What is a Brickmason?
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A brickmason (also referred to as a bricklayer, stonemason, or blockmason), is someone who uses bricks, concrete blocks, structural tiles, and natural and man-made stones to build walkways, fences, walls, patios, buildings and other structures. Brickmasons typically specialize in either doing residential projects or large-scale projects.
Brickmasons also repair older brick structures, repairing and replacing old mortar which has loosened or fallen away over the years, while retaining the structural integrity of the building.
What does a Brickmason do?
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 the tools and equipment.
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.
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How to become a Brickmason
Some brickmasons learn the job by doing it. Others learn through taking a one or two-year masonry program at a technical school. Some complete a three to four-year apprenticeship under an experienced mason. To enter an apprenticeship program, a candidate must:
- Be a minimum of 18 years old
- Physically be able to do the work
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent
To complete the program, apprentice brickmasons 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 brickmason.
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 towards 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.
Important qualities/skills that a brickmason needs to have:
Creativity - need to be able to create structures that are both functional and pleasing to the eye
Dexterity - must be able to apply mortar in a smooth and even layer, set bricks in the same fashion, and remove the excess mortar before the mortar sets
Math Skills - must be able to calculate the number of bricks needed, the amount or mortar required, read accurate measurements and calculate angles for corners
Physicality - need to be strong enough to lift heavy tools, bags of mortar, equipment and stones that can weigh 40 pounds or more
Stamina - must work steadily throughout the day in order for projects to be completed on time
What is the workplace of a Brickmason like?
The work is physically demanding because brickmasons lift heavy materials and often must stand, kneel, and bend for long periods. They usually work outdoors, so poor weather conditions may reduce work activity. Employment for brickmasons is projected to grow 34 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics.