Unreinforced masonry foundation?

I’m building a garage in Virginia and have hit a snag. The plans I have were engineered by someone outside the state, but licensed in VA. The county I live in uses the 2006 IBC. The plans call for a steel reinforced masonry wall, with vertical rebar tying into the footer as well as horizontal rebar. The foundation contractors I’ve talked to think this is unnecessary and costly- they always just do unreinforced block walls on concrete footers. The building department is beyond unhelpful, their only input is: it must be built exactly as specified by the engineer.

I’m calling the engineer again tomorrow, but I’m curious if theres a ‘right’ answer here. Always reinforce block walls? Only when in a specific seismic zone?

For what its worth, the building has 12’ walls and a 90mph wind load, but as far as I can tell how the foundation is reinforced is all about seismic activity- not wind load.

Thanks for any insight- so far this has been a fairly frustrating project…

Did the contractors submit a bid for the ‘as specified’ design? What sort of savings are they talking about here?

Factors other than seismic zone can drive the design such as soil conditions.

Why bother with getting an engineer to design your building if you are going to have the contractor cut corners and ‘do thing the way they always do’? What if the design calls for 4000 psi concrete but ‘they always use 3000 psi with extra water’ and tell you about this the day after the pour?

Get a contractor that can and will build your garage to specifications - you’ll be happy in the long run.

Couldn’t agree more, but I’m in a semi remote area, and stuck with the pool of people willing to do it. I could fill a pit thread, but the short of it is-
most the contractors never returned my call
one inspected the site, and then didn’t return my calls
one gave an estimate, but didn’t feel he needed to inspect the site or look at the plans first
that left me with 3 who actually responded, and none of them are keen on doing it as originally specified.

That response is much improved over 3 years ago though- back then none of them would have called back.

The current update though- engineer is willing to remove the steel, but the building will no longer be up to any seismic event. Building dept liked that: ‘this is the way we build it around here’ :rolleyes:

Have you looked at the Barn House forum? This Q is right up their ally.

I am a structural engineer, not licensed in VA (MA, in case you’re wondering). For the record, I am not that familiar with masonry, although I have done a bit in the past. Personally, I wouldn’t be too concerned about taking out the reinforcement of the wall, as long as the engineer has checked it for all loads required by code (even low-seismic areas have a design seismic load). However, according to IBC 2006 (1604.8.2), concrete and masonry walls must be anchored to the foundation, so there must be some kind of anchorage connection. Vertical rebar from the foundation to the wall would provide that connection. If the contractor wants to eliminate them, there would need to be some other kind of anchorage, and the engineer would have to design it.

I think it’s fine to ask your engineer if it’s possible to revise the plans per the contractor’s suggestions, but don’t let the contractor do anything that has not been approved by the engineer.