Unit Masonry Cost Estimating Tips

Brick and concrete block are priced by the piece and then converted into a price per square foot of wall. When estimating quantities for masonry walls, openings less than two square feet are generally ignored by the estimator because any savings in units used is offset by the cutting and trimming required.

Special Brick - When a project calls for special brick, such as utility size or glazed, remember that these (especially glazed) more than likely will be special order. The order and manufacture time can be surprisingly long. Paying a premium or extra charge may be the only way to ensure faster, on-time delivery.

Split Face Block - Split face block will take longer than common brick to set. This is because these blocks have a somewhat irregular depth dimension (on account of the splitting process). They do not look “right” if set by lining up the squared corners. Adjustments must be made to have them line up properly.

Bricklaying Productivity - The national average productivity for laying brick ranges from 400 bricks per day (considered “low productivity”) to 600 bricks per day (considered “high productivity”).

Bracing - One commonly overlooked item in masonry estimating is an allowance for bracing walls. Until the structural system is tied into the masonry wall systems, the walls can be blown over relatively easily. So all masonry walls, whether interior or exterior, require bracing. The cost of bracing walls during construction should be included by the estimator, and this bracing must remain in place until permament bracing is complete.

Permament bracing of masonry walls is accomplished by masonry itself, in the form of pilasters or abutting wall corners, or by anchoring the walls to the structural frame. Accessories in the form of anchors, anchor slots, and ties are used, but their supply and installation can be by different trades. For instance, anchor slots on spandrel beams and columns are supplied and welded in place by the steel fabricator, but the ties from the slots into the masonry are installed by the bricklayer. regardless of the installation method, the estimator must be certain that these accessories are acounted for in pricing.

Other Masonry Accessories - Remember to include miscellaneous items in your masonry estimate; they tend to get overlooked. These items include but are not limited to flashing, reinforcing, inserts, bearing plates, lintels, support angles, and channels, allowances for joist pockets, waterproofing, cleanup, final cleaning and pointing, steam cleaning, acid or power wash, color for mortar, and control joints. For a more detailed list, see the downloadable checklist.

Site Cleanup - If the plan at the time of the estimate is to erect masonry walls after concrete slabs have been poured, keep in mind that the masonry contractor will be responsible for cleaning the dropped mortar off of the concrete slab. Allow for this cleanup.

Panelization - Plan ahead. Could your next project, which is not scheduled to start until later, be built with pre-assembled panels? If you have the labor available today, it might be economical to have the contractor pre-build the walls in panelized sections, then deliver and quickly erect them at the site. This could save quite a bit of time on the project.

Anti-Graffiti Products - If not specified, consider adding as an option the application of one of the various anti-graffiti or vandalism products. These coatings are roller, brush, or spray-applied to close the pores of the brick, thereby preventing permanent damage. Remember that graffiti and vandalism are present in all cities and towns, not just major metropolitan areas. Cleaning of masonry is best accomplished by specialized proprietary masonry cleaners, used per the manufacturer’s directions.

Other Considerations When Estimating Unit Masonry

Read more masonry estimating tips.

Cost Estimating Resources from RSMeans

2011 Concrete & Masonry Cost Data Book
Contains the latest unit price data, with illustrated concrete and masonry assemblies cost tables, helpful reference data and estimating aids
» Learn more
2011 Building Construction Cost Data Book
Thousands of unit costs for building components, arranged in the new CSI MasterFormat® 2010 classification system
» Learn more
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