MCAA Magazine

Jerry Painter  

Subject: Measurements: Take 2

When we parted last month we were left with the question:  Who has the responsibility for measurement on the job site?

For 50 years, we’ve worked with two contractors: one was an older field supervisor and the younger was the college-educatedproject manager. Both were very good at what they did. The major difference in the two companies was the background of the owners. The older one (Co1) came out of the post WWII construction of power houses, military work, industrial work and courthouses. The younger one (Co2) had an excellent education and an uncanny ability to estimate concrete work.

While today their companies are practically the same, in the early days there was one major difference:  the layout work. Co1 had an employee whose job was layout. He had the building levels and transits long before lasers. He laid out everything from footings through the parapet. Before construction ever started, Co1 had verified every dimension on every page of the drawings.  Co2 required every subcontractor to do their own layout and measurements.

I don’t have to tell you who the easiest company to work for was. And it was also the same company you would have a greater opportunity to make a profit with.

Several times we tried to show Co2 the error of their ways. One time was on a triangular shaped university building. There were very few square or rectangular rooms and most of the rooms had tile floors, metal ceiling tile and casework with stone cabinet tops. On the first interior wall neither the dowels nor plumbing was in the CMU wall. If someone didn’t verify all the layout parts of the casework – the ceiling would not fit. It was then that I determined that the manufacturers of all measuring tapes and rules had different devices for the different trades. No two subcontractor’s tapes measured the same.

As many of you know, most private subcontracts will have a clause that states that if you build on surface, between something, or build something into your wall you have accepted responsibility for it all. The standard AIA contract has similar language. So what is the masonry contractor to do? You are getting calls and letters about keeping up with the schedule, adding more manpower or increasing manhours. You don’t have time to verify everything. What is a contractor to do?

You MAKE time to verify. If you don’t think you have time to verify, where are you going to find the time to do the work over? How many times have you told someone to ‘measure twice and cut once’ or ‘if it doesn’t fit DO NOT force it’?

You, company executive, superintendent, foreman, masonand tender have some responsibility in the beauty, strength, functionality and economy of the masonry you build. You should not accept responsibility for the inability of others to do quality work. So, once again, what is a contractor to do? Just say NO. Be prepared to show them what all the project documents spell out. Be cooperative but stand your ground and tell them you will build in and on substandard work. But as I have said many times before “Get It In Writing”.

So whose responsibility is it to verify dimensions? No matter what the specifications or subcontract says, it is ultimately your responsibility. Stand up and shake of the shackles and encumbrances the GC and CM have placed on you and control your masonry work.

If you have any technical questions, send them to your MCAA. And remember to Raise the line and come on around the corner.

Jerry Painter