what is mortar

Mortar is composed of a cementitious material, fine aggregate, sand, and water. They are used for bedding unit masonry, for plasters and stuccoes, and with the addition of coarse aggregate, for concrete. Here consideration is given primarily to those mortars used for unit masonry and plasters.


Properties of mortars vary greatly, being dependent on the properties of the cementitious material used, ratio of cementitious material to sand, characteristics and grading of the sand, and ratio of water to solids.

Packaging and Proportioning of Mortar

Mortars are usually proportioned by volume. A common specification is that not more than 3 ft3 of sand be used with 1 ft3 of cementitious material. Difficulty is sometimes encountered, however, in determining just how much material constitutes a cubic foot: a bag of cement (94 lb) by agreement is called a cubic foot in proportioning mortars or concretes, but an actual cubic foot of lime putty may be used in proportioning mortars. Since hydrated limes are sold in 50-lb bags (Art. 4.5.3), each of which makes somewhat more than a cubic foot of putty, weights of 40, 42, and 45 lb of hydrated lime have been used as a cubic foot in laboratory studies; but on the job, a bag is frequently used as a cubic foot. Masonry cements are sold in bags containing 70 to 80 lb , and a bag is considered a cubic foot.

Properties of Mortars

Workability is an important property of mortars, particularly of those used in conjunction with unit masonry of high absorption. Workability is controlled by the character of the cement and amount of sand. For example, a mortar made from 3 parts sand and 1 part slaked lime putty will be more workable than one made from 2 parts sand and 1 part portland cement. But the 3:1 mortar has lower strength. By proper selection or mixing of cementitious materials, a satisfactory compromise may usually be obtained, producing a mortar of adequate strength and workability.
Water retention—the ratio of the flow after 1-min standard suction to the flow before suction—is used as an index of the workability of mortars. A high value of water retention is considered desirable for most purposes. There is, however, a wide variation in water retention of mortars made with varying proportions of cement and lime and with varying limes. The ‘‘Standard Specification for Mortar for Unit Masonry,’’ ASTM C270, requires mortar mixed to an initial flow of 100 to 115, as determined by the test method of ASTM C109, to have a flow after suction of at
least 75%.
Strength of mortar is frequently used as a specification requirement, even though it has little relation to the strength of masonry.C780, and C476). The strength of mortar is affected primarily by the amount of cement in the matrix. Other factors of importance are the ratio of sand to cementing material, curing conditions, and age when tested.
Volume change of mortars constitutes another important property. Normal volume change (as distinguished from unsoundness) may be considered as the shrinkage during early hardening, shrinkage on drying, expansion on wetting,and changes due to temperature.

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