Meet The Material: Cinder Block

Posted by: on December 5th, 2012 | 9 Comments
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Image of succulent planted in cinder block

Image via Urban Gardens


In 1900, Harmon S. Palmer patented a machine that made concrete blocks. It was not the first, but its design and durability kick-started the modern cinder block industry. By 1915, H.A. Donald was erecting the first rock-faced concrete block building and we continue to construct buildings in this way today.

Over the years we also discovered many more creative and clever uses for this gray, seemingly mundane building block. And we’re not just talking the inexpensive but plain and functional cinder block bookshelves you may have had in college.

What is cinder block? Cinder block, also referred to as concrete (and concrete masonry units), is a precast concrete product with one or more hollow cavities. The standard size cinder block measures 8 by 8 by 16 inches.

What are some of the cool properties of cinder block? It’s inexpensive, lightweight, durable, fireproof and it makes for a pretty decent sound barrier.

How is cinder block used? Contemporary building material history begins with the development of the cinder block. Buildings, load-bearings walls and many homes are still built with cinder block.

What can you use cinder block for? We’ve seen folks make bird feeders, platforms for beds and jewelry. Above, we see how photographer Zack Benson came up with a way to turn cinder blocks into a planter for succulents. The Urban Gardens website has more photos, and a description of how Zack did it.

And we’ve found several other unexpected ways clever people have used cinder blocks.

Image of a Cinder Block Couch

Image via Borganic


We give the folks over at Borganic an A for effort on this charming DIY cinder block outdoor loveseat. It’s definitely sturdy. You might want to pick up some cushions and throw pillows if you find the seating a little too firm.


Image of a Cinder Block Dividing Wall in a home

Image via Du Bois Design


Cinder blocks weren’t invented to be a décor statement, but New Zealand designer Natalie Du Bois shows how they can actually transform the look of a room when paired with dramatic chandelier lighting and modern furnishings. (Maybe the Roxy Lighting Concerto 6-Light Smoky Topaz Chandelier?)


Image of a Cinder Block Pita Oven

Image via Adi Design Group


We’re really all about inspiring you to take on adventurous DIY projects here on the Home Depot blog. But this one looks like one of those you might not want to try at home, unless you have some kind of advanced engineering degree. Adi Zaffran, the mad designer responsible for this pita bread toaster, swears they’re easy to make, though.


Image of a Decorative Cinder Block Book Shelf

Image via Apartment Therapy


Did someone say that cinder block book shelves were plain? Designer, blogger and guest house owner Maryam Montague used decorative cinder blocks to beautiful effect, as seen in her book Marrakesh by Design. Wished we’d known about these decorative cinder blocks back when we were in college.

Meet the Material is a series designed to introduce you to some of the everyday goods sold at The Home Depot. Is there a material you’d like to know more about? Just let us know in the comments!


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  1. Where can I locate “3-hole” cinder blocks? Seems like NOBODY carries them any more… :(

    • Craig Allen says:


      I’m not sure if this is what you’re looking for, but check this out. These aren’t available in ALL Home Depot stores, but I’m sure there’s a store somewhere near you that has them.

      -Craig, from The Home Depot

  2. Sue says:

    Is there anything in cinder block that would leach into soil? I want to use it for a base for my raised beds. Or do you have something else to suggest for raising cedar beds above the ground? Thanks!

    • Craig Allen says:

      Cinder block should be safe for raised garden beds. But, let’s see what some of our gardening experts have to say about using cinder block, or other materials, for raised beds.

      I’ve posted your question on our online How-To Community Forums. Click here to see it.

      Thanks for the question.

      -Craig, from The Home Depot

      • Steve Z says:

        I have done just that, used cinder block for a raised garden and IO have had no problems at all. I have since moved to a new home and I am contemplating doing a video as I build a new one.

  3. Mary says:

    So glad to see some love for the humble concrete block. I love my concrete block bench made with 12 blocks, 2 2×6 and a 2×4. I put it against my vinyl fence panel and planted ferns underneath. I get tons of compliments from the neighbours.