Posted by: nedpelger | April 15, 2009

An Amazing Masonry Resource…for Free

I still get surprised when I see companies lie in their advertising. We are building a 12 unit condo project in Lititz called PilgerHaus and need to construct an exterior elevator shaft. After purchasing the elevator, I saw that hydraulic elevators want to be between 60 to 90 degrees F. I hadn’t thought about insulating the 8″ block wall, but decided we could foam the cores. I knew I’d seen some good R values from that system. I found a manufacturer’s data sheet that showed R values of 14 and 9 for various density 8″ concrete blocks.

I talked to my old buddy and masonry expert Harold Haldeman of New Holland Concrete to determine which density block we use. He informed me that nobody makes a block with the aggregate light enough to achieve R 14. Maybe the foam manufacturer was confused, thinking they were using some block available only in heaven.

Harold also showed me the National Concrete Masonry Institute TEK Manual website that his company helps support. That website provides all the most current masonry technical reports for free. These are useful and practical reports, full of information that comes in handy for anyone working around masonry. I had purchased a set of these reports 10 years ago for over $100, but hadn’t recently updated. I was thrilled to find all these updated reports for free online.

When I looked at the Energy section, under R values, I found that normal weight concrete block (about 130 lb/cf) have an R value of 4 and lightweight concrete block (under 105 lb/cf) have an R value of 5.6. Since we need the normal weight block for the strength, I realized that foaming wasn’t going to be a good option, we need to wrap the shaft in rigid insulation, than put our finish material over the insulation. It’s great to be able to find a value like that so easily and for free.

Definitely check out the NCMA TEK website and bookmark it. You will want to consult it with other masonry problems as well. I know I often use it to find quick masonry retaining wall designs, fire ratings or noise control designs.


  1. “The Internets – Is there anything it can’t do!?!”


  2. How do we do it? how do we do it? volume, volume, turn up the volume
    Now you’ve heard it advertised, don’t hesitate
    Don’t be caught with your drawers down,
    Don’t be caught with your drawers down
    You can step right up, step right up

    That’s right, it filets, it chops, it dices, slices,
    Never stops, lasts a lifetime, mows your lawn
    And it mows your lawn and it picks up the kids from school
    It gets rid of unwanted facial hair, it gets rid of embarrassing age spots,
    It delivers a pizza, and it lengthens, and it strengthens
    And it finds that slipper that’s been at large
    under the chaise lounge for several weeks
    And it plays a mean Rhythm Master,
    It makes excuses for unwanted lipstick on your collar
    And it’s only a dollar, step right up, it’s only a dollar, step right up

    Tom Waits, Step Right Up, Small Change 1976

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