Inconsistency of test result of field and lab testing of mortar and grout is one of the biggest challenges mason contractors face. When a test result indicates failure, work stops, and discussions become heated. More often than not, problems are resolved. Inconsistent test result cause unnecessary costs.

There are many reasons for test result variation. But most contractors would agree, the prime reason is inconsistency of the training many testing lab technicians receive on how to perform the common masonry testing procedures.

This isn’t a big surprise. Field and lab technicians test masonry much less frequently than fresh concrete. Field testing technicians are often less experienced when dealing with job variability on masonry projects. And to make matters more difficult, mortars and grouts just tend be more variable in their nature yet still in spec.

Fortunately for our industry a small group of masonry materials experts have taken on the challenge on how help increase correlation of testing results. By certifying that technicians have been properly taught ASTM procedures, there should be less test result variation. With leadership from The Masonry Society (TMS), our industry now has our certification procedures that will allow field and lab personnel to demonstrate their knowledge and proficiency on common masonry test. There was also a great deal of support from the American Concrete Institute, especially from its testing lab members. The masonry testing technician certification parallels ACI’s successful Laboratory Technician Certification Programs for concrete.

This has been a huge effort. Special thanks should be given to the National Concrete Masonry Association. Much certification program information came from NCMA’s very successful training program.

These two new testing certifications really need our industry’s support.

First, TMS is seeking support to help prepare testing technicians for the certification examinations. TMS plans to offer intensive education review sessions and the ACI Certification Examinations. TMS is holding a webinar next week explaining their needs (see related story).

Second, promote this new industry certification to the testing labs who work in your area. Many lab managers may balk at the nominal time and costs required to certify their technicians. Mason contractors need to remind the testing labs that our industry needs participation in a formal quality assurance effort by all parties.

Third, and perhaps most important, mason contractors must convince the structure’s owner to hire only testing labs who use certified technicians. When certified mason testing technicians are specified in the contract document, mason contractors should feel as if their quality to be verified.