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Building Concrete Masonry Homes: Design and Construction

Report Acceptance Date: 
November 1999 (33 pages)
Posted Date:   
November 1, 1999

For centuries home builders in the United States have made wood their material of choice because of its satisfactory performance, abundant supply, and relatively low cost. However, recent increases and unpredictable fluctuations in the price of lumber, as well as concerns with its quality, are causing builders and other providers of affordable housing to seek alternative building products. Concrete Masonry units (CMU) have a significant percentage of the United States market for foundation walls in homes, and have a long history of use in above-grade walls in other parts of the southern United States. Its strength, durability, fire-resistance, energy performance, price stability, and success in the commercial market have attracted the attention of many builders and designers. But the limited understanding of CMU construction for above-grade walls in residential applications has prevented this alternative material from gaining wider acceptance among home builders and code officials. This document identifies the major issues related to the design and construction of a home with above-grade concrete masonry walls, and presents different approaches to construction details including the installation of insulation, floor framing, and doors and windows. The document is structured around the experiences of two case study homes. By facilitating CMU construction I hope that this document expands housing affordability through competition from alternative methods and materials.


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