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A wall is a structure and a surface that defines an area; carries a load; provides security, shelter, or soundproofing; or, is decorative. There are many kinds of walls, including:



"weall," an Old English word for 'wall' Beowulf - weall.jpg
"weall," an Old English word for 'wall'

The term wall comes from Latin vallum meaning "...an earthen wall or rampart set with palisades, a row or line of stakes, a wall, a rampart, fortification..." while the Latin word murus means a defensive stone wall. [1] English uses the same word to mean an external wall and the internal sides of a room, but this is not universal. Many languages distinguish between the two. In German, some of this distinction can be seen between Wand and Mauer, in Spanish between pared and muro.

Defensive wall

The word wall originally referred to defensive walls and ramparts.

Building wall

The purposes of walls in buildings are to support roofs, floors and ceilings; to enclose a space as part of the building envelope along with a roof to give buildings form; and to provide shelter and security. In addition, the wall may house various types of utilities such as electrical wiring or plumbing. Wall construction falls into two basic categories: framed walls or mass-walls. In framed walls the load is transferred to the foundation through posts, columns or studs. Framed walls most often have three or more separate components: the structural elements (such as 2×4 studs in a house wall), insulation, and finish elements or surfaces (such as drywall or panelling). Mass-walls are of a solid material including masonry, concrete including slipform stonemasonry, log building, cordwood construction, adobe, rammed earth, cob, earthbag construction, bottles, tin cans, straw-bale construction, and ice. Walls may or may not be leadbearing. Walls are required to conform to the local local building and/or fire codes.

There are three basic methods walls control water intrusion: moisture storage, drained cladding, or face-sealed cladding. [2] Moisture storage is typical of stone and brick mass-wall buildings where moisture is absorbed and released by the walls of the structure itself. Drained cladding also known as screened walls [3] acknowledges moisture will penetrate the cladding so a moisture barrier such as housewrap or felt paper inside the cladding provides a second line of defense and sometimes a drainage plane or air gap allows a path for the moisture to drain down through and exit the wall. Sometimes ventilation is provided in addition to the drainage plane such as in rainscreen construction. Face-sealed also called barrier wall or perfect barrier [3] cladding relies on maintaining a leak-free surface of the cladding. Examples of face sealed cladding are the early exterior insulation finishing systems, structural glazing, metal clad panels, and corrugated metal.

Building walls frequently become works of art, externally and internally, such as when featuring mosaic work or when murals are painted on them; or as design foci when they exhibit textures or painted finishes for effect.

Curtain wall

Wall art in Budapest's Szell Kalman Square. Pest-budai vakterkep (Barothy Anna, 2016), Szell Kalman ter, Budapest.jpg
Wall art in Budapest's Széll Kálmán Square.
Glass curtain walls on a contemporary German skyscraper Munster, LVM -- 2017 -- 9343-7.jpg
Glass curtain walls on a contemporary German skyscraper

In architecture and civil engineering, curtain wall refers to a building facade that is not load-bearing but provides decoration, finish, front, face, or historical preservation.

Precast wall

Precast walls are walls which have been manufactured in a factory and then shipped to where it is needed, ready to install. It is faster to install compared to brick and other walls and may have a lower cost compared to other types of wall. Precast walls are cost effective compare to Brick Wall compound wall.

Mullion wall

Mullion walls are a structural system that carries the load of the floor slab on prefabricated panels around the perimeter.

Partition wall

Mirrored glass partition wall Glass Partition Wall.jpg
Mirrored glass partition wall

A partition wall is a usually thin wall that is used to separate or divide a room, primarily a pre-existing one. Partition walls are usually not load-bearing, and can be constructed out of many materials, including steel panels, bricks, cloth, plastic, plasterboard, wood, blocks of clay, terracotta, concrete, and glass.

Some partition walls are made of sheet glass. Glass partition walls are a series of individual toughened glass panels mounted in wood or metal framing. They may be suspended from or slide along a robust aluminium ceiling track. [5] The system does not require the use of a floor guide, which allows easy operation and an uninterrupted threshold.

A timber partition consists of a wooden framework, supported on the floor or by side walls. Metal lath and plaster, properly laid, forms a reinforced partition wall. Partition walls constructed from fibre cement backer board are popular as bases for tiling in kitchens or in wet areas like bathrooms. Galvanized sheet fixed to wooden or steel members are mostly adopted in works of temporary character. Plain or reinforced partition walls may also be constructed from concrete, including pre-cast concrete blocks. Metal framed partitioning is also available. This partition consists of track (used primarily at the base and head of the partition) and studs (vertical sections fixed into the track typically spaced at 24", 16", or at 12").

Internal wall partitions, also known as office partitioning, are usually made of plasterboard (drywall) or varieties of glass. Toughened glass is a common option, as low-iron glass (better known as opti-white glass) increases light and solar heat transmission.

Wall partitions are constructed using beads and tracking that is either hung from the ceiling or fixed into the ground. [6] The panels are inserted into the tracking and fixed. Some wall partition variations specify their fire resistance and acoustic performance rating.

Movable partitions

Movable partitions are walls that open to join two or more rooms into one large floor area. These include:

Party wall

Party walls are walls that separate buildings or units within a building. They provide fire resistance and sound resistance between occupants in a building. The minimum fire resistance and sound resistance required for the party wall is determined by a building code and may be modified to suit a variety of situations. Ownership of such walls can become a legal issue. It is not a load-bearing wall and may be owned by different people.

Infill wall

An infill wall is the supported wall that closes the perimeter of a building constructed with a three-dimensional framework structure.

Fire wall

Fire walls resist spread of fire within or sometimes between structures to provide passive fire protection. A delay in the spread of fire gives occupants more time to escape and fire fighters more time to extinguish the fire. Such walls have no windows, and are made of non-combustible material such as concrete, cement block, brick, or fire rated drywall—and have wall penetrations sealed with special materials. A doorway in a firewall must have a rated fire door. Fire walls provide varying resistance to the spread of fire, some intended to last one to four hours. Firewalls, generally, can also act as smoke barriers when constructed vertically from slab to roof deck and horizontally from an exterior wall to exterior wall subdividing a building into sections. When constructed in this manner the fire wall can also be referred to as an area separation wall.

Shear wall

Shear walls resist lateral forces such as in an earthquake or severe wind. There are different kinds of shear walls such as the steel plate shear wall.

Knee wall

Knee walls are short walls that either support rafters or add height in the top floor rooms of houses. In a 1 12-story house, the knee wall supports the half story.

Cavity wall

Cavity walls are walls made with a space between two "skins" to inhibit heat transfer.

Pony wall

Pony wall (or dwarf wall) is a general term for short walls, such as:

Demountable wall

Demountable wall and door in an office building, must conform to local building code and requires a permit, like all walls, doors, windows and ceilings, regardless of whether it is new construction or renovation work. 214 King - demountable walls and doors (5277760889).jpg
Demountable wall and door in an office building, must conform to local building code and requires a permit, like all walls, doors, windows and ceilings, regardless of whether it is new construction or renovation work.

Demountable walls in buildings, in North America, are often made and sold by the contract furniture trade. In this regard, it may be perceived to be similar to furniture, which, on its own, does not require permits for use in a building. However, while most of these demountable systems are not required to have a fire-resistance rating, all walls, doors, windows and ceilings in a building are subject to local permits because each building has a design basis, which takes egress, HVAC and smoke control into account, meaning that they form part of a larger whole. Further, local codes can include specific requirements with regards to flame spread and smoke developed ratings, particularly inside of corridors. Another common requirement for demountable walls is sound attentuation, as tested by ASTM E90. Documentation concerning performance, typically accompanies permit applications. Demountable walls fall into 3 different main types:

Solar energy

A trombe wall in passive solar building design acts as a heat sink.


On a ship, a wall that separates major compartments is called a bulkhead . A thinner wall between cabins is called a partition.

Boundary wall

Stone wall of an English barn Stone wall.jpg
Stone wall of an English barn

Boundary walls include privacy walls, boundary-marking walls on property, and town walls. These intergrade into fences. The conventional differentiation is that a fence is of minimal thickness and often open in nature, while a wall is usually more than a nominal thickness and is completely closed, or opaque. More to the point, an exterior structure of wood or wire is generally called a fence—but one of masonry is a wall. A common term for both is barrier, which is convenient for structures that are partly wall and partly fence—for example the Berlin Wall. Another kind of wall-fence ambiguity is the ha-ha—which is set below ground level to protect a view, yet acts as a barrier (to cattle, for example).

An old Italian wall surrounded by flowers Olditalianwall.JPG
An old Italian wall surrounded by flowers

Before the invention of artillery, many of the world's cities and towns, particularly in Europe and Asia, had defensive or protective walls (also called town walls or city walls). In fact, the English word "wall" derives from Latin vallum —a type of fortification wall. These walls are no longer relevant for defense, so such cities have grown beyond their walls, and many fortification walls, or portions of them, have been torn down—for example in Rome, Italy and Beijing, China. Examples of protective walls on a much larger scale include the Great Wall of China and Hadrian's Wall.

Border wall

Building the newer wall at the U.S.-Mexico border Building-the-wall-2018.jpg
Building the newer wall at the U.S.–Mexico border
Mexico-United States barrier in California Algodones sand-dune-fence.jpg
Mexico–United States barrier in California

Some walls formally mark the border between one population and another. A border wall is constructed to limit the movement of people across a certain line or border. These structures vary in placement with regard to international borders and topography. The most famous example of border barrier in history is probably the Great Wall of China, a series of walls that separated the Empire of China from nomadic powers to the north. The most prominent recent example is the Berlin Wall, which surrounded the enclave of West Berlin and separated it from East Germany for most of the Cold War era. The US-Mexico border wall, separating the United States and Mexico, is another recent example.

Retaining wall

Dry-stone wall - Grendon Dry Stone Wall - Blackmile Lane, Grendon, Northamptonshire.jpg
Dry-stone wall - Grendon
Ashlar wall - Inca wall at Machu Picchu, Peru Perfectwall.jpg
Ashlar wall - Inca wall at Machu Picchu, Peru
View of the western enclosing wall of the Great Mosque of Kairouan (also called the Mosque of Uqba) in the city of Kairouan in Tunisia. Western side of the Great Mosque of Kairouan.jpg
View of the western enclosing wall of the Great Mosque of Kairouan (also called the Mosque of Uqba) in the city of Kairouan in Tunisia.

In areas of rocky soils around the world, farmers have often pulled large quantities of stone out of their fields to make farming easier and have stacked those stones to make walls that either mark the field boundary, or the property boundary, or both.

Retaining walls resist movement of earth, stone, or water. They may be part of a building or external. The ground surface or water on one side of a retaining wall is typically higher than on the other side. A dike is a retaining wall, as is a levee, a load-bearing foundation wall, and a sea wall.

Shared wall

Special laws often govern walls that neighbouring properties share. Typically, one neighbour cannot alter the common wall if it is likely to affect the building or property on the other side. A wall may also separate apartment or hotel rooms from each other. Each wall has two sides and breaking a wall on one side will break the wall on the other side.

Portable wall

Portable walls, such as room dividers or portable partitions divide a larger open space into smaller rooms. Portable walls can be static, such as cubicle walls, or can be wall panels mounted on casters to provide an easy way to reconfigure assembly space. They are often found inside schools, churches, convention centers, hotels, and corporate facilities.

Temporary wall

A temporary wall is constructed for easy removal or demolition. A typical temporary wall can be constructed with 1⁄2" (6 mm) to 5⁄8" (16 mm) sheet rock (plasterboard), metal 2 × 3s (approx. 5 × 7 cm), or 2 × 4s, or taped, plastered and compounded. Most installation companies use lattice (strips of wood) to cover the joints of the temporary wall with the ceiling. These are sometimes known as pressurized walls or temporary pressurized walls.

Walls are often seen in popular culture, oftentimes representing barriers preventing progress or entry. For example:

Fictional and symbolic walls

The progressive/psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd used a metaphorical wall to represent the isolation felt by the protagonist of their 1979 concept album The Wall .

The American poet laureate Robert Frost describes a pointless rock wall as a metaphor for the myopia of the culture-bound in his poem "Mending Wall", published in 1914.

In some cases, a wall may refer to an individual's debilitating mental or physical condition, seen as an impassable barrier.[ citation needed ]

In George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series and its television adaptation, Game of Thrones , The Wall plays multiple important roles: as a colossal fortification, made of ice and fortified with magic spells; as a cultural barrier; and as a codification of assumptions. Breaches of the wall, who is allowed to cross it and who is not, and its destruction have important symbolic, logistical, and socio-political implications in the storyline. Reportedly over 700 feet high and 100 leagues (300 miles) wide, it divides the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms realm from the domain of the wildlings and several categories of undead who live beyond it. [7] [8] [9]

Historical walls

In a real-life example, the Berlin Wall, constructed by the Soviet Union to divide Berlin into NATO and Warsaw Pact zones of occupation, became a worldwide symbol of oppression and isolation. [10]

Social media walls

Another common usage is as a communal surface to write upon. For instance the social networking site Facebook previously used an electronic "wall" to log the scrawls of friends until it was replaced by the "timeline" feature.

See also

Related Research Articles

Firewall (construction) Barrier used to prevent the spread of fire through or between structures

A firewall is a fire-resistant barrier used to prevent the spread of fire. Firewalls are built between or through buildings, structures, or electrical substation transformers, or within an aircraft or vehicle.

Floor Walking surface of a room

A floor is the bottom surface of a room or vehicle. Floors vary from simple dirt in a cave to many-layered surfaces made with modern technology. Floors may be stone, wood, bamboo, metal or any other material that can support the expected load.

Drywall Panel made of gypsum, used in interior construction

Drywall is a panel made of calcium sulfate dihydrate (gypsum), with or without additives, typically extruded between thick sheets of facer and backer paper, used in the construction of interior walls and ceilings. The plaster is mixed with fiber, plasticizer, foaming agent, and various additives that can reduce mildew, flammability, and water absorption.

Ceiling Overhead interior surface

A ceiling is an overhead interior surface that covers the upper limits of a room. It is not generally considered a structural element, but a finished surface concealing the underside of the roof structure or the floor of a story above. Ceilings can be decorated to taste, and there are many fine examples of frescoes and artwork on ceilings especially in religious buildings. A ceiling can also be the upper limit of a tunnel.

Curtain wall (architecture) Outer non-structural walls of a building

A curtain wall system is an outer covering of a building in which the outer walls are non-structural, utilized only to keep the weather out and the occupants in. Since the curtain wall is non-structural, it can be made of lightweight materials, thereby reducing construction costs. When glass is used as the curtain wall, an advantage is that natural light can penetrate deeper within the building. The curtain wall façade does not carry any structural load from the building other than its own dead load weight. The wall transfers lateral wind loads that are incident upon it to the main building structure through connections at floors or columns of the building. A curtain wall is designed to resist air and water infiltration, absorb sway induced by wind and seismic forces acting on the building, withstand wind loads, and support its own weight.

Framing (construction) In construction, is the fitting together of pieces to give a structure support and shape

Framing, in construction, is the fitting together of pieces to give a structure support and shape. Framing materials are usually wood, engineered wood, or structural steel. The alternative to framed construction is generally called mass wall construction, where horizontal layers of stacked materials such as log building, masonry, rammed earth, adobe, etc. are used without framing.

Steel frame

Steel frame is a building technique with a "skeleton frame" of vertical steel columns and horizontal I-beams, constructed in a rectangular grid to support the floors, roof and walls of a building which are all attached to the frame. The development of this technique made the construction of the skyscraper possible.

Brisbane Showgrounds

Brisbane Showgrounds is located at 600 Gregory Terrace, Bowen Hills, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia and was established in 1875. It hosts more than 250 events each year, with the largest being the Royal Queensland Show (Ekka).

Raised floor Elevated floor above a solid substrate to create a void for mechanical and electrical services

A raised floor provides an elevated structural floor above a solid substrate to create a hidden void for the passage of mechanical and electrical services. Raised floors are widely used in modern office buildings, and in specialized areas such as command centers, Information technology data centers and computer rooms, where there is a requirement to route mechanical services and cables, wiring, and electrical supply. Such flooring can be installed at varying heights from 2 inches (51 mm) to heights above 4 feet (1.2 m) to suit services that may be accommodated beneath. Additional structural support and lighting are often provided when a floor is raised enough for a person to crawl or even walk beneath.

A building envelope is the physical separator between the conditioned and unconditioned environment of a building including the resistance to air, water, heat, light, and noise transfer.

Lawson railway station

Lawson railway station is a heritage-listed railway station located on the Main Western line in Lawson in the City of Blue Mountains local government area of New South Wales, Australia. It is also known as Lawson Railway Station Group and Christmas Swamp; Blue Mountain. The property was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 2 April 1999. The station opened on 11 July 1867 as Blue Mountain, being renamed Lawson on 21 April 1879. A passing loop exists north of Platform 1. As part of widening work to the Great Western Highway, a siding south of Platform 2 was removed and a new submerged siding constructed west of the station.

A firestop or fire-stopping is a form of passive fire protection that is used to seal around openings and between joints in a fire-resistance-rated wall or floor assembly. Firestops are designed to maintain the fireproofing of a wall or floor assembly allowing it to impede the spread of fire and smoke.

Glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) is a type of fiber-reinforced concrete. The product is also known as glassfibre reinforced concrete or GRC in British English. Glass fiber concretes are mainly used in exterior building façade panels and as architectural precast concrete. Somewhat similar materials are fiber cement siding and cement boards.

Building insulation materials

Building insulation materials are the building materials which form the thermal envelope of a building or otherwise reduce heat transfer.

A building joint is a junction where building elements meet without applying a static load from one element to another. When one or more of these vertical or horizontal elements that meet are required by the local building code to have a fire-resistance rating, the resulting opening that makes up the joint must be firestopped in order to restore the required compartmentalisation.

Penetrant (mechanical, electrical, or structural)

Penetrants, or penetrating items, are the mechanical, electrical or structural items that pass through an opening in a wall or floor, such as pipes, electrical conduits, ducting, electrical cables and cable trays, or structural steel beams and columns. When these items pierce a wall or floor assembly, they create a space between the penetrant and the surrounding structure, which can become an avenue for the spread of fire between rooms or floors. Modern building codes generally require a service penetration firestop to seal the openings around penetrants, in order to restore the fire-resistance rating of the parent assembly.

Indooroopilly State High School Buildings

Indooroopilly State High School Buildings is a heritage-listed collection of buildings at Indooroopilly State High School at Ward Street, Indooroopilly, City of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. It was designed by Boulton & Paul Ltd, Department of Public Works (Queensland) and built from 1953 to 1963. It was added to the Queensland Heritage Register on 14 October 2016.

Clay panel

Clay panel or clay board is a panel made of clay with some additives. The clay is mixed with sand, water, and fiber, typically wood fiber, and sometimes other additives like starch. Most often this means employing the use of high-cellulose waste fibres. To improve the breaking resistance clay boards are often embedded in a hessian skin on the backside or similar embeddings.

Muswellbrook Post Office

Muswellbrook Post Office is a heritage-listed post office at 7 Bridge Street, Muswellbrook, New South Wales, Australia. It was added to the Australian Commonwealth Heritage List on 08 November 2011.

Bundaberg Post Office

Bundaberg Post Office is a heritage-listed post office at 155a Bourbong Street, Bundaberg Central, Bundaberg, Bundaberg Region, Queensland, Australia. It was added to the Australian Commonwealth Heritage List on 8 November 2011.


  1. "Wall". Whitney, William Dwight, and Benjamin E. Smith. The Century dictionary and cyclopedia, vol. 8. New York: Century Co., 1901. 6,809. Print.
  2. Committee on Damp Indoor Spaces and Health, Board on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Damp indoor spaces and health. Institute of Medicine, (U. S.). National Academies Press. Washington, D. C.. 2004. 34-35. Print.
  3. 1 2 Straube, J. F.and Burnett, E. F. P., "Driving Rain and Masonry Veneer". Water Leakage through Building Facades, ASTM STP 1314. R. J. Kudder and J. L. Erdly, Eds. American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), 1998. 75. Print.
  4. (artist) Baróthy, Anna (2016). "Széll Kálmán square, Budapest, Hungary « Landscape Architecture Works | Landezine". www.landezine.com. Archived from the original on 2018-02-07. Retrieved 2018-02-07.
  5. "PARTITION WALL". Principles of Design. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  6. "Partition Walls". Excellence in craftsmanship. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  7. "Game of Thrones: Everything to Know About the Wall". Vulture. August 27, 2017.
  8. "Game of Thrones Wall: How the Wall was built, and what its destruction means". Telegraph. April 15, 2019.
  9. "'Game of Thrones' Season 8: How Was The Wall Built?". Newsweek. April 7, 2019.
  10. "The Wall You Will Never Know". Perspecta 036: The Yale Architectural Journal. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005, 19-31.Check date values in: |date= (help)