How Much is That Masonry Wall?

How often do you have conversations with local contractors or masons to gain their insights and perspectives on the ins and outs of masonry construction?  While you may have a better grasp on the technical aspects of masonry design, local masons can offer their practical and reasonable advice for what makes the most economical sense when constructing a job in your area.

In the April 2020 SE University session, Sam Rubenzer, PE, SE, from FORSE Consulting, presented Masonry Checklist: Reviewing Structural Drawings.  During the session, Sam offered insight on developing checklists of important items for masonry design and construction.  He also reviewed important aspects of masonry design criteria and discussed best practices for element design.  Sam presented case studies which revealed the impact of efficient and effective designs.

Structural masonry walls can be 4” (reinforced clay masonry), 6”-8″-10” (reinforced concrete or clay masonry), or 12”-16” (concrete masonry). With many options, it is good to develop an understanding for the options that are the most efficient for design.

Through working closely with masons in his region (Midwest), Sam developed a guide to efficient concrete masonry wall thickness for increasing wall heights.  Sam was able to garner input from several contractors in his area to compare costs for the design of a wall with varying thickness which can help guide toward a more efficient design before the bid process begins.  Sam shared the results from his research and encouraged engineers to explore a similar study in their locale to see how masons may compare by region and to use in their own practice.

From Sam’s findings in the midwest, it is clear that 8 inch walls are most efficient for all walls 20ft and less. From 20ft to 30ft, 8”, 10” and 12” concrete masonry walls have similar cost and masons tend to prefer 8” or 12” options due to ease of construction with modular units at corners. Above 30ft the 12 inch wall would be more appropriate.  In some instances, a 10 inch wall may make sense, however it seems in most cases, an 8 or 12 inch wall would be more efficient.

Creating a similar study on the costs of various wall heights with the local contractors and masons in your area will improve your design efficiency.  Anytime masons are using materials and bar sizes that ease constructability and are readily available, it will increase the speed of construction, improve the quality of the masonry work, and will result in a better product for your clients.


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