Contractor to Contractor: Baltimore Masonry, Inc.
In 1969, Frank Campitelli, spun away from the family business and, along with his wife, Angela, started Baltimore Masonry, Inc. Their son Victor joined the company in 1980 as an apprentice bricklayer — he is now vice-president and overseeing all of the field operations. Baltimore Masonry works in Baltimore City, Md., its surrounding counties, and the District of Columbia. Some of their projects include Oriole Park at Camden Yards, several buildings at Johns Hopkins University and Towson University, and the PSI Net Stadium. We spoke with Frank Campitelli for his insights on masonry and the industry.
Masonry: What do you feel is the biggest misconception about the masonry industry?
Campitelli: The biggest misconception has to do with the cost of masonry compared to other materials and wall systems — the square foot installation cost versus installation costs of competing materials. I can only base my opinion on my area but I think the other material manufacturers have done a better job in promoting their products than the masonry industry.
Masonry: What would you do to change that misconception?
Campitelli: The masonry industry has to do some comparisons. The cost book that MCAA is trying to complete, on the national level, would be one way. Most areas should have cost books for their regions but MCAA is trying to do it on the national level, which is kind of difficult.
A person who's building a home is looking at right now. We have to be able to show comparisons as to insurance costs, the value of masonry as fire protection over other materials, and the cost of maintaining and painting a wood building, or replacing metal or vinyl siding, versus masonry over the years. You just can't tell people it's cheaper over the long haul; you have to show them something.
Another thing is that the masonry industry needs to become unified. We've got the brick manufacturers who are worried about selling brick, block manufacturers worried about selling block, and everybody is going off in their own direction. The good news is that we're working toward that unity through the Masonry Industry Council. If everybody works toward that goal, I think it would be a major step in helping to promote masonry and get masonry in the forefront of the consumer's mind.
Masonry: What are your biggest concerns regarding keeping your company successful?
Campitelli: Keeping a good work force is number one and the hardest challenge. Training workers, developing foremen, and keeping a qualified work force isn't easy.
The other challenge is the competing materials — it seems like we keep losing market share and the work that we have keeps dwindling.
A third problem, in our area, is that we talk about licensing mason contractors, much as an electrical or plumbing contractor have to be licensed. They have to pass a test in order to be licensed to do their work; a mason contractor can be a bricklayer with a pickup truck. He can bid on a job and he's considered a businessman.
There's no way of monitoring or licensing a mason contractor. We tried to do it here in Maryland, but of course they wanted to know how it was going to be funded — there was no money — and who was going to administer it. It would be nice if we could develop a certifying system through MCAA, but of course that's only good for people who are members. If someone is not a member of MCAA they can still go out and do work. I think there are some states that are working toward such a licensing arrangement, but I don't know of any state that has it in place.
Masonry: How much is the industry going to change in ten years?
Campitelli: We do only commercial work and the largest share of work that we've lost has been to metal stud construction. The gypsum industry has done a great job in promoting metal studs over the years. We've lost a lot of block back ups and brickwork to metal stud. We've lost a lot of interior partitions to dry wall applications.
I think that the cost of maintaining gypsum walls is becoming pretty exorbitant. The school boards are looking at it a little differently now. It could go the other way. I think we need to encourage them a little bit.
We are trying to establish a cost book that would compare block partitions versus metal stud partitions and interior block back up versus metal stud back up. It's going to be easy for us to identify our own cost but we have to rely on the Means catalog and other publications that architects and general contractors use to develop budgets for certain buildings in order to get the cost of the competing materials.
There have been contractors in our area who have convinced architects to change buildings from metal studs to brickwork. The problem is, you have to catch the project in an early design stage. You can't wait until the job is in the bid stages because masonry is heavier and the footings and everything have to be designed differently.
Masonry: What material or style of building is going to be the biggest competitor for masonry 10 years from now?
Campitelli: You're going to see more and more competition from tilt up concrete, especially in warehouse type buildings. We're going to continue to have competition from the metal stud industry. The tilt up is coming to the forefront as competition for us.
Masonry: What are the most critical issues you will face from government regulation in the future?
Campitelli: The biggest problem with government regulation is OSHA. Not so much the federal OSHA as with the states. We do work in Washington as well as Baltimore and when we're in Washington we deal with federal OSHA; in Maryland we're dealing with MOSH (Maryland Occupational Safety & Health). To me, MOSH has become a money-generating agency. Of course they're interested in promoting safety, but they're also interested, in my opinion though they deny it, in generating revenue. It's much easier for us to deal with OSHA on a federal level than it is on a state level.
Masonry: What do like most about being a member of MCAA?
Campitelli: I think MCAA is doing an excellent job for the mason contractor and I think Mike Adelizzi is doing a great job as director. MCAA is an organization that is strictly for the mason contractor, promoting masonry, working with our issues and our problems.
About the Author
Masonry, the official publication of the Mason Contractors Association of America, covers every aspect of the mason contractor profession - equipment and techniques, building codes and standards, business planning, promoting your business, legal issues and more. Read or subscribe to Masonry magazine at www.masonrymagazine.com.