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Tools of the Trade

In the past, it was not uncommon to lay a masonry wall up to 10 feet or higher, followed by grout.  As a contractor, your most highly paid employees are your foreman and bricklayers. Thus, we strive daily to keep them as effective as possible, which, in turn, means more units on the wall at the end of the day.

History has shown that contractors always have two areas of work ready. When bricklayers reached a certain height on a wall, they would then move to the next wall, while laborers would fall back to grout what was previously laid. Again, bricklayers are always working. Contractors were more prone to increase the walls’ pour height, justifying the use of a grout pump or other mechanical method of grout placement. We’ve heard from many contractors, over time, that as long as they had four yards to grout, the pump or other means of mechanical placement was the way to go.  

More and more, architects and engineers are specifying low-lift grouting and reduced pour heights, thus limiting our options of how we effectively place grout. Unfortunately, mechanical methods used in the past are not cost-effective anymore. For instance, if you are laying an 80-foot-long wall with re-bar 32 inches on center, and the specs call for a maximum pour height of four feet, this means each time you grout, you need about one cubic yard of material.

The challenge becomes placing this effectively. Is it worth getting the pump dirty for one yard? Is it worth moving four to five bricklayers to another wall after only laying six courses of block and moving the mortar? Due to lower and restricted pour heights on projects, mechanical means of placement are almost becoming obsolete. Our pump has not left the yard in two years.

The solution to reduced pour heights is placing grout by hand and not leaving the wall. Therefore, put away your buckets, and put away your shovels. The solution is the Grout Grunt. Everyone stays on the scaffold and works as a team. For instance, say you have four masons and two laborers. Two masons and two labors would grout, and the other two masons would be jointing the last two courses of the wall or building a lead at each end of the wall. Everyone stays on the scaffold and stays productive, and the wall keeps growing.

There’s no more jumping to this wall or the next, with labors scrambling to have areas ready. We have been using this method and have found it to be quite productive. Lay block for about one to 1 1/2 hours, and grout for half an hour. You will see that keeping your men in one spot for the whole day is most efficient. By the end of the day, you will be pleased with the results.


Steven Agazzi, BSCE, ICC-SMSI, works with Agazzi Development & Management, LLC.

Last Updated on Saturday, 21 May 2011 18:32