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Concrete Tilt-up vs. Masonry Buildings

Masonry, when compared with Tilt-Up, is generally more costly and takes longer to build. However, in areas where Tilt-Up expertise is unavailable or where masonry is inexpensive due to a plentiful labor source, you will see many masonry buildings. Enterprising contractors in these areas are introducing Tilt-Up and often winning jobs that were originally designed as masonry buildings. Faced with deciding whether to use Tilt-Up or masonry,

The answer you get depends upon whom you ask. Masonry contractors will tell you they can build faster and for less cost, and Tilt-Up contractors will tell you their method is the better choice.

Here are some factors:

  1. For a building of less than about 6,000 sq. ft., the choice may be masonry if crane time is found to be uneconomical for the smaller number of panels. Further, the limited floor space may not be enough for casting panels.
  2. If the building is in an area of the country where Tilt-Up expertise is not available, or where cranes are scarce, masonry may prevail.
  3. For a large building in an area of the country where concrete blocks or bricks and mason labor are inexpensive, Tilt-Up may be the best option, assuming Tilt-Up expertise and cranes are available; if they are not, masonry wins by default. On a large project, an experienced masonry crew can work fast and very efficiently. However, in areas where Tilt-Up is widely used, and all other factors are equal, Tilt-Up is invariably a more economical choice.
  4. If a building has a high clear height inside, say more than 24 ft., Tilt-Up is more economical since the thickness of the wall required needs only be increased incrementally, whereas masonry jumps in whole block units, such as to 12 in. from 8 in. Additional temporary bracing may also be needed for higher masonry walls.
  5. For fire resistance, an 8-in. concrete block wall with all cells grouted is rated four hours, equivalent to a 6½-in. concrete wall. If the block wall is not solid-grouted, it is rated two hours, which is equivalent to a 5-in. concrete wall. (These examples assume normal weight, Grade A concrete.)
  6. A concrete wall is generally denser and less porous than a masonry wall. With masonry, there is the problem of sealing and painting so water does not enter through the joints, or through the blocks’ natural porosity. A Tilt-Up building is faster to erect than a masonry building, given a relatively large building with repetitive panels. It is not difficult to completely enclose a 60,000-sq- ft. Tilt-Up building in four weeks, from laying out the panels to starting the roof structure.
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