How to Become a Brick Mason or Blockmason

become a mason

Masonry workers, also known as masons, use bricks, concrete and concrete blocks, and natural and manmade stones to build walkways, walls, and other structures.

Quick Facts: Masonry Workers
2019 Median Pay$46,500 per year
$22.35 per hour
Typical Entry-Level EducationSee How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related OccupationNone
On-the-job TrainingSee How to Become One
Number of Jobs, 2018298,000
Job Outlook, 2018-2811% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2018-2831,400
Source BLS.gov

Planning your career as a masonry worker

Masons typically need a high school diploma or equivalent and learn the trade either through an apprenticeship or on the job.

Education

A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required to enter the occupation.

Many technical schools offer programs in masonry. These programs operate both independently and in conjunction with apprenticeship training.

Training

Masons typically learn the trade through apprenticeships and on the job, working with experienced masons.

Several groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. Apprentices learn construction basics, such as blueprint reading; mathematics for measurement; building code requirements; and safety and first-aid practices. After completing an apprenticeship program, masons are considered journey workers and are able to do tasks on their own.

The Home Builders Institute and the International Masonry Institute offer pre-apprenticeship training programs for eight construction trades, including masonry.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Some workers start out as construction laborers and helpers before becoming masons.

Advancement

After becoming a journey worker, masonry workers may find opportunities to advance to supervisor, superintendent, or other construction management positions. Experienced masonry workers may choose to become independent contractors. Masonry workers in a union may also find opportunities for advancement within their union.

Important Qualities

Ability to work at heights. Masonry workers often use scaffolding, so they should be comfortable working at heights.

Color vision. Masonry workers need to be able to distinguish between small variations in color when setting terrazzo patterns in order to produce the best looking finish.

Dexterity. Masonry workers must be able to place bricks, stones, and other materials with precision.

Hand–eye coordination. Masonry workers need to apply smooth, even layers of mortar; set bricks; and remove any excess before the mortar hardens.

Physical stamina. Masonry workers must keep up a steady pace while setting bricks, and the constant lifting can be tiring.

Physical strength. Masonry workers should be able to lift more than 50 pounds. They carry heavy tools, equipment, and other materials, such as bags of mortar and grout.

Duties

Masons typically do the following:

  • Read blueprints or drawings to calculate materials needed
  • Lay out patterns, forms, or foundations according to plans
  • Break or cut materials to required size
  • Mix mortar or grout and spread it onto a slab or foundation
  • Clean excess mortar with trowels and other handtools
  • Construct masonry walls
  • Align structures, using levels and plumbs
  • Clean and polish surfaces with handtools or power tools
  • Fill expansion joints with caulking materials
  • Lay out and install rainscreen water systems

Masons build structures with brick, block, and stone, some of the most common and durable materials used in construction. They also use concrete—a mixture of cement, sand, gravel, and water—as the foundation for everything from patios and floors to dams and roads.

The following are examples of types of masons:

Brickmasons and blockmasons—often called bricklayers—build and repair walls, fireplaces, and other structures with brick, terra cotta, precast masonry panels, concrete block, and other masonry materials.Pointing, cleaning, and caulking workers are brickmasons who repair brickwork, particularly on older structures.Refractory masons are brickmasons who specialize in installing heat- and fire-resistant masonry materials in high-temperature areas such as boilers, furnaces, and soaking pits in industrial buildings.

Cement masonsandconcrete finishers place and finish concrete. They may color concrete surfaces, expose small stones in walls and sidewalks, or make concrete beams, columns, and panels. Throughout the process of pouring, leveling, and finishing concrete, cement masons use their knowledge of how conditions may affect concrete and take steps to prevent defects. On small jobs, such as constructing sidewalks, cement masons may use a supportive wire mesh called a lath. On large jobs, such as constructing building foundations, reinforcing iron and rebar workers install the reinforcing mesh.

Stonemasons build stone walls and 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. Using a special hammer or a diamond-blade saw, workers cut stone into various shapes and sizes. Some stonemasons specialize in setting marble, which is similar to setting large pieces of stone.

Terrazzo workers and finishers,also known as terrazzo masons, create decorative walkways, floors, patios, and panels. Much of the preliminary work of pouring, leveling, and finishing concrete for terrazzo is similar to that of cement masons. Terrazzo workers create decorative finishes by blending fine marble chips into the epoxy, resin, or cement, which is often colored. Once the terrazzo is thoroughly set, workers correct imperfections with a grinder. Terrazzo workers also install decorative microtoppings or polishing compounds to new or existing concrete.

Masonry workers held about 298,000 jobs in 2018. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up masonry workers was distributed as follows:

Cement masons and concrete finishers191,100
Brickmasons and blockmasons87,000
Stonemasons17,100
Terrazzo workers and finishers2,800

The largest employers of masonry workers were as follows:

Poured concrete foundation and structure contractors26%
Masonry contractors21
Construction of buildings11
Self-employed workers11
Heavy and civil engineering construction7

As with many other construction occupations, masonry work is strenuous. Masons often lift heavy materials and stand, kneel, and bend for long periods. The work may be either indoors or outdoors in areas that are dusty, dirty, or muddy. Inclement weather may affect outdoor masonry work.

Injuries and Illnesses

Brickmasons and blockmasons risk injury on the job. Cuts are common, as are injuries occurring from falls and being struck by objects. To avoid injury, workers wear protective gear such as hardhats, safety glasses, high-visibility vests, and harnesses and other apparel to prevent falls.

Work Schedules

Most masons work full time, and some work overtime to meet construction deadlines. Masons work mostly outdoors, so inclement weather may affect their schedules. Terrazzo masons may need to work hours that differ from a regular business schedule, to avoid disrupting normal operations.