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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Cement masons typically do the following:
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:
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:
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.
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.
The median annual wage of cement masons was $35,450 in May 2010. (The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) The lowest 10% earned less than $23,130, and the top 10% earned more than $63,400.
The starting pay for apprentices usually is between 30% and 50% of what fully trained workers make. Apprentices receive pay increases as they gain more skill.