Repair to a Higher Standard?

All project specifications for cast-in-place concrete including ACI 301-10 “Specifications for Structural Concrete” include materials and procedures for repair. The specifications anticipate, before any contractor is chosen or the project has started, that some part of the concrete work will require repair. Thus if repairs are needed, the repair material and procedures are already approved as part of the specification. Seems straightforward and simple but this is not always the case.

Sometimes the owner or architect ignores the repair specification and chooses repair materials and procedures that differ from those in the specification. Often, these different choices don’t provide the same quality or repair costs as those in the specifications. These different choices may result in an increased value or “betterment” of the concrete.

What is betterment?

The legal definition of betterment is an improvement that enhances the value more than mere repairs. A betterment for concrete would be a repair that enhances the value of the concrete by an improvement of the strength, durability, service life, or appearance beyond that produced by the original repair specifications. The owner or architect who requests a betterment is responsible for the increased cost of repairs that create the betterment, while the contractor is responsible only for the cost of the repair as required by the project specification.

Often the choice of the material or procedure that results in betterment is based on criteria that were not part of the original design criteria, but were later set by the owner, architect or engineer.

A concrete example

A contractor produced a broom finish surface in 15 different placements for a 100,000 square foot parking garage. The owner believed the broom finish was not uniform in texture in some areas and demanded that the surface be repaired. The contractor agreed to remove a layer of the surface, replace that concrete with the project’s specification-approved patching materials, and produce a broom finish in the selected areas. The contractor expected the cost to be $3 to $4 per square foot to repair about 5,000 square feet.

The owner however, asserted that the approved patching materials did not match the color of the surrounding concrete, stated he would not accept repairs in accordance with the original specifications, and demanded a different repair. The parking surface was not designated as architectural concrete nor was a mock-up required to establish acceptable color variations between any repair and the adjacent concrete. The contractor pointed out that the owner was accepting the color variation in the concrete surfaces where the broom texture was uniform. Color variations always exist on large projects as a result of day-to-day or truck-to-truck variations in concrete color. In spite of this, the owner believed he was owed a uniform surface appearance that the contractor’s construction methods and approved patching materials did not produce. The owner’s solution was an epoxy coating with a non-skid additive for the entire 100,000 square foot surface at a cost of $8 per square foot.

What do you think?

The contractor was offering about $20,000 to repair the selected areas in accordance with the project specifications to provide the surface texture. The owner was demanding a $800,000 repair to provide uniform texture and color for the entire surface. The solutions are quite different.