Choosing the right mortar can make or break your next DIY masonry project.

Walk into any home improvement or building supply store to buy mortar and you might end up more confused than ever. There are a surprising amount of options. Although all mortars have at least a few of the same basic ingredients (portland cement, lime, sand & water), not all mortars are the same.

And each type of masonry project has a preferred type of mortar that helps you get the job done right. So let’s look at a few basic types of mortars that you as a homeowner or DIYer might use.

Types of Mortar and Their Uses

Types of mortar and uses | Alexander and Xavier Masonry

When choosing mortar types, you’ll see these common properties listed that will help you choose the right one for your project.

Compressive Strength

The compressive strength of the mortar is a measure of the mortar’s ability to resist loads that try to compress it. While this can determine how strong the mortar will be, compressive strength isn’t as important for mortar as it is for structural concrete.


For masons and bricklayers, workability is one of the most important properties to consider. A mortar with good workability will spread easily, stick well to masonry surfaces, and support the weight of the masonry units.


The bond is the ability of hardened mortar to adhere to the surface it’s stuck to. Imagine two bricks stuck together with a layer of mortar. A mortar with better bonding properties will make the two bricks harder to break apart.

Common Mortar Types

These are some of the most common mortar types you’ll find at your local building supply store.

This mortar has the highest amount of portland cement and the highest compressive strength at around 2500 psi. Type M mortar is generally used for exterior walls, masonry foundations, retaining walls, and with natural stone.

An example of Type M mortar.

Type S mortar is a nice middle ground. It has a medium compressive strength of around 1800 psi. Type S mortar has high bonding properties and excellent durability. It’s commonly used above or below grade and can be found in foundations, patios, and retaining walls.

An example of type S mortar you can use for your next project.

Type N mortar is one of the most common types of brick-laying mortar used for DIY projects. It is a medium-strength mortar with a compressive strength of about 750 psi. This is the type of mortar you’ll want to use if you’re building barbeques, masonry veneers, or other non-structural applications.

Here’s some premixed type N mortar you can use for your next project.

This low compressive strength mortar is primarily used for interior non-load-bearing repairs. Because of its low strength, it’s not the best for exterior applications where it’s exposed to harsh elements.

Mortar Binding Materials

Based on the binding material Types of mortar | Alexander and Xavier Masonry

The types of mortars mentioned above are all types of gauged mortar that have different proportions of four basic ingredientsportland cement, lime, sand, and water.

But they’re not the only type of mortar. Here are some more that have other types of binding materials.

Special Purpose Mortars

Sometimes there are specialized projects that require mortars with very specific properties. While many of these still have a few basic ingredients, these special mortars have extra additives or binding materials not found in common mortar types.

Tips on Using the Right Type of Mortar

Tips on How to Choose the Right Mortar Types of mortar | Alexander and Xavier Masonry

While choosing and working with mortar on your next DIY masonry project, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Whether your next masonry project is big or small, we’d love to help out! Give us a call today and get your FREE quote.

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