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Construction Pathology: site supervision and inspection for masonry works

Material hosted by A. Sebastian Engineering and Investigation Services


The type and amount of construction inspection will vary from project to project. As a minimum the inspectors should closely review the mockup panel. When a mockup is not used (usually an unwise saving), the first section of wall constructed should be considered the test panel.

The masonry inspector's job is to obtain good masonry according to plans and specifications. The inspector, in addition, should explain the reasons for the specified procedure or technique of construction. Sincere mechanics will produce better masonry if they understand the reasons for certain procedures. Sincerity is not enough by itself, as can be seen by jobs where the quality of work was partially ruined by mechanics who laid header courses in the wall or poured grout too stiff; all in the name of a "better job". Masons have remarked that they want to do as good a job as they know how, but they might cut protruding bed joint fins of mortar from the wall into the grout core or delay the puddling of the grout (these are discussed later in the text) because they do not understand that these techniques are detrimental to good results.

A written report should be made and provided to the designers for each day that an inspection is made (ideally the owner/developer should be sufficiently knowledgeable and interested to review these reports as well; this unfortunately is seldom the case). Any deficiencies that are uncovered should be reported to the builders and designers. Corrections to any deficiencies should be noted in subsequent reporting. At the completion of the project the inspector and contractor should make a final report certifying compliance.

For commercial buildings, a program of periodic inspection may be acceptable, while for institutional buildings continuous inspection is probably more appropiate, regardless of code requirements.

In the case of BV/SS construction, in addition to the regular inspections, the designers should make periodic visits to review the general condition system.

Inspection schedule
When the project was designed using full allowable stresses, it is imperative that the inspector be on site full time. The inspector should regularly check the batching of mortar and grout to assure proper proportions and the laying of units to ensure proper workmanship. The inspector should verify and ensure full compliance with the contract documents for the placement of reinforcement, grouting and reconsolidation and the protection of the masonry from rain, dirt, cold and/or hot weather.

When the project was designed using one half allowable, it does not mean that there is no inspection required. At the very least, inspect the project on a periodic basis to confirm that the project is proceeding in accordance with the code and contract documents. Generally speaking, it is easy to end up with full allowable stresses (or worse!) if the mortar beds are sloppy or incomplete: full time insppection now would be much cheaper than the nightmare of problems and litigation later! In any case, unit strengths, mortar proportions and grout proportions are required to be verified.

Specifier's Checklist - Site Supervision

Why a "Specifier's Checklist"? Because too often we see specifiers who do not have any clue about masonry! This is a good way to have a project end up in disaster! Ideally, the specifier and inspector should be only one (fully qualified) person.

Material supply: job should not start unless everything is on hand


Materials storage

Mock-up (sample) panel

Masonry workmanship

Brick Ties Back-up wall: (steel) studs Weather Protection

Existing masonry problems: find the source
Identifying the problem:
A masonry wall showing efflorescence, spalling, cracking or bulging usually indicates a concern that must be addressed or at least acknowledged.
Do not repair the damage or clean the wall without locating the cause of the problem, or you will likely face the problem again, only more accentuated or damaging.
The cause of damage can be located through:

  1. A search to locate the cause  
  2. An analysis of the source and its relationship to:
Then and only then should the necessary adjustments, and/or corrections be made.

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