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I have a contractor who gave a good price on lintel replacement and very much knows his stuff. He is using mortar that is softer than the brick, and claims to have sent the materials to a lab for testing all for $7000 for 6 lintels. This is in a 3 story construction brick 1925 house.

When they opened it up, they found that the wall was 2 bricks thick and that the lintels were I-Beams that went through the entirety of the wall. He can handle this, but want to charge a *LOT* more.

The question is, is this common?

He said he has only seen this 5 times in his career? The guy seems like a really good guy, and is super smart and knows his stuff. Just want to verify.

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What's a lot? 10% or 50% more? If it's 10%, don't quibble at all. If it's 50%, somethings up.

He may not have been figuring on having to pin support the wall; that adds up. You can't pull out an I beam without pin support; the wall can collapse. If there's an inner wythe, to support things, it's a cakewalk, hence $7K. Pins and full bore support...it's more. Sometimes a *lot*.

$7K for 6 lintels, mortar testing, custom mix for repair....is cheap.

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What's a lot? 10% or 50% more? If it's 10%, don't quibble at all. If it's 50%, somethings up.

He may not have been figuring on having to pin support the wall; that adds up. You can't pull out an I beam without pin support; the wall can collapse. If there's an inner wythe, to support things, it's a cakewalk, hence $7K. Pins and full bore support...it's more. Sometimes a *lot*.

$7K for 6 lintels, mortar testing, custom mix for repair....is cheap.

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When they opened it up, they found that the wall was 2 bricks thick and that the lintels were I-Beams that went through the entirety of the wall.

The bond pattern of the brick clearly shows it's 2 wythes. How could anyone that works on masonry buildings not anticipate that the support over openings isn't going to be just under the outer wythe?

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If it's a couple angles in the upside down Tee configuration, you can extract the lintel a lot easier than if it's an I beam. You slide it (kind of) down and out. It surprises people when the brick all kind of hangs there and you support it with a couple sticks, sometimes with just the window jambs. Brick doesn't fall down like people think.

Those beams look like they're part of a larger assembly that runs deep into the wall. I'm not sure exactly what's going on because the pics aren't so hot. If it's deep, he may be going surgical to avoid mangling interior finishes and plaster. Depends on how deep, deep is.

He may have thought it was an upside down tee with 2 loose angles and figured the inner angle was still OK. Sometimes it is, sometimes not.

Regardless, he screwed up by not figuring possibilities.

Other possibilities..... he's a dumbshit and not a very good business person, and just didn't get the proposal right. Very common.

Or, he worked you to suck you in and now you're in it and he's got you by the short hairs. It happens. Construction work of this sort isn't populated by lovely, caring individuals operating consistently and according to what most folks expect. Construction projects, even well run operations, are large cans of worms.

Screw ups are not uncommon in this stuff. $7K was amazingly cheap and $15K doesn't sound out of line. I got 6 lintels that I would gladly pay $15K to have replaced.

The new lintels should have a membrane flashing applied over them, tucked into the next course higher inner wythe to create a back dam and the ends should be turned up a tad to create an end dam. This isolates the new steel from the corrosive effects of the masonry. I wouldn't bother with weeps because the wall isn't a cavity rainscreen and you don't need drainage, per se. You do want the plastic as a prophylactic barrier. You can cut it back so it's not visible, unlike on a veneer or cavity wall.

Welcome to how it sometimes happens. Sucks, doesn't it? At the end, you will have a house repaired correctly that will last longer than you will.

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Thank you so much everyone. I did speak to his workers, and they said that the job was no different from any other. We speak Chinese and Spanish, and I think he is not used to his clients speaking to the workers. The workers were complaining to us about not having goggles or masks. They also almost fell a few times. I'm also not sure that he got the building permit. Even though he said he did, he did not produce it when requested.

We only paid the deposit from the original proposal, about $5000. We haven't agreed to pay for this extra work. Would you in this situation? If we tell them we are only paying the originally quoted amount, they will definitely walk away mid-job.

I can't say how lucky I am to have this forum. You all have been super helpful in all walks of brining an old house to life.

Here are additional photos. Sorry about my terrible photography skills! https://goo.gl/photos/Vw3hw22oMtpHgnv87

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OK. The guy's leaning into dick category, not the dumbshit category. No masks or goggles, no harness/fall protection equipment, staging looks like it's homemade, no rigging, no tiebacks, no temp railing, buncha ladders, minimal scaffold, etc., etc....the guy's a dick. Masks and goggles are baseline. So are fall harnesses. He probably didn't get a permit because that would trigger an inspection which means he'd get cited for no safety equipment. And maybe for undocumented's. Did I say maybe? Probably....

Looking over the scope, $15K isn't a bad deal at all if it's all cleaned up and the mortar is right. My guess is you're getting worked. Not getting ripped off, but getting worked.

But, the contractor's a dick. There's a guy on this site, Hockstein, that works Jersey and maybe NY. He'd probably have a good take on what's going.

Are you seeing any membrane flashing over the new lintels?

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Thanks you so much as always Kurt!! I think you are right as he hasn't showed me his permit. He says he is licensed and insured but I'm starting to doubt it. He was supposed to get landmarks clearance too. I guess I should have confirmed all of that. I suppose it makes us both liable.

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It would around here, but at this point, I'd just get it done. You're rolling, so fasten your seat belt and step on it.

Depending on your appetite for conflict, which for most folks is nil, I might string the guy along with smiles and encouragement, and when it was all done, stick a blow torch in his armpit and pull the trigger. Which is shorthand for not paying him what he wants, and if he pushes, push back. He'll make the usual lien threats, at which point you bring in the the authorities and your attorney and....you know....blow torch.

Helluva way to do business, right? Sometimes it gets that way. At least, it does in Chicago. Big city construction stuff isn't exactly gentile and polite; sometimes it's gets pushy. If that's not what you want to do, and again, it's not for the faint hearted, $15K isn't a bad deal if they get it done right.

You've not commented on the membrane flashing. Is it there? It should be something resembling 40 mil self adhered material, like WR Grace, Bituthane, or something similar. And, I doubt he used the soft mortar. Look around for bags that the cement came in. If it says "Type N", it's not soft mortar. Which, at this point, isn't going to ruin your house, but it would be one more thing to help you pull the trigger on the blow torch.

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Hi Kurt,

That's what we ended up doing. Thanks much for the advice. It was the same advice that our lawyer friends gave us. Essentially, we ended up being convinced that we were being played. The owner of the company, Bob, said that the top lintel had cost them the equivalent of an extra day of work, which is why the price was doubled, and that now he would lose money on the job. The guy was super nice, and held his cool during the discussion. His brother in law (who looks like he might have killed a few men in his time) was throwing his keys and bunching up his fists and acting scary.

Bob changed parts of his story a number of times, but essentially stuck with the central story that the top lintel was C-shaped and welded to another beam and he had to spend a lot of time getting it out. The workers who actually did the work (and only spoke Chinese) said that it was nothing too unusual. His response to this was that we didn't have a right to be speaking with his workers, and anyway they were just trying to keep us from worrying about the house.

We agreed that we would pay more if an independent assessor would come in, scope the inside of the wall, and tell us that it was worth $7500 to remove the lintel. He said he would send us pictures of the unusual lintel and also send us other relevant documentation, such as proof that the mortar was laboratory tested and matched for landmarks and that he had a DOB permit, insurance, and all of that. (We were stupid enough not to request documentation of this before the job, though there was an email to Landmarks that he was cc'ed in on and responded to.) If he can do all of this, we are happy to pay whatever someone thinks the extra work was worth. In the meantime, we paid what they contract asked us to pay.

Regarding the membrane flashing, he stated he did. He was not able to provide the specific information on the flashing to see whether it was to code (if used at all). We see no weep holes. We could not see any either on the ground materials or in the air. They repaired some bricks with mortar. New pictures added. https://goo.gl/photos/Vw3hw22oMtpHgnv87

MJR--He also did some work on our slate roof. He said that he had to put up an extra scaffolding to access the roof. We didn't see any such a scaffolding (do you from the pictures?)

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You don't need weeps; it's not a cavity wall assembly. Old masonry accommodates and manages moisture through the sheer mass of the wall and the miracle of soft lime mortars; it's not a rainscreen.

I recommend the flashing to isolate the steel from the corrosive cement. You don't really have to because it's not about moisture management in your type wall.

The steel we get now is pot stuff; general purpose, not particularly corrosion resistant. In the time this place was built, part of the spec on quality homes was the material and chrome content of the steel. The really good stuff has a very faint bluish tint to the edge when you cut it; that's the chrome and maybe some molybdenum. Hard to know. Yours was probably basic stuff because it rusted; the good stuff can go >100 years.

If the guy can't give you a spec on the membrane, it's not there. He should be able to answer your questions in <5 words; the name and mfg. of the material. As implied previously, it's probably not a big deal; it's not about drainage, it's about protecting the steel.

If that lighter colored mortar in the pics is the new stuff, it isn't spec mixed. You're probably somewhere around a K, maybe L mortar. I'm just guessing, but it's not a souffle, it's cement.

O ratios are roughly Portland 1 part Lime 2 parts Sand 8 - 9 parts

K is about Portland 1 part Lime 3 parts Sand 10 - 12 parts

IOW, it's a lot of sand. Look at the original mortar, you'll see a lot of sand in it. The lighter color stuff likes much more finely grained, so it's clearly not a match to the original.

Again, I don't know if the light color stuff is the new (if it is, the guy's a dork on the match). Mortar matching is pretty much science; you can match anything.

Where they cheese you is on sandy mixes. Colorant/dye is really expensive. It takes 10-20 times more colorant for sandy mixes because every grain has to be coated; sand is big grains, hence it takes a lot to color it. Portland is super teeny grains, and easy to color. It's much easier to tint Type N than a K or L type.

Good for you on pushing back. The guy sounds like a dick. If his employees are ratting him out, he's absolutely a dick. A good crew is pretty supportive and tight. You have to be; it's a tough job. You don't roll over on your employer if he's treating you right.

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Thanks Kurt! I stuck my hand in the mortar powder, and it was fine grain...very little sand. I wasn't happy with it. But he was scaffolded up, and I wanted the job done. Hopefully, it will blend as time goes on. I don't see how he could have charged $7500 and had a $2000 laboratory analysis done on the mortar in the process. Once again, thanks all. What a wonderful forum you have!! If anyone needs medical advice...I'm happy to give it. :- )

If I had been a little bit more complete in my due diligence, I would have uncovered http://www.yellowpages.com/jackson-heights-ny/mip/c-m-roofing-483900448, which were made before Google Reviews or Yelp.

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$2000?!?! It costs about $35, maybe a tad more or less. That's funny. The guy's a dick. Case closed.

It's not going to blend, but it's also not the end of the world. There are colorants you can apply that can get a better match. I'm looking at your brick, it looks like a high fire vitrified material....the harder mortar is less likely to spall the harder brick. If it was a soft brick, you could get some spalling.

You just got a Master Class in how it goes sometimes. It happens here all the time...people get a guy, it's all great talk on the front end, then loony tunes. At least it wasn't for huge money. Best case is getting done, getting the asshole off your property, and pulling up reviews before hiring next time.

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MJR--He also did some work on our slate roof. He said that he had to put up an extra scaffolding to access the roof. We didn't see any such a scaffolding (do you from the pictures?)

It looks like the very top section of scaffolding was not needed for the lintel work. I suppose they could have used that to access the roof. Whether that got them to where the slate was repaired, I can't say.

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  • 1 month later...

If it's a couple angles in the upside down Tee configuration, you can extract the lintel a lot easier than if it's an I beam. You slide it (kind of) down and out. It surprises people when the brick all kind of hangs there and you support it with a couple sticks, sometimes with just the window jambs. Brick doesn't fall down like people think.

Those beams look like they're part of a larger assembly that runs deep into the wall. I'm not sure exactly what's going on because the pics aren't so hot. If it's deep, he may be going surgical to avoid mangling interior finishes and plaster. Depends on how deep, deep is.

He may have thought it was an upside down tee with 2 loose angles and figured the inner angle was still OK. Sometimes it is, sometimes not.

Regardless, he screwed up by not figuring possibilities.

Other possibilities..... he's a dumbshit and not a very good business person, and just didn't get the proposal right. Very common.

Or, he worked you to suck you in and now you're in it and he's got you by the short hairs. It happens. Construction work of this sort isn't populated by lovely, caring individuals operating consistently and according to what most folks expect. Construction projects, even well run operations, are large cans of worms.

Screw ups are not uncommon in this stuff. $7K was amazingly cheap and $15K doesn't sound out of line. I got 6 lintels that I would gladly pay $15K to have replaced.

The new lintels should have a membrane flashing applied over them, tucked into the next course higher inner wythe to create a back dam and the ends should be turned up a tad to create an end dam. This isolates the new steel from the corrosive effects of the masonry. I wouldn't bother with weeps because the wall isn't a cavity rainscreen and you don't need drainage, per se. You do want the plastic as a prophylactic barrier. You can cut it back so it's not visible, unlike on a veneer or cavity wall.

Welcome to how it sometimes happens. Sucks, doesn't it? At the end, you will have a house repaired correctly that will last longer than you will.

[:-thumbu][:-thumbu][:-thumbu][:-thumbu][:-thumbu][:-thumbu]

Brick walls are a lot tougher than most people give them credit for.

Ive tried the hit and run tactic before by knocking bricks out of the bottom of a wall thinking the rest will come crashing down,Doesnt work too good!

Same thing with brick chimneys,Takes a lot of swinging to bring one down.[;)]

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