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Split Face Block


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My friend Steve Hier has been pushing on this longer and harder than anyone else I know. He saw through the production and development of this clip. He and I are working (him working, me doing minor lifting) on changing how the city addresses these issues.


It's a decently constructed clip showing the many sides of the controversy.

The good, the bad, and the morons are readily apparent.

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Shocking info.

I never cared for split faced block, in my masonry days. They were hard to handle (super heavy and lopsided), and they have no symmetry. I always found myself taking an extra few moments to dress them, like a stone, before installing them. I worked with them, now and then, on commercial jobs and schools in the late seventies and early eighties. I never imagined they'd be such a problem.

On the positive side - most of the work I was involved in went through so many inspections by so many entities that we tended to install things pretty close to perfect (full head and bed joints - properly struck). The government and school systems were pretty tough on quality workmanship. A red or yellow crayon mark by any inspector, was all it took to have you chiseling and re-pointing, if not removing and doing again, which was just fine with me. I always hated doing things badly.

Also, in most government applications (schools, military, prisons, etc), the block was the finish inside and out. The inside surface had to be nicely struck. A hand striker wasn't permitted, because it conformed to every imperfection in the blocks. Instead, a runner had to be used, which was about a foot long, like a sled runner. It made the joint appear quite uniform. Then, the entire wall surface was ground down a bit with a polishing stone to make the surface smooth enough that folks could brush up against it without abrasion. Next, the surface was primed with a special paint that filled a lot of the pores of the block to make it even smoother. Lastly, the finish coat of paint was applied. I imagine the average person has no idea that exposed interior blockwork in schools goes through so many steps to become a finish, and I suppose all that makes a difference regarding their performance.

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The product is not flawed. The installation detail are the problem. As has been stated, we have been using split face for years in the commercial world.

My company was involved with inspecting a large school bond project over a 3 year period. In general we had no problem with the masonry work. The exception was a single school addition. There was a lethal combination of a low quality contractor, a mason who did not care and an architect who did not walk in integrity. I reported to the school's construction department on a daily basis but even with that missed deadlines, efflorescence and cost overruns occurred. Each of the three above was involved with other school projects but it was the combination of the three that led to problems.

For the record, we used the heavy grade version of the moisture resistant block.

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I think there are big variables with all the installations, but the real problem here is the residential multistory with wood floor and roof platforms.

It's sort of like EIFS......I know that it can be done correctly, but the degree of meticulousness necessary to get it to work is lost on almost everyone. The amount and degree of education and supervision that would have been necessary get it right simply didn't exist.

They're all screwed; it's just a matter of how long until the worst start caving in.

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