Key Considerations for Successfully Winning Masonry Contracts

Words: At the outset of a construction project, the early bidding phase is an important time for masonry subcontractors to demonstrate they have the experience needed to successfully complete a project and can work in lock step with construction managers, including the ability to coordinate schedules, work within established budgets and achieve a project’s full scope. Since vendor selection is a multifaceted process, subcontractors should be prepared to demonstrate they possess the experience and capabilities required to complete the scope of work. One consideration construction managers use in vetting potential masonry subcontractors is to review the prequalification and financial stability of a particular vendor. The data collected is used to gain quick insights to the subcontractor’s history of payments, credit stability with suppliers and overall market condition from a general revenue approach. This helps a construction manager size up trades for appropriate projects and ensure the right masonry vendors are selected to compete for the masonry scope. Looking beyond the subcontractor’s size and financial review, construction managers often evaluate the overall quality of work the masonry subcontractor brings to the table based on previous projects. It is important the subcontractor’s set of skills aligns with the overall goals of a project and the work that needs to be completed. This evaluation is performed by calling on references provided during the prequalification process, as well as through history with a subcontractor. Additionally, construction managers expect subcontractors to be familiar with the drawings and specs. Typically, specifications are the final ruling on conflicts between large plans, detailed sections and elevations. If a more stringent product is called out in the specifications, but not identified on the plans, the expectation is that the subcontractor has included that product in their estimate. When responding to request for proposals (RFPs), subs should consult project documents and take the following into consideration:
  • Considering the size of the project, do you have the capacity to take on the work?
  • Do you have experience with this type of project?
  • Does the schedule/season impact pricing?
  • Are there special conditions of the project that must be met (specialty masonry shapes, unique site conditions, temporary shoring requirements, etc.)?
  • What are the lead times for masonry materials on the project?
  • Is the project schedule viable as set forth by the construction manager?
Serving as the masonry expert on a project, subcontractors should bring a masonry-specific perspective to project planning, working alongside the construction manager to ensure all products and details specified by the design professional can be procured and constructed to meet the design intent. It is crucial for subcontractors to take the initiative to look for engineering efforts and opportunities to help improve the construction schedule, provide value engineering suggestions that will achieve meaningful results for the overall schedule. On most projects, getting the masonry veneer installed is crucial to meeting the critical path of the overall project schedule. Having the flashings and veneer complete allows other trades to progress with their work (windows, adjacent veneers, coping, etc.) so that the overall exterior façade can be completed within the project schedule. Subcontractors responding to RFPs should demonstrate a full understanding of how their work fits into the overall schedule and how their material lead times can have an effect on the project. Exercising due diligence and spending time upfront to understand lead times will save hours of down time and lost productivity as a project progresses. Because masonry projects aren’t built on a single task line, masonry subcontractors are asked to provide insight on the masonry activities that then allow the construction manager to coordinate and sequence the schedule to ensure each trade has a progressive flow through the project. This includes detailed durations for work activities and submittal durations for approvals and product lead times. Having this information early in the project is a valuable for a construction manager to build a successful project schedule. Because weather is an important factor in scheduling, masonry subcontractors must be mindful of the season in which the work is to be completed. It is generally a best practice to avoid masonry work during months of extreme weather – both hot and cold. Extra precautions are taken during these months to sustain masonry work can dramatically impact the schedule and budget and should be accounted for on the front-end during the preconstruction phase of the project. Since working during these months is not at the discretion of the subcontractor and cannot always be avoided, construction managers look to masonry subcontractors to use the appropriate methods and standards to adapt to weather considerations. Overall, construction managers look to strategically partner with masonry subcontractors that demonstrate dedication to a project by effectively working with project team members to achieve project goals.  
Words: Jeff Brown Photos: Masonry Magazine
About the Author Jeff Brown is a vice president of operations at New South Construction Company, a mid-sized general contracting firm based in Atlanta. New South provides construction management services to a wide range of clients in various markets including: Higher Education, private clubs, K-12 schools, places of worship, multi-family, senior living, criminal justice, aviation and industrial.
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