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National Masonry Systems Guide

The Building Industries #1 Asset

The masonry industry recognizes that the world of construction has changed dramatically over the past decade. New products, techniques, codes and regulations have changed the competitive landscape. This Masonry SYSTEMS Guide, a first ever of its kind, masonry system print guide and companion website, provide a standardized systems guide of best practices for masonry wall systems design and construction.

As you click through this website, you will find concise system guidelines addressing the key elements of the masonry envelope including 2D and 3D details, installation processes, specifications, product resources, and energy modeling. Each Chapter contains information that will create a more educated design and construction process with more efficient schedules, and a standardized bidding approach for the installers. The systems guide includes recommendations, details, in downloadable format for both Revit and CAD, for air and water barriers, tie systems, thermal analysis, rainscreen technology, cost analysis, an Assembly Comparison Matrix, as well as a Pricing Analysis.

The Masonry SYSTEMS Guide, Northwest Edition, is the Northwest masonry industry’s primary information resource on masonry systems and the first to address the challenges of energy code requirements for continuous installation. This website and the Masonry SYSTEMS Guide contains eight chapters outlining masonry systems, as well as a resource chapter for products appropriate for each system.

The Masonry SYSTEMS Guide and this website is produced with support from the Northwest Masonry Institute, an umbrella organization including the masonry industry, general contractor representatives, and national suppliers and organizations.


Thin Veneer V’s Full Veneer

Thin Veneer Vs Full Veneer

Full Veneer

  • Typically 3 to 5 inches in depth
  • Requires a foundation footing
  • Installed with wall ties
  • Averages 35 to 40 square feet per ton is typical
  • Strong and time-tested method of installation

Thin Veneer

  • Same high quality stone as full veneer
  • Typically 3/4″ to 1 1/2″ in depth
  • Roughly similar in weight to artificial stone
  • Reduced weight allows it to be installed where full veneer can not or is too difficult
  • Requires no foundation footing – it’s supported by the wall rather than the footing
  • Average of 3,000 square feet of stone per truck
  • Long lasting durability that’s based on proven track record over centuries with full veneer
  • Allows a creative and custom pattern as each piece is different and unique
  • Similar in costs to artificial stone – only it’s the real thing!

Designing the Future of Outdoor Spaces

For over two decades, landscape designer Christian Douglas has explored his passion for creating “beautiful and productive outdoor spaces.”  Three key criteria inform his designs: Sustainability; that gardens be edible; and that they have a high end, stylized design sensibility.

His Californian Modern Edible design perfectly embodies these traits. This masterpiece can be found at a private residence in Mill Valley.

At 5,000 square feet, the limited lot size presented a challenge.  Douglas maximized the space by creating multiple living areas that allow several distinctive experiences as visitors move throughout the landscape.  He accomplished this by using raised vegetable planters, strategically placed anchor points such as a water feature, and carefully chosen plants and fruit trees.

To increase the sustainability of the landscape, Douglas incorporated a rainwater catchment system into the front yard, which made using a permeable paving material a crucial aspect of the landscape design.

Decomposed Granite Failed
He originally used decomposed granite as the substrate.  The decomposed granite served its purpose … for about two years. By that time, it had deteriorated and tracked away so extensively that it needed to be replaced.  He attempted a workaround: he tried a polymer hardener in an effort to make the decomposed granite more stable and to keep it in place.  Unfortunately, this failed; not only did it look “awful,” but the decomposed granite would still track away into the house.  Plus, polymer hardeners can reduce permeability and run the risk of allowing unnatural substances to leach into the groundwater.

GraniteCrete Was The Right Replacement
Douglas decided it was necessary to remove the material altogether and start over with a better paving material.  That’s when Howard Lasker of SBI Building Materials and Landscape Supplies recommended he use GraniteCrete for its permeability, natural look, and durability.

To complete the installation, Douglas brought in Dave Washer and his team at Art Gardens.  Washer has extensive experience installing GraniteCrete and is a recommended installer of the product.

Recycling the Old Decomposed Granite – a bonus!
Since GraniteCrete is mixed with decomposed granite, Washer first made sure the old decomposed granite fit GraniteCrete specifications.  Once confirming it did, Washer was able to satisfy Douglas’ goal of sustainability by recycling the old material and using it for the pedestrian pathways in the garden.*

These new pathways support the original goal of utilizing a permeable paving material that augments the landscape’s rainwater system. Additionally, because the material is not “loose,” it won’t track away and these beautiful pathways will be a lasting and attractive feature of this garden for years to come!

“GraniteCrete is more expensive [than plain decomposed granite], but after using decomposed granite for years we found that while decomposed granite is cheaper up front, the lifetime cost is higher [when you take into account] repairs, redoing it, et cetera.”

Christian Douglas, Christian Douglas Landscape Design

Keeping the Forest and the Trees

drip_panorama_3__large_Keep the trees article

In the rolling hills of Sonoma County, north of San Francisco and in California’s wine country, Shear Builders Inc. put in a new wastewater system to handle effluent from a youth camp.

URJ Camp Newman (URJ means Union for Reform Judaism) abandoned a package plant and effluent spray field on its property and hired engineer Pete Lescure, of Lescure Engineers in Santa Rosa, Calif., to design a modern system that would meet the needs of the facility.

The camp managers are sensitive to their environment, and that matches the emphasis of Shear Builders Inc., says Joe McGee, the SBI construction superintendent for the system.

“It’s a great program and a great place and a great group of people to work with,” McGee says. It was also a great project to work on because of its size and the need to be careful of not only a stream below the property but also a large stand of trees intended to become the site of the drip irrigation field for the wastewater system, he says.

The crew prepares the bed for the four Advantex AX-MAX units at URJ Camp Newman in Sonoma County, Calif. (Photos courtesy of Pete Lescure and Shear Builders Inc.)

Job demands

Through the summer the camp hosts 600 to 700 young people for a variety of programs. Campers attend when school is out of session, and the season wraps up in August. SBI was tasked with doing the work through the fall, winter and early spring. The job began in October 2011 and ended the following May, although the nature of the project did not require SBI to be on site every day.

SBI did not do the whole job. Other contractors did the electrical work, some of the piping and installed a backup generator.

Related: Case Studies: Large-Scale and Commercial Onsite Treatment Systems

Wastewater from the camp’s cabins and group buildings flows through a series of pipes to the lowest point where the design called for repurposing a concrete basin already in place. That basin, about 17 feet by 11 feet by 11 feet, was used for primary settling. A second settling basin about 6 by 10 by 8 feet clarified water before it flowed through four Polylok filters. Two Orenco PF303032 pumps sent the water though a 1,875-foot-long 4-inch force main to the secondary treatment, which was SBI’s part of the project.


  • Two 10,000-gallon fiberglass Flowtite septic tanks from Containment Solutions.
  • Two AdvanTex AX-MAX200-28 5,000 gpd tanks with active air circulation.
  • One AdvanTex AX-MAX188-28 4,700 gpd tank.
  • One AdvanTex AX-MAX175-28 4,375 gpd tank.
  • One 8,000-gallon Containment Solutions fiberglass surge tank.
  • Orenco TCOM-DDAX/DAX 480 control panel with remote access for the system maintenance contractor.
  • Orenco PF503034 pumps to feed the discharge field.
  • Orenco PF751534 pump to recirculate effluent through two of the AdvanTex tanks.
  • 13,800 linear feet of 1/2-inch-diameter Geoflow subsurface drip pipe set 12 inches deep and split into four zones.
  • Total capacity of the system is 22,088 gpd.

Effluent flow

The 4-inch force main from the lower level feeds water into the two 10,000-gallon septic tanks connected in sequence and with gravity moving water from one septic tank to the next. Then water flows into the four-tank Advantex system. Tanks 1 and 2 share a liquid level. Effluent circulates through all four AX units for treatment on a bacteria-holding fabric medium. The 8,000-gallon tank stores the treated water until pumps disperse it to the drip field.

The soil is a sandy loam. Across the site soil, depth above bedrock varies between 5 and 15 feet.

Related: Mike Treinen – Onsite Installer Video – Nov 2011

Nor was the drip field an ideal flat piece of ground. The discharge system utilizes a large stand of trees on hills above the camp. Preserving those trees was one of the project’s challenges. “It was a lot of hand work. We rented a small trencher and did as much as we could mechanically. But as soon as we came to roots of about 2 inches in diameter, we had to hand dig beneath,” McGee says.

Trees were not planted in straight lines. “It was all virgin forest up there,” McGee says. To go around large root systems, they split the 2-inch force main into a couple of pipes and then linked the Geoflow drip lines to those to cover the soil in and around the roots. “It looked like spaghetti up there for a while,” McGee says.

Although associated with the notion of eternal sunshine California does have a winter, and the SBI project spanned it. From about November through April or May is the rainy season. Access to the job site was a dirt road.

“We got a lot of rain that winter so there were periods of time when we couldn’t actually get in,” McGee recalls. “We had kind of a dry window there when we were actually setting the AX units.”

As it was, trucks couldn’t make it up the grade to the job site without help. One bend was so sharp drivers had to stop and back up to complete the turn, McGee says. To move the tanks SBI had its own trucks, tri-axles with 20 feet of bed. The crew built extensions for the beds so the trucks could haul the septic and AX tanks up to the site. A tractor with a backhoe hooked on to the trucks to help them get up the grade. The same was true for the 15-ton crane that came in to set the tanks. Going downhill wasn’t a problem.

High but not dry

Despite the site’s location high on a hill, the tanks were installed with deadmen to prevent them from floating. There is still some elevation above the tank site, McGee says. “It rains all winter pretty much, and the water table fluctuates greatly.” There is probably no danger of the tanks breaking through the surface, yet they’re fiberglass, and if they are completely emptied the cables will ensure they remain in the ground.

When the installation was done, the work was not. There was still the environment to take care of. “When we were done there was a lot of erosion control. We hand-seeded the ground and manually spread straw. And it’s kind of neat to go up there now and see the grass growing.”

Systems like the Advantex are becoming the norm in his part of California, McGee says. Sonoma County is a popular second-home location, and the state’s stringent environmental regulations make it increasingly difficult to find locations where traditional septic systems are permitted.

“We find ourselves more and more putting these advanced systems in challenging places, among tress and in other terrain like Camp Newman. Advantex water is so clean, the owners can use it for subsurface irrigation,” McGee says.

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