Working with a Masonry Vendor

Article written for Rental Housing Association's monthly newsletter.
By Marty Smith

If you own one masonry building, the care and maintenance of that building is usually an item-specific function. In this case, multiple bids are worth your time and effort. However, if that maintenance item is masonry restoration, not only should you get at least 3 bids, it is imperative to look at each bidders’ previous experience and ask a lot of questions. The effect of a bad paint job can be easily remedied with more paint. The effects of bad masonry restoration are permanent.

Finding a few good restoration contractors, through experience and research, buys you time, as well as trust.  As you well understand, there are enough bad contractors out there that being cautious is mandatory. Once you find a trusted masonry restoration contractor, you do not have to qualify their work every time a masonry issue comes up. Of course this is true for any specialized contractor, but the two types of contractors that have the biggest effect on keeping the inside of your building dry: roofers and masons. Most of you understand the issue when it comes to roofing. There are few that understand masonry issues. This is why the importance is so high to find a vendor you can trust. Legitimate masonry restoration should last, with proper maintenance, 50-70 years.

Once you have become familiar with your masonry vendor(s), let them survey the property or properties you manage or own. Ask them for their opinions on the various items of masonry you control, no matter how old the building is. Even with new masonry, there might be items that have been missed in the construction process that could affect the building’s envelope seal. Things like a missing caulking joint or the planter dirt level being too high – yes, the dirt level! Of course, older buildings are a restoration masons bread and butter. However, a good mason understands the seal of the building with relation to the masonry, and might see things an untrained eye cannot. In addition, they can see indications of water penetration that is not evident to most people. A worthy restoration masonry will provide you with an itemized list of problematic areas, and a general timeframe in which they should be completed. This allows the owners to begin planning for maintenance instead of being hit with it all at once.

When asking a mason for a proposal on your building, it is not necessarily going to be the same as the next mason. Therefore, once you have qualified your masonry vendors, you will need to talk through the specific project with each one. It will become evident what each mason thinks is critical, what is optional, and what can be done later. Usually, within reason, these opinions should be fairly close. At that point you must define what the bid scope is, and ask your vendors to provide comparable bids, in order to get “apples to apples” results. It does no good to get a bid from one mason on the restoration of the south side, which includes caulking, cleaning and sealants, when the next guy bid the restoration on the south and west sides that included nothing extra.

There are some good masonry restoration outfits out there. Some of them are very small. A few of them are really large. Unfortunately there are also some outfits out there that give the trade a black eye. It is important to be diligent in finding preferred masonry restoration vendors, whose word you can trust, so your masonry structure will maintain it’s original glory for years to come.