I’m working on a story for Masonry Magazine about how mason contractors can profit from the new breed of fluid-applied air barriers now on the market.
I’ve interviewed two contractors so far, and both say the same thing.
It’s WAY worth it for contractors to “self-perform” air barrier installation because it just about always costs less than subbing it out. It also gives the mason contractor more control at the job site. Obviously, a sub who gets delayed installing the air barrier also delays the masonry installation.
Ed Purdy, Vice President and Co-Owner of Purdy Masonry, Zionsville, Ind., said his company has been installing air barriers for about five years.
“We usually had to supply the scaffolding and other equipment anyway,” Ed said, “so why not do it ourselves?”
Brad Dennis, Ziolkowski Masonry, South Bend, Ind., said his firm also began installing air barriers about five years ago, and for the same reasons Ed cited — cost and control.
He says the “new breed” of easy-application, sprayable, water-based air and water barriers make it easy.
“We won’t get involved with air barrier installation when fabric wraps or peel and sticks are specified,” Brad said. “That level of difficulty and complexity isn’t worth our time. We’ll sub those out.”
Ease of installation isn’t the only factor Brad looks at in deciding whether to take on air barrier installation. He says the specified air barrier must be readily available and have first-class manufacturer back-up, including formal hands-on training in the products and no-cost job-site and telephone technical assistance.
“Our first job was about five years ago. We applied a sprayable product to block back-up at the riding stables at Culver Military Academy in Northwestern Indiana,” Brad said. The building had a brick veneer with a stone base.
“The air barrier installation went smoothly. That was due in large part to the training our guys got from the manufacturer beforehand,” he said.
Though product data sheets and instructions are usually comprehensive and informative, there’s no substitute for hands-on training, especially when you’re doing it for the first time. Even the best product literature won’t help you understand how important it is to connect your air barrier to the roof and to the slab or below-grade waterproofing.
The printed page can’t give you the “feel” of how to correctly spread or tool the material. You can only get that by trial-and-error experience — or through training and practice.
“We’ve done about 50 air and water barrier installations since that first job,” Brad said. “If we can do them, we will do them.”
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