Detailed Guide forBrickmasons and Blockmasons in California
May also be called: Adobe Layers; Blocklayers; Bricklayers; Masons
Specialties within this occupation include: Refractory Masons; Refractory Bricklayers; Furnace Liners
What Would I Do?
Bricklaying is an ancient craft. Egyptian Brickmasons helped build the pyramids. Today, bricklaying is considered as much an art as a craft. The handsome look of a brick facade on an expensive home or business is the work of Brickmasons and Blockmasons.
Brickmasons, also known as Blockmasons or Bricklayers, use bricks and concrete blocks to construct homes, fireplaces, warehouses, commercial buildings, and other structures. They also construct sound-reflecting walls along freeways, driveways, retaining walls, walkways, patio floors, and a variety of other outdoor installations. They determine the proper layout by placing the bricks in "dry course," without mortar. Using a plumb rule (mason's level) to ensure proper alignment, the supervisor or an experienced Brickmason starts the layout by building the corners at each end of the structure, and then stretching a nylon line from corner to corner. Guided by the line and corners, Brickmasons 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, Brickmasons generally 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. Brickmasons use mostly hand tools, such as trowels, jointers, hammers, chisels, squares, and mallets.
Journey-level Brickmasons can tackle any kind of masonry work. Ordinarily, they work in small groups directed by a supervisor and assisted by apprentices who set up scaffolds, carry materials, and mix mortar.
Blockmasons use precast concrete blocks. Blockmasons use blueprints to tell them the exterior dimensions where windows and doors are located and other features of the building.
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, Brickmasons insert steel bars between two vertical walls of bricks or through the open cores of hollow blocks. They then pour concrete into the space between the walls to securely bond the masonry units to the reinforcing steel.
Some Brickmasons and Blockmasons install structural insulated wall panels and masonry accessories used in many high-rise buildings. The large, heavy prefabricated panels must be raised by cranes and bolted or welded to a steel or concrete framework. Bricklayers position and align panels and may assist with welding, if they are suitably trained and certified.
Refractory Masons are Brickmasons who specialize in installing firebrick and refractory tile in high-temperature boilers, furnaces, cupola furnaces, 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 and other locations requiring high temperatures during the manufacturing process, such as those operating glass furnaces or incinerators.
Restoration Masons or Pointer, Cleaner, Caulkers (PCCs) take care of the pointing (the fixing or finishing of joints), cleaning, caulking, and weatherproofing of new masonry work. They also restore older buildings by caulking, cleaning, weatherproofing, and replacing old mortar.
Important Tasks and Related Skills
Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.
|View the skill definitions|
|Task||Skill Used in this Task|
|Interpret blueprints and drawings to determine specifications and to calculate the materials required.||Design|
|Measure distance from reference points and mark guidelines to lay out work, using plumb bobs and levels.||Information Ordering|
|Calculate angles and courses and determine vertical and horizontal alignment of courses.||Mathematics|
|Break or cut bricks, tiles, or blocks to size, using trowel edge, hammer, or power saw.||Trunk Strength|
|Construct corners by fastening in plumb position a corner pole or building a corner pyramid of bricks, and filling in between the corners using a line from corner to corner to guide each course, or layer, of brick.||Building and Construction|
|Mix specified amounts of sand, clay, dirt, or mortar powder with water to form refractory mixtures.||Production and Processing|
|Apply and smooth mortar or other mixture over work surface.||Near Vision|
|Remove excess mortar with trowels and hand tools, and finish mortar joints with jointing tools, for a sealed, uniform appearance.||Manual Dexterity|
|Fasten or fuse brick or other building material to structure with wire clamps, anchor holes, torch, or cement.||Equipment Selection|
|Examine brickwork or structure to determine need for repair.||Problem Sensitivity|
Below is a definition for each skill.
|View the tasks to skills list|
|Design||Knowledge of design techniques, tools, and principles involved in production of precision technical plans, blueprints, drawings, and models.|
|Information Ordering||The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).|
|Mathematics||Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.|
|Trunk Strength||The ability to use your abdominal and lower back muscles to support part of the body repeatedly or continuously over time without 'giving out' or fatiguing.|
|Building and Construction||Knowledge of materials, methods, and the tools involved in the construction or repair of houses, buildings, or other structures such as highways and roads.|
|Production and Processing||Knowledge of raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.|
|Near Vision||The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).|
|Manual Dexterity||The ability to quickly move your hand, your hand together with your arm, or your two hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble objects.|
|Equipment Selection||Determining the kind of tools and equipment needed to do a job.|
|Problem Sensitivity||The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.|
Brickmasons and Blockmasons usually work outdoors; however, new processes and materials allow Masons to work in a greater variety of weather conditions. Masons stand, kneel, and bend for long periods and often have to lift heavy materials. Common hazards include injuries from tools and falls from scaffolds, but accidents can often be avoided by using proper safety equipment and following safety practices.
Most Masons work a 40-hour week. They usually travel to work sites.
Some Brickmasons and Blockmasons are members of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsworkers.
Will This Job Fit Me?
The job of Brickmason may appeal to those who enjoy working independently and outdoors, while performing physical activities. Brickmason occupations may also appeal to those who like practical, hands-on problems and solutions, working with details, as well as activities that involve little to no paperwork.
What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?
Apprentices or helpers usually start out at considerably less than the rate paid to experienced workers. Pay increases as apprentices gain experience and learn new skills. Earnings for workers in these trades can be reduced because poor weather and slowdowns in construction activity limit the time they can work.
The median wage in 2016 for Brickmasons and Blockmasons in California is $58,707 annually, or $28.23 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.
Union members typically receive medical, dental, and vision insurance as well as retirement plans. Those who are self-employed are responsible for purchasing their own insurance and benefit plans.
What is the Job Outlook?
Employment of Masons, like that of many other construction workers, is sensitive to changes in the economy. When the level of construction activity falls, workers in these trades can experience periods of unemployment. On the other hand, shortages of these workers may occur in some areas during peak periods of building activity.
Population and business growth create the need for new houses, industrial facilities, schools, hospitals, offices, and other structures requiring masonry workers. Moreover, the use of brick for decorative work on building fronts, sidewalks, and in lobbies and foyers remains popular. Brick exteriors also reflect a growing preference for durable exterior materials requiring little maintenance. Construction on hillsides requires Masons to build retaining walls to hold soil in place. In addition, the large number of aging masonry buildings will increase opportunities for workers with restoration skills.
Applicants who take masonry-related courses at technical schools will have better opportunities than those without these courses. Workers able to install new synthetic materials will also have improved opportunities.
Projections of Employment
In California, the number of Brickmasons and Blockmasons is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Brickmasons and Blockmasons are expected to increase by 56.9 percent, or 2,900 jobs between 2012 and 2022.
|Estimated Employment and Projected Growth|
Brickmasons and Blockmasons
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Due to Net
|View Projected Growth for All Areas|
Annual Job Openings
In California, an average of 290 new job openings per year is expected for Brickmasons and Blockmasons, plus an additional 50 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 350 job openings.
|Estimated Average Annual Job Openings|
Brickmasons and Blockmasons
|Jobs From Growth||Jobs Due to|
|View Data for All Areas|
How Do I Qualify?
Education, Training, and Other Requirements
Many employers prefer a high school diploma. Most people enter this trade through on-the-job training, first assisting Brickmasons and Blockmasons by carrying materials from pallets to the installation location. They generally do other unskilled work until they learn enough to assist the journey-level worker in the more highly skilled aspects of the job. The learning period on the job may last longer than if trained in an apprenticeship program. Industry-based training programs offered through construction companies usually last between two and four years.
Other Masons go through an apprenticeship program covering all aspects of the occupation—brick, block, and stone. Those working with Masons who construct only light residential structures or landscaping will be exposed to that type of work.
The amount and type of experience required to become a fully trained Brickmason varies from company to company. Most apprenticeship programs for Masons require 144 hours of classroom instruction and 1,500 hours of on-the-job training for each year.
Early Career Planning
High school classes that provide a good background for masonry include basic mathematics, algebra, geometry, drafting, as well as wood and metal shop.
Apprenticeship and Work Study Programs
A formal apprenticeship program consists of classroom training and practical, on-site education. The training period lasts from three to four years, depending upon the program. For more information on apprenticeship programs currently available, visit the State of California's Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards Web site.
Some Regional Occupation Programs (ROP) offer training for entry-level positions in masonry. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.
Many unionized joint apprenticeship and training committees offer continuing education courses that help those members who want to advance their technical knowledge and their careers. Some professional associations offer training to meet the changing demands of the construction industry and enhance marketability of Masons.
Licensing and Certification
Self-employed Masons must have a contractor’s license. The California Contractors State License Board issues a specialty contractor’s license for masonry to those who pass an exam and fingerprint background check. Specialty licenses are active for two years. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.
Certification of contractors is offered by some professional associations, such as the Mason Contractors Association of America. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.
Where Can I Find Training?
There are two ways to search for training information:
Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.
Where Would I Work?
The largest industries employing Brickmasons and Blockmasons are as follows:
|Industry Title||Percent of Total Employment for Occupation in California|
|Building Foundation/Exterior Contractors ||71.7%|
|Building Finishing Contractors ||1.5%|
Finding a Job
Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Union Masons can find work through their local union office. Nonunion workers can contact others in the trade, supply houses, construction companies, residential and commercial builders, or go directly to construction sites. Newspaper classified ads and the Internet provide additional sources for job listings. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.
To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).
Yellow Page Headings
You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Brickmasons and Blockmasons.
- Building Contractors, Commercial, Industrial, or General
- Commercial Building
- Concrete Block and Brick Manufacturing
- Employment Placement Agencies
- Masonry Contractors
Find Possible Employers
To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:
- Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
- Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
- Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
- Contact the employer for possible employment.
Where Could This Job Lead?
With additional training and experience, Brickmasons and Blockmasons may become supervisors for masonry contractors. Some eventually become business owners employing many workers and may spend most of their time as managers. Others move into closely related areas such as construction management or building inspection.
Below is a list of occupations related to Brickmasons and Blockmasons with links to more information.
|Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers||Guide|
|Helpers--Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters||Profile|
|Reinforcing Iron and Rebar Workers||Profile|
|Tile and Marble Setters||Guide|
These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.
For the Career Professional
The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.