MCAA Magazine

Jerry Painter  

Subject: Masonry Testing Protocols


I hope everyone had a great 2017. I am believing that it will be a better than ever year for the masonry industry in 2018. As I began to think about starting a new year, I looked at it similar to starting a new building project. As you review the specifications for the materials you will submit for approval you see the section on quality assurance. If it is a small project you will probably take care of it with paper work in your submittal. But if the project is a large project, it will probably include onsite testing.

Serious thought and planning should be put into the testing procedures to be used.

Chapter 3 of the TMS 402 Code says that “Masonry design requirements in this Code are valid when the quality of the masonry construction meets or exceeds that described in the Specification.” The designer will set up the QA (Quality Assurance) Program based on one of three requirement levels. The program will also describe the procedure for reporting and review as well as resolution of non-compliance. The QA Program will also state the qualifications of the testing laboratory and inspection provider. You will notice the last three sentences had mandatory language, such as “will” in them. This is not optional. If this is not provided, you should have this as part of your preconstruction conference.

Planning inspections and testing should be carefully thought out and planned. These procedures will cost you in manpower hours which equates to money $$$. ALWAYS use a testing and inspection agency that is CERTIFIED for each test or inspection they are providing. There are many very good accredited and certified agencies across the country. Make sure the testing companies are experienced in Masonry. A flawed test or report will cost you a considerable amount of your time and money. A minimum requirement is provided by ASTM C1093 on qualifying laboratories

In order to prepare for any discussion on testing, there are several Standards you should get to know up close and personal. If they are requiring prism testing to insure the strength of the masonry, then ASTM C1314 should be followed.  When grout testing is part of the program, the ASTM C1019 is the “go-to” Standard and if your testing agency wants to use the cardboard testing boxes, then both of you should read the standard again. If field testing of mortar is in the QA Program, then ASTM C1586 Standard Guide for Quality Assurance of Mortars, is the must read document. Once you and the testing agency are able to pass a closed book written exam we can go forward. I believe in using ASTM C270 to design a mortar that meets the strength design required by the project specifications. You then use ASTM  C780 Annex 4 to do a cement to aggregate ratio test in the field whenever required. The results of that test takes a couple of hours while the masons continue to work.

I had a national laboratory do a mortar mix design for me several years ago. We provided all the material required and ask for a copy of the work sheet the day they prepared the test. Not only did they not supply the workup I had to call after 35 days to get the results. The results were unusable because the flow was out of the allowed tolerance. They said they would do the test again and did. But still I did not get the work sheet and got the results 30+ days later. Once again the flow rates were not right. They wasted 60+ days of my time and their money and lab time. Their money you ask? Yes, they sent me a bill for two design mixes and guess what? You are right – hell has not frozen over yet!

As we welcome in the New Year, let’s make sure we plan the year, our projects and our testing protocol correctly. If you have any questions about testing and inspection protocol, contact YOUR MCAA.