Concrete vs Split-Face Blocks

We have compiled a glossary of common masonry and tuckpointing terms to help you make informed decisions about your next masonry project. If you have any questions or want to put our decades of experience to work for you, contact us!


Our licensed mason contractors get asked about the differences between Split-Face Block and Concrete Block all the time. In truth, there is no material difference between the two (and we mean that literally). Only the surface texture differentiates the two types of blocks.

Concrete Blocks have a smooth face and are most often buried in walls right behind the exterior brick or stone as an inexpensive way to add stability to a masonry wall.

Split-Face Blocks have a rough texture, which makes for a more aesthetically pleasing look on large exterior walls (like what you find on the side and rear walls of many 3-flats and 6-flats built in the Chicagoland area over the last 20 years).

Split-Face Block, Split-Faced Block & Rock-Faced Block all mean the same thing: A concrete building unit which appears to have been hand-chiseled (or “split”) to give it a very textured look. In reality, the concrete slurry is poured into a form with the texture already built into it.

Sometimes architects refer to a Concrete Block as "CMU," which stands for Concrete Masonry Unit. Old timers refer to this product as Cinder Block because of the use of cinders as an ingredient in its composition.

Builders and developers warmly embrace the use of concrete block because it permits a greatly accelerated rate of building, thereby reducing the cost of construction. (One 12"-thick concrete block can be used in lieu of 18 bricks.)

All of this time and labor savings sounds like a good thing. After all, less time spent constructing a building means less expense incurred by the builder and, in theory, a lower purchase price for the buyer. However, we have found that buildings constructed with concrete blocks seem to have more water infiltration issues and require more regular maintenance than buildings constructed entirely out of brick.


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