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Three clever ways to use masonry blocks in your outdoor spaces

Masonry blocks are having their moment in the sun as a great material for gardens and the outdoors.

As far as your outdoor spaces are concerned, few building materials have the versatility of the masonry block. It may have been something of a utilitarian workhorse in the building industry for years, but this building block (also known as the cinder block) has seriously grown up, and is appearing in all kinds of interesting and wonderful outdoor projects.

Durable and strong, today’s concrete masonry block comes in a large range of sizes, shapes, textures and colour palettes. Austral Masonry's range includes honed, textured and smooth blocks in hues such as Limestone, Nickel, Pewter and Pebble.

The masonry block is also relatively simple to build with, particularly for small projects, making DIY the perfect option to spruce up your garden and outdoor living spaces over the warmer months.

Here are three clever ways to add a little masonry magic to your home.

Going to pot

From sophisticated and elegant garden beds to clever and quirky planters, the masonry block’s adaptability makes it the perfect match to your style. The garden bed pictured, constructed from Austral’s GB Honed Blocks in Porcelain, brings a subdued elegance to the outdoor area of this home in Hawthorne, and provides the perfect counterpoint to the lush greenery.

Or, create your own interesting planter by stacking blocks of similar or varying sizes (with the holes in the block facing upwards) in interesting arrangements and filling them with succulents or colourful perennials still in their pots. Spray paint the blocks to add a dash of colour, or stencil them if you’re particularly crafty. Search “cinder block planters” for inspiration.

2. Take a seat

Constructing a simple garden bench from masonry blocks is not as hard as it may sound. You’ll need 16 blocks, six pieces of smooth, stained 100mm x 100mm timber (at whatever length you’d like your bench to be) and construction adhesive for concrete. Create the sides of the bench first, by building two two-block wide by two-block high bases, using the construction adhesive to join the blocks where they meet horizontally. These should be spaced as far apart as the width of the seat of your bench. (The timber will eventually slide through the holes at each end with overhang).

Then place two more blocks on top of each of the bases, with the holes facing inwards, and join with adhesive. Now place one block vertically at the rear of each of your stacks (with the holes facing inwards): this will hold the all-important back of the bench. Simply thread four of the timber pieces through the inward-facing blocks of your stacks to form the bench seat, then the remaining timber through the holes at the rear to form the back.

You want the ends of the timber to protrude about 20cms from the blocks: make sure they’re lined up evenly. Top with cushions of the same width and voilà: the cheapest garden bench in the world. Simple. Really. This instructional video will help.

3. Screen time

Masonry blocks combined with their cousins, breeze blocks, are ideal for creating elegant screening and fencing in your garden and outdoor spaces. To screen off an outdoor shower area in a home she designed for her parents in Bowen, Qld, architect Chloe Naughton created a wall from Austral Masonry’s Breeze Blocks surrounded by blocks in both GB Honed Porcelain and GB Smooth Porcelain.

This combination works on a smaller scale, too, in the Barton Street, Hawthorne home by Phase Developments, where Austral’s Breeze Blocks are set off against GB Honed in Porcelain, in a mid-height fence around a seating area. Large-scale screens and walls such as these should be built by professionals.

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