A brickmason uses bricks to build fences, walkways, walls, patios, buildings and other structures. Brickmasons may also work with other building materials. Brickmasons are also referred to as bricklayers and just masons.
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A brickmason's duties are many and varied. They must read drawings and blueprints to calculate the needed materials for a structure, use straight edges to design foundations and patterns and accurately resize bricks by breaking or cutting them. Brickmasons also mix mortar or grout for spreading on a slab or foundation, lay bricks, blocks, or stones according to plans and without error build corners with corner pyramids or a corner pole. Measurements must be precise for a structure to be sound, so brickmasons also use levels and plumb bobs to make sure a structure is accurately vertical or horizontal. When a structure is complete, the mason must also clean and polish the surfaces with power tools or by hand, correct contracting and expanding joints with the use of caulking materials once settling has occurred, and clean and maintain tools and equipment.
Some brickmasons learn the job by doing it, but most complete a 3 to 4-year apprenticeship under an experienced mason. To enter an apprenticeship program, a candidate must:
Be a minimum of 18 years old
Physically able to do the work
Have a high school diploma or equivalent
To complete the program, apprentice masons must complete a minimum of 144 hours of masonry instruction and 2,000 paid hours of training and employment each year. Through the classroom and on-the-job training, brickmasons learn to read blueprints, study and learn to adhere to building code requirements, complete several mathematics courses, and learn about job safety and first-aid practices. Once the apprenticeship program is completed, the apprentice is considered a journeyman and can work without the oversight of a mason.
Brickmason candidates can often find programs at local technical colleges for brick masonry. These courses can be taken independently or as part of a student's apprenticeship program. The credits will usually apply toward an associate degree in construction. For high school students with an interest in becoming brickmasons, classes in mechanical drawing, math, shop and English are suggested. Other important skills brickmasons use include:
Creativity - Brickmasons have to create structures that are both functional and pleasing to the eye.
Dexterity - a brickmason must be able to apply mortar in a smooth and even layer, and set bricks in the same fashion, and remove the excess mortar before the mortar sets.
Math skills - Brickmasons must calculate the number of bricks needed, the amount or mortar required, read accurate measurements and calculate angles for corners.
Physicality - Brickmasons have to be strong enough to lift heavy tools, bags of mortar, equipment and stones that can weigh 40 pounds or more.
Stamina - Brickmasons must work steadily throughout the day for the structure to be completed successfully and on time.
Brickmasons, which also includes blockmasons, are collectively referred to as bricklayers. They construct floors, fireplaces, walls, and other brick structures. They work with brick, concrete block and stone. Brickmasons also repair older brick structures, repairing and replacing old mortar which has loosened or fallen away, while retaining the structural integrity of the building. These masons work in the building and trade industries.
A specific type of brickmason, called a refractory mason, installs refractory tile and firebrick in furnaces, ladles, soaking pits, boilers and cupolas which are used in factories and mills. These are high-temperature structures which handle molten materials. Refractory masons are also employed by glass furnaces, oil refineries, incinerators and other industries which use heat and high-temperatures as part of the manufacturing process.
Brickmasons work all over the world, but work is seasonal for countries with cold weather. Brickmasons can opt to not work these months and work extra hours in the warmer months, look for indoor work or they can travel to locations where the climate is warm year-round.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for brickmasons as of May 2010 was $46,930. The median wage is the half-way point between the workers who earn the most in an occupation and the workers who earn the least. The lowest 10 percent of brickmasons earned $28,790, while the top 10 percent of brickmasons earned $78,630. Apprentices usually earn between 30 to 50 percent less than what a fully trained mason makes. Their salary increases when an apprentice becomes a journeyman and gains more experience and skill.
Bricklayers in the United Kingdom have an average salary of £33,000, while brickmasons in Australia can earn upwards of $60,000.
Most brickmasons work at least a 40-hour week, with more hours required to meet completion deadlines. Self-employed masons have more leeway in their hours worked, but administrative functions can take up a substantial amount of time as well. According to the bls.gov website, 29 percent of masons (brickmasons and others) were self-employed in 2010.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for brickmasons in the United States is expected to grow by 40 percent between 2010 and 2020. This growth is fueled by the population increase and the need for support buildings, such as schools and hospitals, along with older buildings needing repairs and replacements of brick sections. Repair and replacement of brick and stone is also quite popular in other parts of the world where brick and stonework have been in existence for centuries. Although the cost of brickwork is higher than other materials, brick buildings are still considered more sturdy and durable, so their popularity will remain intact.