What does a Cement Mason do?

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What is a Cement Mason?

Cement masons pour, smooth, and finish concrete floors, sidewalks, roads, and curbs. Concrete work is fast paced and strenuous and often involves kneeling, bending, and reaching. Because many jobs are outdoors, work generally stops in wet weather. Although most cement masons learn informally on the job, some learn their trade through a formal apprenticeship.

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What does a Cement Mason do?

Cement masons typically do the following:

  • Set the forms that hold concrete in place
  • Install reinforcing rebar or mesh wire to strengthen the concrete
  • Signal truck drivers to facilitate the pouring of concrete
  • Spread, level, and smooth concrete, using a trowel, float, or screed
  • Mold expansion joints and edges
  • Monitor curing (hardening) to ensure a durable, smooth, and uniform finish
  • Apply sealants or waterproofing to protect concrete.

Concrete is one of the most common and durable materials used in construction. Once set, concrete—a mixture of cement, sand, gravel, and water—becomes the foundation for everything from decorative patios and floors to huge dams or miles of roadways.

The following are types of cement masons:

  • Cement masons and finishers place and finish concrete. They may colour concrete surfaces, expose aggregate (small stones) in walls and sidewalks, or make concrete beams, columns, and panels.Throughout the process of pouring, leveling, and finishing concrete, cement masons must monitor how the wind, heat, or cold affects the curing of the concrete. They must have a thorough knowledge of the characteristics of concrete so that, by using sight and touch, they can determine what is happening to the concrete and take measures to prevent defects.
  • Terrazzo workers and finishers create decorative walkways, floors, patios, and panels. Although much of the preliminary work in pouring, leveling, and finishing concrete is similar to that of cement masons, terrazzo workers create more decorative finishes by blending a fine marble chip into the cement, which is often colored. Once the terrazzo is thoroughly set, workers correct any depressions or imperfections with a grinder to create a smooth, uniform finish.

How to become a Cement Mason

While there are no specific education requirements for cement masons and finishers, terrazzo workers must usually have a high school diploma. High school courses in math, mechanical drawing, and blueprint reading are considered to helpful.

Although most cement masons learn informally on the job, some learn their trade through a formal apprenticeship. Most on-the-job training programs consist of informal instruction in which experienced workers teach helpers to use the tools, equipment, machines, and materials of the trade. Trainees begin with tasks such as edging, jointing, and using a straightedge on freshly placed concrete. As training progresses, assignments become more complex and trainees can usually do finishing work more quickly.

Some cement masons learn their trade through a three-year apprenticeship. Apprentices learn construction basics such as blueprint reading, mathematics, building code requirements, and safety and first-aid practices. After completing an apprenticeship program, cement masons are considered to be journey workers, qualifying them to do tasks on their own. Several groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. The basic qualifications for entering an apprenticeship program are:

  • Minimum age of 18
  • High school education or equivalent
  • Physically able to do the work

Some contractors have their own cement masonry or terrazzo training programs. Although workers may enter apprenticeships directly, many start out as helpers or construction laborers. For more information, see the profile on construction labourers.

Cement masons must be able to lift and carry heavy materials. For example, the forms into which concrete is poured are often large and heavy. Cement masons must be able to spend a lot of time kneeling, bending, and reaching.

What is the workplace of a Cement Mason like?

Concrete work is fast paced and strenuous. Because most of the work is done at floor level, workers often must bend and kneel. The work, either indoors or outdoors, may be in areas that are muddy, dusty, or dirty.