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Old 01-23-2021, 03:55 PM   #1
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Any Masons here on the forum?

I just got done with having an interesting discussion with a masonry contractor about a job in progress at my father-in-laws house.

His front steps were in pretty bad shape so he hired a guy whose name he got from a relative. The guy spent a few days on the job already and when I saw the quality of work, I had to say something to my wife and then in turn, my father in law.

I think I've done better brick work my first time 20 years ago. Even since I've done a few things here and there and each repair looked presentable. The work this guy did was atrocious. How can a company claim 36 years in business and a 1 year warranty when not a single course of bricks they laid are level. I put the contractors (harbor freight) level across the course of 6 bricks they put in the other day and showed them i could put my whole finger in the gap in the middle. His response was, "it's level, see the bubble, its fine". Aside from that, they never used a jointer when laying the courses and he said "well, I came back today to clean it up and do the tuck pointing". The motor had already "kinda" set btw so he was going to add in mortar now to joints he just decided not to fill when laying the bricks. And on the topic of mortar, i could take my bare fingers and pull the mortar apart and crumble it into dust. So obviously the mix was no good, or it froze and was compromised. He still tried saying it was fine. Oh and some mortar joints were 3/4-1" thick.
I pretty much had to tell him to pack his tools and don't come back.

I admit, I'm no professional mason, but I have been in the trades for many years and learned about a ton of stuff, laying bricks and pouring concrete included. I just cant contemplate how this guy really thought his work was "professional" in any manner.

Has anyone else had this type of situation happen to them, where a "contractor" is such a hack? Now we are trying to find a real mason to fix/finish the job. Ugh, sorry, had to vent, lol.
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Old 01-23-2021, 05:02 PM   #2
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My Italian grandfather was a master stone mason his entire life; he got my cousin, my brother and I started with helping him when we were all about 9-10 years old. Us kids started out simply washing tools, sweeping up, pulling nails out from wood forms, fixing knee boards and washing wheelbarrows etc. Mostly every summer through middle school and high school, and then summers and breaks during college and whatnot. I still help my uncle (Grandfather's son) who is a retired structural bridge engineer but now in retirement just enjoys all GC work, especially masonry; its in my blood and I still help him out a few hundred hours per year. Some of the old tools we have/use are a testament to high quality work. He is a not in business to quickly rush though jobs and make money, they guy is a precision craftsman and every single brick/block/stone is perfectly square/level/plumb. Sometimes his precision drives me nuts when I want to just keep moving and he is tapping each brick into its perfect spot. The results are always incredible, so it sounds like the pure opposite of the situation you have going on over there.

Unfortunately, I can not pass along his contact info because he has various jobs lined up and is certainly not taking on any more work any time soon. He is a 1 man crew, and when I help him, it becomes just us 2. My Grandfather passed away 16 years ago, and my cousin and brother live out of state, so I am his only help and my availability to help him is sporadic.

It sounds like you did the right thing. If you can "eyeball" mis-measured joints, unlevel courses of brick, and probably future structural failure points already, it is inevitable the job will fall apart. Something I learned early on, is when there is a concrete pouring day or a cement/joint pointing day.... bring extra food and plan to stay late. You get that stuff done THAT DAY, you do not go home and come back to finish that stuff the next day. There are many reasons for this, both structural and cosmetic. If the joints are crumbling already, it is just going to trap water/moisture andthen get behind the brick and blow everything out from behind. Unless he got dumb-lucky he probably set the tread stones where they don't shed water off of them and away from the structure. Did he go below grade at all digging? is that part of the block/brick coated in waterproofing tar?

It is a shame to see what people pass off as "job complete" type work. So many people like to just smear mortar all over, hose the rest off, maybe brush finish it (sloppily) and walk away. It is very rare to find a true craftsman in the masonry world anymore. A few of my Grandfathers friends based in the Summit area were exactly that, but almost all are dead and the rest are retired.

I wish I could recommend someone to do a good job for you, but I do not know anyone in that area and I wouldn't want to just guess at random either.
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Old 01-23-2021, 06:32 PM   #3
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He didn't make it far enough to reinstall the treads thankfully. On the top step, he cut the bricks in half to match the height of the landing which sank over time. By doing that he changed the top riser height by at least 2 inches. So now creating a trip hazard which is also illegal by code. And with all the gaps water intrusion would have been inevitable and a matter of weeks before the freeze thaw cycle would wreck it.
My father in law also only paid the deposit so it wasn't as bad as a loss that it could have been. Now I have to get a tarp tomorrow and cover the entire stoop so any rain and snow dont destroy any if the exposed brick work which is still ok, until we find a reliable contractor.
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