for variety of applications. For example, add hydrated lime and fine sand you have mortar. Add sand and gravel stone and you have concrete. Just add sand and you have grout. Now these are examples of mixing your own mixes. You can also purchase them premixed.

To answer the question: “What is masonry cement?” That's portland already mixed with lime premixed for mortar use applications. You just need to add the sand.

In conclusion, portland cement is the base material for each specified mix mentioned above. You can save money and buy the separate materials to mix together or just simply buy it premixed.

Note: If taking the separate purchase route, one must know the proper specific mix ratios needed for the detail of each project. My experience is as a mason contractor for 27 years on the east coast. It's not rocket science; it's masonry. There is a difference.


Consider portland cement lime mortar as being like making a cake from scratch, whereas masonry cement is more like using a box cake mix.

In one case you control what goes into the mix; in the other you rely on the factory.


portland cement is used with a coarse sand usually a number4 sieve and gravel of different sizes depending on the strength required. the classic mix for concrete is one part portland cement, two parts sand, and three parts gravel. masonry is used with a finer sand in a proportion of one part masonry to three parts sand. masonry really is just a spacer for the building blocks, be it brick adobe, block or stone with the added advantage of the strength it achieves when it sets.


the difference i am understanding sounds like the material that is mixed with portland vs masonry. so if one were to mix masonry with the right portions of sand and gravel would it serve the same purpose as portland cement?


Now I'm curious -- what are all the different masonry cement types?

Gregg1956 below me mentioned that they come in white and dark colors?

Is this true?

If so, what's causing the color difference? Is it just an aesthetic thing, or does it have to do with the composition of the cement, or the quality of the cement?

Do you know?


@StreamFinder -- What it basically comes down to is the fineness of the material used to make the cement.

Now, Portland cement is a concrete, which means that it has a coarser blend. It uses gravel, rather than concrete sand.

Masonry cement is a mortar, and has a much finer blend, using sand rather than gravel. It is more commonly used for masonry repair, while Portland cement is used for things like the foundations of houses, cement slabs, etc.

Of course, there are different kinds of masonry cement -- white masonry cement, dark masonry cement, etc. However, those are your major differences between masonry cement and Portland cement.

Hope that helps!


What exactly is the difference between masonry cement vs Portland cement?

Don't they all do pretty much the same thing?

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