Everything You Want to Know About Stone Masonry

House with stone masonry

Do you like the look of stone masonry? The use of stone for homes or buildings is a timeless choice. It exudes the permanence, luxury, and strength of a castle or an ancient building, and sometimes the charm and old-world quality of those buildings as well.

One element of stonework, such as a chimney or fireplace, in or on your home, can transform a new structure and give it instant character. And if you use it properly, natural stone can help to heat your home, as it retains heat from the sun or fire.

Modern style stone applications add an upscale appeal to new structures, even if you only add a little bit. The natural, earthy feel of a stone facade on your home’s exterior can complement regular siding very nicely.

Get Your Stone Straight

Maybe you like stone, but you are not sure how to articulate what you want. Or perhaps you have gotten mock-ups from your contractor that just don’t fit the picture in your mind.

That’s because natural stone masonry includes more detail than you thought. Not only are there two main types of natural stone masonry, but each of those types has several subtypes.

Rubble Masonry Vs. Ashlar Masonry

You guessed it; these are the names of the two broad categories of stone masonry. You can remember them this way:

  • Rubble masonry uses undressed or crudely dressed stones.
  • Ashlar masonry uses finely dressed stones.

Rubble masonry looks more like rubble and ashlar does not. Common to most rubble masonry is wider joints with more mortar to accommodate the uneven shapes.

Ashlar masonry uses thin joints and smooth sides with regular shapes that can be laid like bricks. However, there are some interesting variations within the following categories.

Rubble Masonry Subtypes and Common Usages

Rubble stone masonry

Dry Rubble Masonry

Have you ever heard the term “good fences make good neighbors?” This saying was based on, believe it or not, the most rudimentary style of masonry there is. You can still find this style in pastoral England in the form of fieldstone fences. Farmers used what was available – in this case, the glacial stones in their pastures – to make sheep fences.

Dry rubble masonry falls apart year after year, and neighboring farmers work together to rebuild them year after year. But we don’t recommend this style of building for any other application!

Random Rubble Masonry

You could say random rubble masonry is one step up from dry rubble masonry in that it uses mortar, and it requires a similar level of skill.

The pattern looks random, in that it uses completely undressed stone or “wild” stone. However, the craft that goes into it is crucial.

Masons using this method want to avoid a large vertical joint and distribute the pressure evenly across the horizontal axis. The shapes and sizes of each stone must be carefully thought out and chosen. You might see this type of masonry used on a rustic stone cottage or chimney.

Square Rubble Masonry

Stones are roughly hewn into squares with a hammer or chisel dressing. They can be coursed – a masonry term for lining up horizontal joints evenly through the structure – or uncoursed.

Coursed square rubble masonry is more common. You will see this type of masonry used most prominently on public buildings like government buildings, schools, and hospitals.

Polygonal Rubble Masonry

If you shape your stone into irregular, multi-faceted shapes with straight sides, this is polygonal rubble masonry. It has a more irregular look but can boast a stronger tensile strength because of the natural elements of the arch. These types of walls are found in ancient Incan and Mayan buildings.

Ashlar Masonry Subtypes

Ashlar stone masonry

Rough Tooled

Ashlar rough tooled stones are chisel dressed, so they are smooth on the bed and sides. The fronts are roughened with tools to make a coarse surface on the front but uniformity of size and shape.


Another way to create a rough appearance with the strength of uniformity is by using a rock-faced cut. It’s also called quarry-faced because the stones are left with faces as they were when quarried, except for a chiseled strip around the perimeter of each stone.


This type of stone is one degree more finished than the first two. Each stone has, instead of a roughly chiseled strip around the perimeter, a smooth angle. It makes each stone more dimensional.

Fine Tooled

Although this method can yield some of the most beautiful results, it has fallen out of use because of the expense. In this method, each stone is entirely uniformly cut and laid. Manufactured stone has replaced this method in many cases.

Bringing it Home

Stone masonry is a broad term. With the knowledge of the primary categories and subtypes, you will be able to make an informed decision.

Would you like more information or do you need masonry repair? Renovations Roofing & Remodeling, Inc. provides masonry services and repairs to Southeast Michigan. Please give us a call. We would happy to help!

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