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Split-Face Concrete Blocks: A Guide to Uses, Finishing Options, and Properties

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Split-Face Blocks: What are They and How Can You Use Them?

What are Split-Face Concrete Blocks?

Split-face concrete blocks are a common type of masonry block that is used for residential home construction as well as commercial and industrial buildings. They are made from concrete and have one face that has been split to expose the aggregate inside the block.

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Split-face block is a type of masonry material that is made of concrete and has a rough, textured surface on one side. This gives the block a unique “rock-face” texture and appearance that is different from your typical concrete cinder block. Basically, two blocks are made together and then split apart. In contrast to the rock-shaped face front, the backside of split-face block are actually completely flat and smooth, similar to a regular concrete block.

split face block foundation

Can you add finishes to split-face block?

Finishing Options for Split-Face Block

Yes, there are finishing options for split-face block! Some common finishing options include sandblasting to give the surface a smoother and more uniform texture, as well as staining or painting to change the color of the blocks. Another option is to add a clear or pigmented sealer to enhance the natural colors and protect the surface from moisture and staining. Another option is to apply a silicate-based hardener to densify and strengthen the surface, which can also make it more resistant to abrasion and weathering.

***It’s important to note that each of these options will affect the final “look” and performance of the split-face blocks. Careful consideration should be given to selecting the best option for your specific project.

Other types of concrete block

there is a concrete block for every use case

There are various other types of concrete masonry blocks and include hollow block, solid concrete block, insulating concrete block, porous concrete block, interlocking block, architectural concrete block, and concrete cinder block. The most commonly used concrete blocks in residential construction are hollow block, solid block, and cinder block.

american road split face corner2

When should you use split-face block?

Ideal Applications for Split-Face Concrete Blocks

Split-face concrete blocks are commonly used for foundations and exterior walls because they are able to provide a decorative and aesthetic finish that is both durable and low-maintenance. They are also commonly used for commercial and industrial buildings such as warehouses, shopping malls, government offices, and factories. They can be used as a wall to contain items such as dumpsters, mechanical hvac systems, large plumbing setups, and storage tanks on larger commercial buildings.

When should you not use split-face block?

Instances when you should not use split-face block

In areas with high seismic activity. Masonry foundations are not suitable in areas with high seismic activity because they are prone to cracking and collapsing during earthquakes. Masonry materials such as brick and concrete block lack the flexibility and ductility needed to withstand the ground movement and shaking that occurs during earthquakes.

In high moisture environments:  Split-face block is generally not recommended for use in high moisture areas as it is more porous and prone to water damage than other types of masonry materials. Over time, repeated exposure to moisture can cause the split-face block to absorb moisture and lead to damage such as cracking, warping, and discoloration. Additionally, the freeze-thaw cycles that occur in high moisture areas can cause further damage to split-face block.

split face block foundation 2

Are Split-Face block good insulators?

Instances when you should not use split-face block

One of the major benefits of split-face concrete blocks is that they are able to provide slightly better insulative properties when compared to traditional concrete blocks. The aggregate inside the block is able to trap air pockets, which helps to keep the building warm in the winter and cool in the summer. This can help to reduce energy costs slightly and make the building more comfortable to live or work in. 

The insulative properties of split-face block depend on the composition of the concrete mix used to make the blocks, but generally, masonry materials like split-face block have low insulation values. To improve the insulation performance of a building made of split-face block, it is often necessary to add additional insulation to the walls, such as spray foam insulation or fiberglass batt insulation.

How durable are split-face blocks

Durability and weathering capabilities

Split-face concrete blocks are also very strong and durable. They are able to withstand extreme weather conditions, such as high winds, heavy rain, and extreme temperatures. They are also resistant to fire, which makes them a popular choice for buildings that require a higher level of fire resistance. Use split-face block on permanent structures that are virtually maintenance free. No coatings and no paint required.

split face block foundation residential

Is installation easy or laborious?

Installation is simple, but you must mind the faces.

When it comes to installation, split-face concrete blocks are relatively easy to work with. They are available in a variety of sizes and shapes, which makes them easy to cut and shape to fit the specific needs of the project. They also require minimal finishing and can be installed using traditional masonry techniques. One thing to remember is that the faces are split manually and have different profiles. Some blocks protrude more than others, which can result in an uneven appearance if the blocks aren’t sorted properly. Some blocks will need to be thrown out altogether and not utilized at all.

split face block foundation3

What sizes do split-face block come in?

Most common sizes for split-face block

8″ x 8″ x 16″  —  20 x 20 x 40 cm
8″ x 8″ x 24″ —  20 x 20 x 60 cm
12″ x 8″ x 16″ —  30 x 20 x 40 cm
12″ x 12″ x 12″ —  30 x 30 x 30 cm
16″ x 8″ x 16″ —  40 x 20 x 40 cm
16″ x 8 x 24″ —  40 x 20 x 60 cm
16″ x 16″ x 16″ —  40 x 40 x 40 cm

In Conclusion

Split-face concrete blocks are a durable and versatile building material that can be used for a wide range of construction projects. They are able to provide a decorative finish, good insulation, and a high level of fire resistance, which makes them a popular choice for commercial and industrial buildings. They can also be used in building residential projects. They are easy to work with and require minimal finishing, which makes them a cost-effective solution for many construction projects.


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We are construction junkies and love educating people on the conventions and trends in the residential construction space. We use our blog to post informational articles, how-to’s and sometimes show off our own construction projects. We love the transparency and it really does give non-construction folks a view into the industry.


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