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Concrete masonry is among the most durable building components available.  However, this material will deteriorate over time if not properly maintained, especially in the Northeast with our ever-changing weather conditions.  From our experience at Abbot Restoration, concrete sealing can be among the most effective methods for protecting concrete structures.

This article will highlight a few of the most frequently asked questions concerning the care of concrete masonry. For this article, the terms “coatings” and “sealers” are used interchangeably.

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The Victorian era roughly corresponds to the time when Queen Victoria ruled Britain (1837-1901) during which period the styles known as Victorian were used in construction. During this time, industrialization brought many innovations in architecture….

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By definition, an “envelope” is an encapsulating covering such as an outer shell or membrane. In simple building terms, it consistsof the roof, the above-grade wall system, and the below-grade wall system. The purpose of the building envelope is to protect the interior from external elements, including moisture, air, and temperature ingress and egress. The definition sounds simple enough, but in reality, because of the thousands of complex products and systems specified and the multiple trades involved, the probability of defects is relatively high…

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Boston downtown skyscrapers

Architecture often defines a city. From modest brownstone structures to soaring skyscrapers, architecture covers a broad scope of engineering and design elements. Boston is one of the oldest cities in America. Since its founding in 1630, Boston has always been a melting pot of old traditions and new ideas. In the late 19th century, the city came into its own as a cultural and architectural center. During this flourishing era, Massachusetts College of Art, the nation’s first and only publicly funded art school, and the Museum of Fine Arts, one of the finest museums in the world, were founded…

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water infiltration

Water infiltration is the archenemy of many building materials. Constant exposure can lead to erosion of masonry, sealants, and coatings causing deterioration or worse. Water can enter a building at floor levels, wall bases, and above windows, roofs, and pipes…

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Prepare To Repair

Estimating and Bidding a Masonry Restoration Project is a Complex Process.

At first glance, estimating and bidding a major masonry restoration project may seem rather straightforward. Define the job, price the job, bid the job. While these are the keys to the process, the tasks associated with each of these fundamentals must be carefully planned to assure that the process is successfully executed…

The process begins when the building owner/manager identifies problems, such as water infiltration or deteriorating masonry, that need to be addressed. In most cases, the owner/ manager seeks help from an architectural/engineering consulting firm that is selected based on either past experience, response to a request for proposals, or a strong referral from an associate or colleague.

The owner/manager and consultant meet to discuss the problems. The comprehensive investigation typically incorporates a visual survey of the entire building enclosure, including the roof and foundation. As part of the process, masonry or other exterior components (windows, EIFS, etc.) may be removed in problem areas to determine the nature of the defects.

Hiring an architectural/engineering consultant assures the owner that all aspects of the building restoration are evaluated and considered. These can include not only all of the structural issues, but also technical considerations such as insurance requirements, governmental regulations, and energy code requirements. The consultant is also a valuable ally in selecting and managing contractors throughout the restoration process.

Following the visual and technical investigation of the building enclosure, the consultant generally prepares a condition survey report. This report outlines the problems and recommends potential remedial solutions, provides several options based on a variety of factors, and includes preliminary budgets for each option.

Once the building owner/manager selects an option to be implemented, the consultant prepares contract documents. These include plans and specifications detailing the scope of work to be executed, materials to be used, and warranties required upon completion of the work.

Calling All (Qualified) Contractors

The owner/manager arranges a pre-bid meeting with qualified masonry contractors, based on past experience and referrals. At the meeting, the consultant distributes, reviews, and discusses the scope of work with the contractors, and often enters into a “give and take” to solicit contractor recommendations. The consultant may then issue one or more addendums that outline accepted revisions to certain aspects of the work detailed in the project documents.

Upon receiving the revised project specifications, each candidate contractor performs a “takeoff” on the plans. This includes a comprehensive review of the drawings and specifications, and one or more onsite visits to the property. The contractor performs his own field measurements to verify the accuracy of the measurements and quantities outlined in the plan. Abbot Building Restoration removed and replaced weatherproofing sealant at the pleasant Street apartments in Malden, Mass.

Following the onsite evaluations, the contractor quantifies units of materials required and areas to be repaired. After the contractor has a complete understanding of the scope of work, he uses his preferred estimating process or technique to generate a bid. Today, this process has become more sophisticated with specialized estimating software. Once all project costs have been established based on the specifications described in the plan, the contractor enters lump sum and unit pricing, as well as any other required pricing breakdown, onto the bid form. The contractor should also carefully review the sample contract provided in the bid package to assure compliance with the owner’s and consultant’s terms and conditions. This document is usually the American Institute of Architects industry standard contract. After the bids are submitted, the consultant reports the results and reviews the bids with the owner/manager. The consultant typically selects the two lowest bidders and interviews each candidate. For private contracts, the final decision is not always based on cost; for pubic contracts, the low bidder customarily wins the job.

Weatherproofing sealant replacement at the Pleasant Street Apartments in Malden MA

Abbot Building Restoration removed and replaced weatherproofing sealant at the Pleasant Street apartments in Malden, Mass.

Case Study: Pleasant Street Apartments

An excellent example of a successful design/build process is the repair project at the Pleasant Street Apartments in Malden, Mass. Built in 2006, the 204-unit high-rise structure began to exhibit various issues with the building enclosure shortly after it was occupied. VP Consultants LLC (VPC) in Cambridge, Mass., was hired to review the structure, determine the present condition of various exterior elements, and identify the work necessary to perform the repairs. According to managing partner Michael Velji, VPC drafted a remedial plan with preliminary budgets and met with the building owner/property manager to select the option that best fit their requirements. After bidding the proposed work to various qualified contractors, the owner interviewed the two low bidders. One of these was Abbot Building Restoration Co. Inc. of Boston, a well-respected masonry repair and maintenance firm.

With the owner’s approval, Abbot was selected for the project based on strong qualifications and competitive pricing. Based upon the scope of work in VPC’s plans, Abbot removed the original sealant throughout the entire façade and replaced it with a two-stage silicone sealant system to provide a tight weatherproof seal. The contractor also completed additional work, as detailed in the project documents.

Case Study: St. James Episcopal Church

Another example is the restoration of the bell tower at the St. James Episcopal Church in Cambridge, Mass. Built in 1888, St. James Church is a historically significant structure designed in a Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style that was popular in the era. Over the years, the sanctuary has housed many beautiful stained glass windows and a historic bell recast by Paul Revere.

In 2007, the ownership committee contracted Davies & Bibbons, an architectural consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass., to inspect the bell tower on the north side of the building where the original stones had begun to dislodge.
Davies & Bibbons performed a complete investigation of the deteriorated masonry, and developed plans and specifications for the remedial repairs.

According to engineering manager, Arthur Hayes, after several onsite visits and revisions, the plans included removing the entire bell tower down to the roofline, and rebuilding it using the original stones. The project included repairing some of the buttresses located below the tower that were also deteriorating.

After a similar bidding process, Abbot Building Restoration was selected as the masonry contractor. Under the direction of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Abbot carefully removed and numbered each of the stones, applied new mortar, and replaced the stones in the exact order as they were removed, thereby preserving the historical integrity of the structure. MC

Michael Norman is vice president of Abbot Building Restoration Co. Inc. Harlan Polishook is a marketing consultant. For more details and project profiles, see www. or call 617-445-0274.

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Estimating and bidding a masonry restoration project is a complex process.

At first glance, estimating and bidding a major masonry restorationproject may seem rather straightforward. Define the job, price the job, bid the job. While these are the keys to the process, the tasks associated with each of these fundamentals must be carefully planned to assure that the process is successfully executed…

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To Preserve And Protect

To help protect and preserve the unique historic and architectural character of Boston’s neighborhoods, the City of Boston hasdesignated nine local Historic District Commissions to review proposed exterior design changes to properties located within the boundaries of each of the following Districts:

  • Aberdeen Architectural Conservation District
  • Back Bay Architectural District
  • Bay State Road/Back Bay West Architectural Conservation District
  • Bay Village Historic District
  • Historic Beacon Hill District
  • Fort Point Channel Landmark District
  • Mission Hill Triangle Architectural Conservation District
  • South End Landmark District
  • St. Botolph Architectural Conservation District …
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Coming Full Circle

Coming full circle is defined as returning to the origin of a project or situation. In terms of the service industry, coming full circle can refer to hiring a contractor back after successful earlier work. In its rich history as a successful masonry contractor, Abbot has been hired back on many occasions to work on new projects by existing clients. In some cases, this goes back a long way…

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