Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons (or, simply, masons) use bricks, concrete blocks, and natural and man-made stones to build fences, walkways, walls, and other structures.

Duties

Masons typically do the following:

  • Read blueprints or drawings to calculate materials needed
  • Lay out patterns or foundations using a straightedge
  • Break or cut bricks, stones, or blocks to their appropriate size
  • Mix mortar or grout and spread it onto a slab or foundation
  • Lay bricks, blocks, or stones according to plans
  • Clean excess mortar with trowels and other hand tools
  • Construct corners with a corner pole or by building a corner pyramid
  • Ensure that a structure is perfectly vertical and horizontal, using a plumb bob and level
  • Clean and polish surfaces with hand or power tools
  • Fill expansion joints with the appropriate caulking materials

The following are examples of types of masons:

Brickmasons and blockmasons—often called bricklayers—build and repair walls, floors, partitions, fireplaces, chimneys, and other structures with brick, precast masonry panels, concrete block, and other masonry materials.

Pointing, cleaning, and caulking workers repair brickwork, particularly on older structures on which mortar has come loose. Special care must be taken not to damage the structural integrity or the existing bricks.

Refractory masons are brickmasons who specialize in installing firebrick, gunite, castables, and refractory tile in high-temperature boilers, furnaces, cupolas, ladles, and soaking pits in industrial establishments. Most of these workers are employed in steel mills, where molten materials flow on refractory beds from furnaces to rolling machines. They also are employed at oil refineries, glass furnaces, incinerators, and other locations with manufacturing processes that require high temperatures.

Stonemasons build stone walls, as well as 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 to make various shapes and sizes. Some stonemasons specialize in setting marble, which is similar to setting large pieces of stone.

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Work Environment

Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons (masons) held about 104,100 jobs in 2018, of which 50 percent were employed in the masonry contractors industry. About 28 percent were self-employed. Many self-employed contractors work on small jobs, such as residential patios, walkways, and fireplaces.

Although most masons work in residential construction, work in nonresidential construction is growing because most nonresidential buildings are now built with walls made of some combination of concrete block, brick veneer, stone, granite, marble, tile, and glass.

As with many other construction occupations, the work is physically demanding. Masons  often lift heavy materials and stand, kneel, and bend for long periods.

Because they usually work outdoors, poor weather conditions may reduce work activity.

Injuries and Illnesses

Brickmasons and blockmasons have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. Common injuries include muscle strains from lifting heavy materials, as well as cuts from tools and falls from scaffolds.

Work Schedules

Although most masons work full time, some work longer hours to meet construction deadlines. However, because they primarily work outdoors, masons may have to stop work in extreme cold or rainy weather. Nonetheless, processes and materials have been developed that allow masons to work in a greater variety of weather conditions than in the past.

Self-employed workers may be able to set their own schedule.

Education and Training

Although most brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons (masons) learn through an apprenticeship, some learn their skills on the job. Others learn through mason programs at technical schools.

Education

A high school diploma or equivalent is required for all masons. High school courses in English, mathematics, mechanical drawing, and shop are considered useful.

Many technical schools offer programs in basic masonry. These programs operate both independently and in conjunction with apprenticeship training. The credits earned as part of an apprenticeship program usually count toward an associate’s degree. Some people take courses before being hired, and some take them later as part of on-the-job 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.

Personality and Interests

Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons (masons) typically have an interest in the Building interest area, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building interest which might fit with a career as a brickmason, blockmason, and stonemason (mason), you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons (masons) should also possess the following specific qualities:

Hand-eye coordination. Workers must be able to apply smooth, even layers of mortar, set bricks, and remove any excess before the mortar hardens.

Math skills. Knowledge of math—including measurement, volume, and mixing proportions—is important in this trade.

Physical stamina. Brickmasons must keep a steady pace while setting bricks all day. Although no individual brick is extremely heavy, the constant lifting can be tiring.

Physical strength. Workers must be strong enough to lift blocks that sometimes weigh more than 40 pounds. They must also carry heavy tools, equipment, and other materials, such as bags of mortar and grout.

Visualization. Stonemasons must be able to see how stones fit together to build attractive and stable structures.

Pay

The median annual wage for masonry workers overall was $46,500 in May 2019. The median annual wage for brickmasons and blockmasons was $53,100 in May 2019. The median annual wage for stonemasons was $43,280 in May 2019. 

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

Job Outlook

Overall employment of masonry workers is projected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Although employment growth will vary by occupation, it will be driven by the demands of a growing population for more commercial, public, and civil construction projects, such as new roads, bridges, and buildings.

Employment of brickmasons and block masons is projected to grow 10 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. Population growth will result in the construction of more schools, hospitals, apartment buildings, and other structures, many of which are made of brick and block. In addition, masons will be needed to restore other kinds of brick buildings.

Employment of stonemasons is projected to grow 9 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.

Job Prospects

About 35,500 openings for masonry workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Overall job prospects should be good as construction activity continues to grow to meet the demand for new buildings and roads. Workers with construction experience should have the best opportunities. 

As with many other construction workers, employment of masons is sensitive to the fluctuations of the economy. On the one hand, workers may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, during peak periods of building activity some areas may require additional number of these workers.

For More Information

For details about apprenticeships or other work opportunities for masonry workers, contact the offices of the state employment service, the state apprenticeship agency, local contractors or firms that employ masons, or local union–management apprenticeship committees. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor's Apprenticeship program online or by phone at 877-872-5627. Visit Apprenticeship.gov to search for apprenticeship opportunities.

For information about training for brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons, visit

Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers International Union

Home Builders Institute

International Masonry Institute

Mason Contractors Association of America

National Association of Home Builders

NCCER

The Associated General Contractors of America

 

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