On the Fourth of July, I took my sister, brother-in-law, and a friend to a Cubs game in Chicago. It was my sister's first visit to the heart of the Windy City, and they wanted to experience what Chicago is like. I also wanted to impress them with just how much of a Chicagoan I have become. So at my urging, we parked the car and took the train.

Bad move on my part. Fortunately, the weather was fine, but I forgot the trains were operating on a holiday schedule. And I didn't realize how hard it would be to hail a cab.

So my group had the opportunity to walk along long blocks of quaint city streets on the way to the game. We first saw the upscale masonry homes in Norwood Park. The next neighborhood, Jefferson Park, featured quaint brick two-flats. And when we eventually arrived in the Lakeview area surrounding Wrigley Field, we saw great examples of the new masonry style that combines block, brick, and cast stone to create handsome homes.

Along our trek, brick, stone, cast stone, terra cotta, and block framed every scene. Masons had created vaulted archways and ornate coppices, and had laid handsome courses of brick on thousands of structures.

As we walked, I began to understand how important marketing is to our industry. For the last 10 years or so, our industry's growth has been fueled by new construction. Our marketing efforts have yielded a new set of structures that will stand against the test of time.

And thanks to the legacy of our previous masons, a number of these structures are beginning to reach the end of their service lives. Today, mason contractors are on the edge of a new opportunity: The repair and rehabilitation segment of our industry will grow faster than new construction.

Don't be like me on that July afternoon and miss your train to success because of poor planning. Fortunately for me, I was able to satisfy my disgruntled guests with a few cool refreshments. You may not be so lucky.

Entering the growing market niche of masonry repair requires time to learn the needed skills. To successfully participate in this market segment, most successful contractors say it requires a change of mind and skill sets. In this issue, we present some interesting ways to help you develop a recession-proof business.

In addition to our stories, I'd like to point out a new repair resource. The International Concrete Repair Institute (ICRI) has recently published the “Guide for the Evaluation of Masonry Façade Structures.” This 44-page publication teaches contractors how to properly evaluate façade structures. It describes the entire evaluation process, from investigating the history of the structure to techniques and procedures for non-destructive and visual evaluation through physical inspection.

The document fills a void in our industry. It should help estimators avoid potential mistakes in bidding the work. It may even help a mason contractor avoid financial ruin by reminding the estimator to check all aspects of the repair. To order Technical Guideline No. 410.1-2008, “Guide for the Evaluation of Masonry Façade Structures,” telephone ICRI at 248-848-3809 or visit the association at www.icri.org.