Fechino Files: Abbreviations

Words: Steven Fechino

Steven Fechino

I have never been directly in sales, and if you know me, you know why -- I am not suited for it.  I am suited for details, boring details especially, and I do enjoy knowing how something works and why.  When someone in sales quotes an ASTM test and calls it only by the numbers and letters, it drives me nuts because most people on the construction side of masonry are possibly not familiar with the details of every test that a product may undergo.  If the salesperson would explain the test designation and then define the test for someone, I would find this respectful to the customer or audience. 

Abbreviations fall into a few categories, in my opinion. You have the verbal, the spoken and the written.

Verbal abbreviations tend to be useful for service organizations where radio communications are a standard.  The most common example would be 10-4, meaning acknowledgment or message received. On Fridays, I go 10-7, which means that I am out of service until Monday.

Spoken abbreviations commonly are an everyday part of our military as they discuss different entities within the battalion, unit or company to speak among themselves in a common dialogue among all. Unfortunately, sometimes industry professionals like to use abbreviations in presentations without defining them to the audience. In masonry, we have a ton of abbreviations; many we use, and we may not actually know exactly what they mean.  

Written abbreviations in our trade are common, so they typically do not lead to frustration. CMU, concrete masonry unit, Type N or S mortar, common strengths of masonry mortar, and # or lbs. indicate weight units in pounds.

Abbreviations that are common are sometimes confusing. Not everything here is a masonry term, but if you are working in the trade, chances are good that there could be some importance to your operation to know these.

Type M, S, N, O and K Mortars- Type M ranges in the 2500psi, Type S has a typical strength of 1800 psi, Type N typically achieves strengths of 750 psi, Type O tops out at a whopping 350, and last and yes, least, Type K is in the range of 75 psi. The way I heard it, Mason Work is where the type of mortar designations originated. MaSoN  wOris every other letter in the words mason work. And some folks think people in the masonry industry are complicated.

FXB- Face brick extra, durable, and meets high standards for shape, color, dimensions, durability.

PSI- Pounds per square inch. This abbreviation has many applications, from sand blasting, tire pressure, direct load pressures on stone or flat work, HVAC calculations and many more.

Kip- A kip is equal to 1000 pounds.  If you are using a crane for lifting objects, the load is often calculated by the engineering design team, and the crane will be charted in pounds -- easy conversion.

GVW- Gross vehicle weight. This is important when you need to really load out a truck, and you also need to be aware of scales. GVW takes into account the entire truck, load and fuel weight.

P235/75/R16- This is tire rating. Here goes: P stands for passenger tire (this classification also stands for light trucks such as our pickup), 235 represents the measurement of the width of the tire in millimeters, 75 millimeters is the side wall ratio or the height of the tire from the wheel to the tread. R stands for Radial; you can sometimes find tires that are not radial even today, as some radial tires are not suited for side-to-side skidding as many trailers experience on a daily basis. 16 would be to rim diameter in inches.

BIA- Brick Industry Association

G60- Galvanized steel meeting 0.60 ounces of zinc coating/square foot of material

MIL Galvanized- The galvanization process used to protect interior applied wall wire from corrosion, smooth to the touch (unlike hot dipped galvanized wire), meets typical standards for concrete masonry walls.

Poly Iso- Here is a mouthful of letters -- Polyisocyanurate. Let me see if I can break it down into southern -- poly-I-So-ki-san-u-rate. Ha, not bad if I say so myself. This is a closed-cell foam board with an r-value of approximately 6.5, which is actually very good. It has a noteworthy price per square foot, but the performance speaks for itself.

WRB- Weather resistant barriers, usually applied in two layers, can allow liquid vapor to pass through in many applications.  There are many different types of WRB.

Perm- Perm rating is the mass rate of moisture that can pass through a material in one square foot of material in a 60-minute period.

SW Brick- Brick intended to perform well when saturated and have exposure to freeze/thaw conditions. 

SBS- Styrene-Butadiene-Styrene is a thermoplastic elastomer coating that is applied (along with other chemicals) to a polyethylene film to create, sometimes called stickie back or rubberized asphalt.

EPDM- Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer, or in common terms, good ole’ tire tube material.  This material is becoming commonly used for flashing materials due to the durability and ease of installation in both cold and hot weather installation.

TPO- Thermoplastic Polyolefin is another material commonly used for roofing and now becoming popular with masonry flashings.  This material is easily heat welded together to form secure melted bonds that can tie flashing into roofing, eliminating, in some cases, counterflashing and or dual parapet flashings.

ASTM- Once known as the “American Society for Testing and Materials,” is now currently ASTM International. This organization is a developer of international voluntary consensus standards. The ASTM International standards are more widely used in Commercial and Industrial construction projects.

ICC-ES- International Code Council-Evaluation Service is a non-profit organization that reviews products to determine if the product meets code compliance. This process is performed by the manufacturer of the product utilizing an independent laboratory to test the product.

CM- Centimeter-to-inch conversion is taking the length in CM and dividing by 2.54 to get the length in inches.

PDF- Portable Document Format. Honestly, I thought this one was way too boring.

WWF- Welded wire fabric, not the world wrestling federation. This is how wire in concrete would be called out by spacing and gauge.

NFPA- National Fire Protection Association, leading in information related to fire and electrical hazards.

NCMA- National Concrete Masonry Association. Advancing and supporting the concrete masonry trade.

MCAA- Mason Contractors Association of America. These fine folks support the masonry trades on the national level, and they also have a pretty good magazine, if I say so myself.

PCA- Portland Cement Association, supporting the masonry industry through the Cement Manufacturers.

NFPA 285- This is a very popular fire test that is very expensive to perform. This test is one that determines the flammability characteristics of exterior insulated wall assemblies. The test must be the exact match of the wall assembly that you are comparing; otherwise, a letter of compliance must be written by an engineering firm for assembly acceptance. Individual products can not receive NFPA 285 acceptance.

ASTM E84- Standard Test Method for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials. This is one of the tests that some in sales like to drop when they are trying to prove that their material is better than others; this is one of the undefined tests that is common in sales discussions.

As I get older, I see more and more younger folks enter the industry. After writing this, I think I will slow down a bit and explain myself better as a way of mentoring the industry newbies.  I can easily talk to an older masonry professional in abbreviations but taking the time to explain the abbreviation now seems a much better use of my time.

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The look of confusion and utter loss on people’s faces when I tell them that I’m a safety inspector for a masonry company is often hilarious.

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