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Type N vs Type S Mortar: Choosing the Right Mix for Your Project

What Is the Difference Between Type N and Type S Mortar?

So you’ve got a bricklaying or stone project coming up and you need to choose a mortar type. Do you go with Type N vs Type S mortar? This decision can seem complicated if you’re not familiar with the differences.  The good news is, it’s actually pretty straightforward once you understand the basics. Type N and Type S are the two most common mortar types for home projects, with Type N being more flexible and Type S having higher compressive strength.

When to Use Type N Mortar

What’s the difference between Type N and Type S mortar? It comes down to the amount of compressive strength. 

Type N mortar has a medium compressive strength, suitable for most general purpose applications. If you’re repointing brickwork, building a concrete block wall, or doing basic stone work, Type N is probably your best bet.  

Type S mortar has a higher compressive strength, making it a good choice for structural elements like foundations, retaining walls, and below-grade applications where extra durability is needed. Type S can also be a smart choice if you live in an area with extreme weather conditions. The higher cement content helps it stand up better to freeze/thaw cycles and weathering.

When choosing between the two, think about how much weight and stress the mortar joint will need to bear. For most DIY projects and general construction, Type N mortar will work great and may be a bit more budget-friendly. But if you want the strongest, most durable mortar for heavy-duty or high-stress areas, Type S is the way to go.  

In the end, both Type N and Type S mortar can produce high quality results, but their different compressive strengths suit them to specific applications. Know how much strength you need for your project, compare costs, and then choose the right mortar mix for a job well done.  With the proper preparation and technique, either Type N or Type S mortar can help you achieve a successful project.

When to Use Type S Mortar

When your masonry project calls for a high-strength mortar, Type N is your go-to. This mortar mix has a high compressive strength, meaning it can withstand heavy loads. It’s ideal for structural elements like foundations, retaining walls, and driveways.

Type N mortar typically contains one part Portland cement, one part lime, and six parts sand. The increased amount of cement provides extra durability and bonding power. However, it is less flexible and water resistant than other mixes.  


– Foundations and footings: Type N mortar can handle the immense weight of structures. 

– Retaining walls: Its strength prevents walls from failing or collapsing under pressure.

– Paving: Driveways and walkways made with Type N mortar will stand up to vehicle and foot traffic.

– Chimneys and fire pits: Can resist damage from high heat and open flames.

While Type N mortar may be overkill for some projects, when you need power and endurance, this high-quality mix delivers. For most DIYers and homeowners, Type N mortar used in combination with concrete masonry units (CMUs) will work great for building sturdy and long-lasting structures.

When higher flexibility or water resistance are priorities, you’ll want to consider Type S mortar instead. But when sheer strength is the goal, Type N reigns supreme. Using the proper mortar type for your specific building needs will help ensure your masonry work lasts for generations.

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