Masonry Construction: A hodgepodge of reinforcing

A recent obituary (darn those things!) reminded me of an event years ago during the construction of additions to a local school. As the architect’s project manager, I attended weekly meetings at the construction site. During the meetings we talked about the status of various parts of the work. I recall asking during one early meeting when the mason would start work on the new gym, which would be located on the back side of the existing building, out of sight from the contractor’s construction office where we were meeting.

“He’s almost done with it,” the superintendent answered.

“Really? When did he start?” I asked.

“Yesterday,” said the superintendent.

“Wow! I guess I’d better have a look,” I said.

We walked around the end of the existing building to the location of the new gym, and, sure enough, the block back-up walls were full height, and the masons were installing brick veneer. I climbed the scaffolding to the level where the masons were working. Looking closely at the construction, I noticed that a variety of horizontal reinforcing had been used, and none of it was the type or dimension specified or approved through the submittal process. It was apparent that the masonry subcontractor had made use of a lot of scrap material left over from other projects. On the surface, the brickwork would look good, but the construction was clearly unacceptable. Although the masons had obviously invested a lot of effort in producing the work that was nearly complete, it would have to be redone.

As the architect, I could not direct the contractor to tear down the walls. Instead, I told the contractor’s superintendent that I would not be able to approve any payment for the walls due to the use of incorrect reinforcing. The superintendent translated the message to the masonry subcontractor, who shouted obscenities at me but quickly took down the walls and soon rebuilt them with the correct reinforcing. The masonry work went very well on the rest of the project.

Posted in Construction Administration, Masonry

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