While it may not be directly in front of you, information about our building heritage in the United States and countries around the world is available for free or next to nothing. Understanding the materials used in masonry construction over time can be a complex thread of knowledge. In short, as people change over time, so do the methods and materials. Fortunately, there is a lot of documentation from the past 200 years that can bring to light some of the questions masons, contractors, architects, and inquisitive people have about what’s up with masonry mortars of today and the recent past. Some books are well rounded with practical information. Other books give information as a raw resource to discover where and how mortars were made and others are so technical, they can put you to sleep. However, the following books are some of the best I’ve found to help expand your personal knowledge on lime, cement and what really makes up most all mortars.
Ian Cramb’s first and second books, “The Art of The Stonemason” and “The Stonemason’s Gospel” are excellent reads. The balance of a personal story, masterfully illustrated technical drawings of stone wall construction and practical tips all come together to provide for a real education to anyone with an appreciation or interest in stone.
Another Great book is “Building With Lime: A Practical Introduction”. This was the first book I ever read about lime and its enormous roll in masonry. The book title says it all. For someone just starting to expand their masonry knowledge of lime mortars, it is an invaluable resource.
All three books are available on Amazon.
Other more in-depth books about manufacture and sources of raw ingredients can be found for free by searching Google books. Here is a list of some good ones.
Hydrated lime by Ellis Warren Lazell
History of the Portland cement industry in the United States by Robert Whitman Lesley
Natural Stone, Weathering Phenomena, Conservation Strategies and Case Studies: edited by Siegfried Siegesmund, Thomas Norbert Weiss, Axel Vollbrecht
Masonry Construction: By American School of Correspondence, Chicago, Alfred Edward Phillipps, Austin Thomas Byrne
Cements, Limes, and Plasters by Edwin Clarence Eckel