Cement blocks and cinder blocks are used both for construction and decorative purposes. In building construction, cement blocks often are used for the foundation of buildings and for load-bearing purposes, while cinder blocks tend to be used for wall construction. Both come in standard sizes and shapes, but can be manufactured to fit into particular construction needs. Special shapes include a corner block for sharp corners at window and door frames, or a bull-nose block for a rounded corner in those spaces.
Cement block, concrete block
The terms cement block, or concrete block, are often used interchangeably. Cement blocks are created from a mixture of cement, water and small stones or gravel. To lighten the weight, companies manufacture concrete blocks with two or three holes, which are called two- or three-core blocks.
Cinder blocks, as their name implies, contain cinders, the leftovers from burned coal. Companies combine Portland cement, water and cinders to create the blocks for masonry use. One difference between cinder blocks and concrete blocks is the weight; cinder blocks are lighter. In addition, the exterior of cinder blocks tends to have a rougher texture than that of a smoothed concrete block.
Stretcher block is the term for the standard size of cement block. They are called 8-inch blocks, but the 8x8x16-inch shape actually runs 7 5/8 inches on the sides and 15 5/8 inches in length. Mortar in the joints brings the measurement up to 8 inches and 16 inches.
A jamb block is used around window frames. The block has a recessed area at one end that provides space for the window casing to be inserted.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a ratings system of the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council that covers energy efficiency, materials and resources, sustainable site development, water savings, indoor environmental quality and design innovation. Some concrete block manufacturers are voluntarily producing materials that help with LEED projects.
National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA)
The National Concrete Masonry Association sets the standards for masonry construction in the United States.