BRICK MASONS Number 204 Interest Area 5-B 1998
Bricklaying is an ancient craft. Egyptian BRICK MASONS helped build the pyramids. Today, bricklaying is considered as much an art as a craft.
Brick Masons work with solid bricks, hollow concrete blocks, structural tiles, natural and artificial stone, and prefabricated masonry panels. Using these materials and mortar, Brick Masons build walls, partitions, arches, fireplaces, chimneys, and other structures. In heavily industrialized areas of California, such as the San Francisco Bay Area and various parts of Southern California, some Brick Masons install and repair firebrick linings in industrial kilns and furnaces.
This trade requires extreme care from the planning to the finishing stage. To begin a project, Brick Masons must study the blueprint design and specifications. They determine the proper layout by placing the bricks in "dry course," without mortar. The supervisor or an experienced Brick Mason does the layout by first building the corners at each end of the structure, using plumb rule (mason's level) to insure proper alignment, and then stretching a nylon line from corner to corner. Guided by the line and corners, Brick Masons lay masonry units in straight, level courses or layers using mortar. If a brick is too large for a space, they may break it with their hammer or mark it for cutting on a power saw. If two or more layers of brick are set, Brick Masons must arrange bricks in a pattern in which vertical joints do not overlap. Mixing and spreading mortar is a basic bricklaying task that must be completely mastered. Brick Masons use mostly hand tools, such as trowels, jointers, hammers, rules, chisels, squares and mallets.
Journey-level Brick Masons can tackle any kind of masonry work. Ordinarily they work in small groups directed by a supervisor and assisted by hod carriers or apprentices who set up scaffolds, carry materials and mix mortar.
Most masonry construction in California must be reinforced to resist stress (especially in earthquake-prone areas) and to carry architectural weight loads. To do this, bricklayers insert steel bars between two vertical walls of bricks or through the open cores of hollow blocks. They then pour cement into the space between the walls to securely bond the masonry units to the reinforcing steel.
Occasionally, panels composed of masonry units are pre-assembled at a factory and installed at the job site by bricklayers. On multistory buildings, where large, heavy prefabricated panels must be raised by cranes and bolted or welded to a steel or cement framework, bricklayers work with iron-workers and other construction workers. Bricklayers position and align panels and may assist with welding, if they are suitably trained and certified.
It is estimated that 25 percent of bricklayers, especially those who also have stonemasonry skills, are self-employed. Many of the self-employed specialize in contracting for small jobs such as walls, patios, walks, and fireplaces.
Many persons find bricklaying a challenging and interesting profession because of its diversity and outdoor location. Bricklaying is physically demanding, involving prolonged standing and stooping to lift heavy materials. Brick Masons work on high ladders or scaffolds in confined areas. They are subject to injuries from falling objects; however, protective clothing and standard safety precautions prevent many of these hazards. Workers customarily provide their own hand tools and work clothing. The employer provides ladders, scaffolding, wheelbarrows, and heavy equipment, such as mixers for mortar.
Brick Masons rarely work steadily. During rainy, cold weather, there is little construction work. During the remainder of the year, jobs may be plentiful, but of short duration. Also, because the work is often seasonal, it requires careful planning to live through periods of unemployment. Workers frequently move from one project or employer to another and are subject to periods of unemployment between jobs. As a result, Brick Masons may be forced to relocate periodically in order to secure employment. Well- trained Brick Masons can find work in all parts of the country.
Many bricklayers in the construction industry belong to the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen of America (AFL-CIO).
The following information is from the California Projections of Employment published by the Labor Market Information Division.
Estimated number of workers in 1993 4,650 Estimated number of workers in 2005 6,800 Projected Growth 1993-2005 46% Estimated openings due to separations by 2005 1,140
(These figures do not include self-employment or openings due to turnover.) Good growth prospects seem in store for Brick Masons. Well-trained Brick Masons will have the best chance of obtaining employment.
Most Brick Masons work in the construction industry. A few are employed in the metal products manufacturing industry and install and repair industrial kilns and furnaces.
WAGES, HOURS, AND FRINGE BENEFITS
Nonunion wages usually start between the minimum wage and $10.00 per hour. Experienced workers can earn up to $25.00 or more, per hour. Union scale wages for journey-level workers range between $20.00 and $38.00 per hour depending on the geographical area. Fringe benefits include vacation, retirement, and health and welfare coverage. The regular workweek is 35 to 40 hours, Monday through Friday. Pay is higher for overtime, night shifts, and for unusually hazardous work. Apprentices start at 40 percent of the journey-level rate and receive periodic increases during their three- to four-year training program.
While metropolitan areas are largely union, smaller communities have a number of non-union Brick Masons. Construction activity is sensitive to cyclical changes in the economy. Therefore, annual earnings for bricklayers working in construction are lower than what the comparatively high hourly wage rates would imply. Income can vary from year to year.
ENTRANCE REQUIREMENTS AND TRAINING
Brick Masons must be physically fit and possess accurate eye-hand coordination. Many Brick Masons get their skills informally by working as helpers or hod carriers and by observing and learning from experienced workers. Others learn their skills through apprenticeship programs, which generally provide the most thorough training. Apprentices must be at least 18 years old, and have a high school diploma or pass the G.E.D. Test. Apprenticeship programs combine three to four years of on-the-job training with related classroom instruction. Apprentice training is supervised, and candidates are selected by Joint Apprenticeship Committees (JAC) in each local area. Upon successful completion of the program, apprentices achieve full journey-level status.
Some Brick Masons attend community college classes to gain the welding skills occasionally necessary on multistory buildings where prefabricated panels are used.
Successful completion of the training program is necessary to become a qualified Brick Mason. Experienced Brick Masons can advance to supervisory positions. Some union contracts require a supervisor if three or more workers are employed on the job.
With additional training, some Brick Masons become estimators, whose job is to look at building plans, obtain quotations on masonry material, and prepare and submit bids. Many others establish their own contracting business.
FINDING THE JOB
Persons interested in the bricklaying trade can find employment through local unions, the Employment Development Department, Trade Journals, or friends or relatives working in the trade.
ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF INFORMATION
California Department of Industrial Relations Division of Apprenticeship Standards 2424 Arden Way, Suite 160 Sacramento, CA 95825 (916) 263-2877
Bricklayer Institute of America 11490 Commerce Park Drive Reston, VA 20191-1525 (703) 620-0010
International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen 815 15th Street N.W. Washington D.C. 20005 (202) 783-3788
RELATED OCCUPATIONAL GUIDES
Welders and Cutters No. 84 Tile Setters No. 103 Metal Workers, Fabrication and Structural (Field and Shop Ironworkers) No. 112 Cement Masons No. 181 Plasterers and Stucco Masons No. 249
OCCUPATIONAL CODE REFERENCES
DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th Ed., 1991) Bricklayer (const.) 861.381-018 Bricklayer Apprentice (const.) 861.381-022 Bricklayer, Firebrick and Refractory Tile 861.381-026 Stone Mason (const.) 861.381-038
OES (Occupational Employment Statistics) System Brick Masons 873020
Source: State of California, Employment Development Department, Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group, (916) 262-2162.
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