Occupation Profile for Brickmasons and Blockmasons

Lay and bind building materials, such as brick, structural tile, concrete block, cinder block, glass block, and terra-cotta block, with mortar and other substances to construct or repair walls, partitions, arches, sewers, and other structures.

 
 

Significant Points

  • Job prospects are expected to be very good, especially for workers with restoration skills.
  • Most entrants learn informally on the job, but apprenticeship programs provide the most thorough training.
  • The work is usually outdoors and involves lifting heavy materials and working on scaffolds.
  • About 24 percent were self-employed.

 

 
 
Overview
$42,980.00 Median Annual Wage 5,000 Average Job Openings Per Year
8.0 Average Unemployment Percentage 81.7 Percentage That Completed High School
158,000 Employment Numbers in 2006 15.0 Percentage That Had Some College
174,000 Employment Numbers in 2016 (est.) 3.3 Percentage That Went Beyond College Degree

Sample Job Titles
Acid Tank Liner
Adobe Layer
Apprentice, Bricklayer
Apprentice, Brickmason
Apprentice, Mason
Block Layer
Block Paver
Bottom Liner
Brick and Block Mason
Brick Dropper
Brick Layer
Brick Mason
Brick Paver
Brick Pointer
Brick Setter
Bricklayer
Bricklayer Apprentice
Bricklayer, Firebrick and Refractory Tile
Casing Builder
Casing Man
Casing Worker
Chimney Builder
Chimney Repairer
Cinder Block Mason
Coke Oven Mason
Coke Oven Patcher
Concrete Block Layer
Concrete Block Mason
Cupola Liner
Cupola Patcher
Door Liner
Duct Layer
Epoxy Specialist
Firebrick Layer
Fitter
Furnace Builder
Furnace Liner
Furnace Maintenance
Furnace Mason
Furnace Reliner
Gypsum Block Setter
Hot Top Liner
Kiln Door Builder
Kiln Maintenance
Ladle Builder
Ladle Liner
Ladle Patcher
Liner
Manhole Builder
Mason
Mason Liner
Mechanic, Chimney
Mechanic, Cupola
Mechanic, Furnace
Mechanic, Kiln
Mechanic, Ladle
Mechanic, Lining
Mechanic, Permastone
Oven Builder
Patcher
Plaster Block Layer
Pottery Kiln Builder
Refractory Bricklayer
Reliner
Repairer, Kiln
Repairer, Kiln Car
Segment Block Layer
Setter
Silo Erector
Smelter Liner
Spout Liner
Stopping Builder
Terra Cotta Mason
Terra Cotta Setter
Tunnel Kiln Repairer
Vessel Builder
Vessel Liner

Training
  • These occupations often involve using your knowledge and skills to help others. Examples include sheet metal workers, forest fire fighters, customer service representatives, pharmacy technicians, salespersons (retail), and tellers.
  • These occupations usually require a high school diploma and may require some vocational training or job-related course work. In some cases, an associate's or bachelor's degree could be needed.
  • Some previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience may be helpful in these occupations, but usually is not needed. For example, a teller might benefit from experience working directly with the public, but an inexperienced person could still learn to be a teller with little difficulty.
  • Employees in these occupations need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees.

Most brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons pick up their skills informally, observing and learning from experienced workers. Many others receive initial training in vocational education schools or from industry-based programs common throughout the country. Others complete an apprenticeship, which generally provides the most thorough training.

Education and training. Individuals who learn the trade on the job usually start as helpers, laborers, or mason tenders. These workers carry materials, move or assemble scaffolds, and mix mortar. When the opportunity arises, they learn from experienced craftworkers how to mix and spread mortar, lay brick and block, or set stone. They also may learn restoration skills such as cleaning, pointing, and repointing. As they gain experience, they learn more difficult tasks and make the transition to full-fledged craftworkers. The learning period on the job may last longer than if trained in an apprenticeship program. Industry-based training programs offered through construction companies usually last between 2 and 4 years.

Apprenticeships for brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons usually are sponsored by local contractors, trade associations, or local union-management committees. Apprenticeship programs usually require 3 years of on-the-job training, in addition to a minimum of 144 hours of classroom instruction each year in blueprint reading, mathematics, layout work, sketching, and other subjects. Applicants for apprenticeships must be at least 17 years old and in good physical condition. A high school education is preferable with courses in mathematics, mechanical drawing, and general shop.

Apprentices often start by working with laborers, carrying materials, mixing mortar, and building scaffolds for about a month. Next, apprentices learn to lay, align, and join brick and block. They may also learn on the job to work with stone and concrete, which enables them to work with more than one masonry material.

Bricklayers who work in nonresidential construction usually work for large contractors and receive well-rounded training—normally through apprenticeship in all phases of brick or stone work. Those who work in residential construction usually work primarily for small contractors and specialize in only one or two aspects of the job.

Some workers learn at technical schools that offer masonry courses. Entrance requirements and fees vary depending on the school and who is funding the program. Some people take courses before being hired, and some take them later as part of the on-the-job training.

Other qualifications. The most desired quality in workers is dependability and a strong work ethic. Knowledge of basic math including measurement, volume, mixing proportions, algebra, plane geometry, and mechanical drawing are important in this trade.

Advancement. With additional training and experience, brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons may become supervisors for masonry contractors. Some eventually become owners of businesses employing many workers and may spend most of their time as managers. Others move into closely related areas such as construction management or building inspection. Many unionized Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committees offer continual life long learning through continuing education courses that help those members who want to advance their technical knowledge and their careers.

Nature of Work

Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons create attractive, durable surfaces and structures. For thousands of years, these workers have built buildings, fences, roads, walkways, and walls using bricks, concrete blocks, and natural stone. The structures that they build will continue to be in demand for years to come.

The work varies in complexity, from laying a simple masonry walkway to installing an ornate exterior on a highrise building. Workers cut or break the materials used to create walls, floors, and other structures. Once their building materials are properly sized, they are laid with or without a binding material. These workers use their own perceptions and a variety of tools to ensure that the structure meets the desired standards. After finishing laying the bricks, blocks, or stone, these workers clean the finished product with a variety of cleaning agents.

Brickmasons and blockmasons—who often are called simply bricklayers—build and repair walls, floors, partitions, fireplaces, chimneys, and other structures with brick, precast masonry panels, concrete block, and other masonry materials. Some brickmasons specialize in installing firebrick linings in industrial furnaces.

When building a structure, brickmasons use one of two methods, either the corner lead or the corner pole. Using the corner lead method, they begin by constructing a pyramid of bricks at each corner—called a lead. After the corner leads are complete, less experienced brickmasons fill in the wall between the corners using a line from corner to corner to guide each course, or layer, of brick. Due to the precision needed, corner leads are time-consuming to erect and require the skills of experienced bricklayers.

Because of the expense associated with building corner leads, some brickmasons use corner poles, also called masonry guides, which enable them to build an entire wall at the same time. They fasten the corner poles (posts) in a plumb position to define the wall line and stretch a line between them. This line serves as a guide for each course of brick. Brickmasons then spread a bed of mortar (a cement, lime, sand, and water mixture) with a trowel (a flat, bladed metal tool with a handle), place the brick on the mortar bed, and press and tap the brick into place. Depending on blueprint specifications, brickmasons either cut bricks with a hammer and chisel or saw them to fit around windows, doors, and other openings. Mortar joints are then finished with jointing tools for a sealed, neat, uniform appearance. Although brickmasons typically use steel supports, or lintels, at window and door openings, they sometimes build brick arches, which support and enhance the beauty of the brickwork.

Refractory masons are brickmasons who specialize in installing firebrick and refractory tile in high-temperature boilers, furnaces, cupolas, ladles, and soaking pits in industrial establishments. Most of these workers are employed in steel mills, where molten materials flow on refractory beds from furnaces to rolling machines. They also are employed at oil refineries, glass furnaces, incinerators, and other locations requiring high temperatures during the manufacturing process.

After a structure is completed there is still work that often needs to be done. Pointing, cleaning, and caulking workers can be the final workers on a job or the primary workers on a restoration project. These workers use chemicals to clean the laid materials to give the structure a finished appearance. Older structures also need to be refurbished as the mortar or binding agents break down. In many cases a grinder or blade is used to carefully remove the old mortar. Special care is taken to not damage the main structural integrity or the bricks, blocks, or stone. New mortar is then inserted. Depending on how much mortar is being replaced and how, it may take several applications to allow the new mortar to cure properly. These same masons replace and repair damaged masonry materials as part of the building’s restoration process.

Stonemasons build stone walls, as well as set stone exteriors and floors. They work with two types of stone—natural cut stone, such as marble, granite, and limestone and artificial stone made from concrete, marble chips, or other masonry materials. Stonemasons usually work on nonresidential structures, such as houses of worship, hotels, and office buildings, but they also work on residences.

Stonemasons often work from a set of drawings, in which each stone has been numbered for identification. Helpers may locate and carry these prenumbered stones to the masons. A derrick operator using a hoist may be needed to lift large stone pieces into place.

When building a stone wall, masons set the first course of stones into a shallow bed of mortar. They then align the stones with wedges, plumb lines, and levels, and work them into position with various tools. Masons continue to build the wall by alternating layers of mortar and courses of stone. As the work progresses, masons remove the wedges, fill the joints between stones, and use a pointed metal tool, called a tuck pointer, to smooth the mortar to an attractive finish. To hold large stones in place, stonemasons attach brackets to the stone and weld or bolt these brackets to anchors in the wall. Finally, masons wash the stone with a cleansing solution to remove stains and dry mortar.

When setting stone floors, which often consist of large and heavy pieces of stone, masons first use a trowel to spread a layer of damp mortar over the surface to be covered. Using crowbars and hard rubber mallets for aligning and leveling, they then set the stone in the mortar bed. To finish, workers fill the joints and clean the stone slabs.

Masons use a special hammer and chisel to cut stone. They cut stone along the grain to make various shapes and sizes, and valuable pieces often are cut with a saw that has a diamond blade. Some masons specialize in setting marble which, in many respects, is similar to setting large pieces of stone. Brickmasons and stonemasons also repair imperfections and cracks, and replace broken or missing masonry units in walls and floors.

Most nonresidential buildings now are built with walls made of concrete block, brick veneer, stone, granite, marble, tile, or glass. In the past, masons doing nonresidential interior work mainly built block partition walls and elevator shafts, but because many types of masonry and stone are used in the interiors of today’s nonresidential structures, these workers now must be more versatile. For example, some brickmasons and blockmasons now install structural insulated concrete units and wall panels. They also install a variety of masonry anchors and other masonry-associated accessories used in many highrise buildings.

Work environment. Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons usually work outdoors, but in contrast to the past when work slowed down in the winter months, new processes and materials are allowing these masons to work in a greater variety of weather conditions. Masons stand, kneel, and bend for long periods and often have to lift heavy materials. Common hazards include injuries from tools and falls from scaffolds, but these can often be avoided when proper safety equipment is used and safety practices are followed.

Most workers work a standard 40-hour week. Earnings for workers in these trades can be reduced on occasion because poor weather and slowdowns in construction activity limit the time they can work.

Related Occupations

Sources: Career Guide to Industries (CGI), Occupational Information Network (O*Net), Occupation Outlook Handbook (OOH)
Earnings

Median hourly earnings of wage and salary brickmasons and blockmasons in May 2006 were $20.66. The middle 50 percent earned between $15.96 and $26.26. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $12.24, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $32.43. Median hourly earnings in the two industries employing the largest number of brickmasons in May 2006 were $20.57 in the foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors industry and $20.67 in the masonry contractors industry.

Median hourly earnings of wage and salary stonemasons in May 2006 were $17.29. The middle 50 percent earned between $13.12 and $22.04. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.36, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $28.46.

Apprentices or helpers usually start at about 50 percent of the wage rate paid to experienced workers. Pay increases as apprentices gain experience and learn new skills. Employers usually increase apprentices’ wages about every 6 months based on specific advancement criteria.

Some brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons are members of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsworkers.

For the latest wage information:

The above wage data are from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey program, unless otherwise noted. For the latest National, State, and local earnings data, visit the following pages:

  • Brickmasons and blockmasons
  • Stonemasons
  • Job Outlook

    Average employment growth is expected. Job prospects should be very good, especially for workers with restoration skills.

    Employment change. Jobs for brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons are expected to increase 10 percent over the 2006-16 decade, about as fast as the average for all occupations, as population and business growth create a need for new houses, industrial facilities, schools, hospitals, offices, and other structures. Also stimulating demand for workers will be the need to restore a growing number of old brick buildings. Moreover, the use of brick and stone for decorative work on building fronts, sidewalks, and in lobbies and foyers is increasing. Brick exteriors should remain very popular, reflecting a growing preference for durable exterior materials requiring little maintenance. Increased construction on hillsides also will spur the demand for new masons as designers create attractive areas that need retaining walls to hold soil in place. There is also an increased demand for durable homes that incorporate brick or stone in hurricane-prone areas.

    Job prospects. Job opportunities for brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons are expected to be very good through 2016. A large number of masons are expected to retire over the next decade. The large number of aging masonry buildings will increase opportunities for workers with restoration skills. Also, workers able to install new synthetic materials will have improved opportunities. Applicants who take masonry-related courses at technical schools will have better opportunities than those without these courses.

    Employment of brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons, like that of many other construction workers, is sensitive to changes in the economy. When the level of construction activity falls, workers in these trades can experience periods of unemployment. On the other hand, shortages of these workers may occur in some areas during peak periods of building activity.

    Employment

    Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons held 182,000 jobs in 2006. The vast majority were brickmasons. Workers in these crafts are employed primarily by building, specialty trade, or general contractors.

    About 24 percent of brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons were self-employed. Many of the self-employed are contractors who work on small jobs, such as patios, walkways, and fireplaces.

    Knowledge
    • Mathematics — Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
    • Engineering and Technology — Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
    • Sales and Marketing — Knowledge of principles and methods for showing, promoting, and selling products or services. This includes marketing strategy and tactics, product demonstration, sales techniques, and sales control systems.
    • Medicine and Dentistry — Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
    • Physics — Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub- atomic structures and processes.
    Skills
    • Equipment Maintenance — Performing routine maintenance on equipment and determining when and what kind of maintenance is needed.
    • Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
    • Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
    • Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
    • Troubleshooting — Determining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it.
    Abilities
    • Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
    • Stamina — The ability to exert yourself physically over long periods of time without getting winded or out of breath.
    • Explosive Strength — The ability to use short bursts of muscle force to propel oneself (as in jumping or sprinting), or to throw an object.
    • Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
    • Hearing Sensitivity — The ability to detect or tell the differences between sounds that vary in pitch and loudness.
    Tasks
    • Core — Fasten or fuse brick or other building material to structure with wire clamps, anchor holes, torch, or cement.
    • Core — Break or cut bricks, tiles, or blocks to size, using trowel edge, hammer, or power saw.
    • Core — Remove excess mortar with trowels and hand tools, and finish mortar joints with jointing tools, for a sealed, uniform appearance.
    • Core — Interpret blueprints and drawings to determine specifications and to calculate the materials required.
    • Core — Apply and smooth mortar or other mixture over work surface.
    Activities
    • Monitoring and Controlling Resources — Monitoring and controlling resources and overseeing the spending of money.
    • Guiding, Directing, and Motivating Subordinates — Providing guidance and direction to subordinates, including setting performance standards and monitoring performance.
    • Assisting and Caring for Others — Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
    • Repairing and Maintaining Electronic Equipment — Servicing, repairing, calibrating, regulating, fine-tuning, or testing machines, devices, and equipment that operate primarily on the basis of electrical or electronic (not mechanical) principles.
    • Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
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