Masonry workers, also known as masons, use bricks, concrete blocks, concrete, and natural and manmade stones to build walls, walkways, fences, and other masonry structures.
What Do Concrete Workers and Finishers Do?
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 hand tools
- Construct corners with a corner pole or by building a corner pyramid
- Align structures vertically and horizontally, using levels and plumbs
- Clean and polish surfaces with hand or power tools
- Fill expansion joints with the appropriate caulking materials
Masonry materials are some of the most common and durable materials used in construction. Brick, block, and stone structures can last for hundreds of years. Concrete—a mixture of cement, sand, gravel, and water—is the foundation for everything from decorative patios and floors to huge dams or miles of roadways.
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, 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 from which mortar has come loose. 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.
Cement masons and concrete finishers place and finish concrete. They may color concrete surfaces, expose aggregate (small stones) in walls and sidewalks, or make concrete beams, columns, and panels. Throughout the process of pouring, leveling, and finishing concrete, cement masons monitor how the wind, heat, or cold affects the curing of the concrete. They use their knowledge of the characteristics of concrete to determine what is happening to it and take measures to prevent defects. Some small jobs, such as constructing sidewalks, may require the use of a supportive wire mesh called lath. On larger jobs, such as constructing building foundations, reinforcing iron and rebar workers install the reinforcing mesh.
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.
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. Epoxy terrazzo requires less base preparation and is significantly thinner when completed. 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 any depressions or imperfections with a grinder to create a smooth, uniform finish. Terrazzo workers also install decorative toppings or polishing compounds to new or existing concrete.
Concrete Workers and Finishers typically use concrete and concrete blocks to build walkways, walls, and other structures. They smooth and finish surfaces of poured concrete, such as floors, walks, sidewalks, roads, or curbs using a variety of hand and power tools. Align forms for sidewalks, curbs, or gutters; patch voids; and use saws to cut expansion joints. As well, 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, concrete workers use their knowledge of how conditions may affect concrete and take steps to prevent defects.
(Jobs in this career sub-sector may also have the title of: Decorative Concrete Flatwork Finisher Concrete Finisher, Decorative Concrete Flatwork Associate, Concrete Mason, Finisher)
If you are a Concrete Worker and Finisher, you likely will do the following:
- Inspect completed work to ensure proper installation.
- Position construction forms or molds.
- Spread concrete or other aggregate mixtures.
- Finish concrete surfaces.
- Monitor construction operations.
- Pour materials into or on designated areas.
- Signal equipment operators to indicate proper equipment positioning.
- Direct construction or extraction personnel.
- Apply sealants or other protective coatings.
- Compact materials to create level bases.
- Apply material to fill gaps in surfaces.
Education and Experience
Individuals starting work as a Concrete Worker and Finisher usually have no formal educational credential and one-to-twelve months on-the-job training.
- Annual pay: In May 2019 the average salary was $46,500
- Employment growth forecast 2018-2028: 11%
- Entry-level education: High School Diplomas or equivalent
Career Growth Opportunity
Concrete Workers and Finishers generally begin their careers as helpers and advance to full journey level after several years of experience. From there, they may move up to supervisory and project management positions. Experienced Concrete Workers and Finishers may choose to become independent contractors.
- American Society of Concrete Contractors - ASCC is a non-profit association developed by concrete contractors for concrete contractors to provide a unified voice for the industry.
- Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers International Union - This organization represents the most highly skilled trowel trades craftworkers across the United States and Canada including bricklayers, stone and marble masons, cement masons, plasterers, tile setters, terrazzo and mosaic workers, and pointers/ cleaners/ caulkers.
- International Masonry Institute - MI is a strategic alliance between the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers and the contractors who employ those members. Through education, technical support, research and training the IMI works to provide a more efficient construction delivery system.
- American Concrete Pumping Association - The ACPA was founded in 1974 with the objectives to promote concrete pumping as the choice method of placing concrete, and to encourage and educate the concrete pumping industry on safe concrete pumping procedures.
- Mason Contractors Association of America - The MCAA is committed to preserving and promoting the masonry industry by providing continuing education, advocating fair codes and standards, fostering a safe work environment, recruiting future manpower, and marketing the benefits of masonry materials.
- Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association - OPCMIA represents and trains plasterers and cement masons for the purpose of protecting and promoting the quality of our industry and the livelihood of our members.
- Associated Builders and Contractors - ABC's mission is the advancement of the merit shop construction philosophy, which encourages open competition and a free enterprise approach that awards contracts based solely on merit, regardless of labor affiliation.
- United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America - The UBC mission is to stand strong with our members and business partners to help them achieve success.
- National Concrete Masonry Association - NCMA advocates to safeguard the work of its members, and through widespread promotion, help make concrete masonry the first choice for designers, builders, and property owners, so communities are improved and made more resilient.
- Home Builders Institute - This organization’s mission is to advance and provide education, career development, training and placement of men and women serving the building industry.
- National Association of Home Builders - NAHB strives to protect the American Dream of housing opportunities for all, while working to achieve professional success for its members who build communities, create jobs and strengthen our economy.
- The Associated General Contractors of America - The AGC of America works to ensure the continued success of the commercial construction industry by advocating for federal, state and local measures that support the industry; providing opportunities for firms to learn about ways to become more accomplished; and connecting them with the resources and individuals they need to be successful businesses and corporate citizens.
- National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) - This mission of this organization is to build a safe, productive and sustainable workforce of craft professionals. Their vision is to be universally recognized by industry and government as the training, assessment, certification and career development standard for construction and maintenance craft professionals.
- The Associated General Contractors of America - The Associated General Contractors of America works to ensure the continued success of the commercial construction industry by advocating for federal, state and local measures that support the industry.
- Concrete Décor Magazine - Professional Trade Publications currently publishes Concrete Decor, the world’s foremost magazine on decorative concrete, in print and online.
- Constructor - online digital magazine
- Concrete Construction Magazine - current and archives issues available
- Concrete International – current issue available for download