Building with materials that are both beautiful and sturdy, masonry workers create structures that last. Masonry workers, also known as masons, use weatherproof bricks, stones, and concrete to build new homes and buildings, and to maintain the historic structures we want to preserve. Masons specialize in different materials and structures: Brickmasons and blockmasons build and repair walls, chimneys, and other structures. Some specialize in brickwork for industrial facilities that can tolerate intensely high temperatures. Cement masons and concrete finishers lay walls and sidewalks, and form the pieces that make up heavily-used roads and buildings. Segmental pavers install interlocking brick walkways, patios, and walls. Stonemasons carefully cut and select stone to create patterns as they build walls, unique fireplaces, and building exteriors. Terrazzo workers add fine marble chips into the finish of cement or resin to create decorative walkways and floors. Masonry work is fast paced and strenuous. It includes heavy lifting, using sharp tools, and working from scaffolds. In addition to strength and stamina, masons need the ability to see subtle color variations and envision how stones will fit together to build attractive and stable structures. Work hours are generally full time, with some overtime to meet deadlines. Cold or rainy weather can stop work. After completing a high school education, most masons learn on the job or through a 3- to 4-year apprenticeship.
Masonry workers use bricks, concrete and concrete blocks, and natural and man-made stones to build structures. They also will use concrete (a mixture of cement, sand, gravel, and water) as the foundation for everything from patios and floors to dams and roads. Masonry workers very often will have to lift heavy materials as well as bend, stand, and kneel for long periods of time as the work is physically demanding. As with many other construction occupations, the work is fast-paced and strenuous. The work may be in areas that are muddy, dusty, or dirty, either indoors or outdoors. A ‘masonry’ career usually begins via a formal three to four-year apprenticeship.
Masonry work may be divided into further job sub-sectors such as:
- Brickmasons and blockmasons are often called bricklayers. They build and repair walls, fireplaces, and other structures with brick, terra cotta, precast masonry panels, concrete block, and other masonry materials. As well, lay and bind building materials, such as brick, structural tile, concrete block, cinder block, glass block, and terra-cotta block, with mortar and other substances, to construct or repair walls, partitions, arches, sewers, and other structures.
- Cement masons and concrete finishers - Cement masons do important and necessary foundational work as they place and finish concrete. They may color concrete surfaces, expose small stones in walls and sidewalks, or make concrete beams, columns, and panels. In addition, smooth and finish surfaces of poured concrete, such as floors, walks, sidewalks, roads, or curbs using a variety of hand and power tools.
- Stonemasons build stone walls and structures such as piers, walls and abutments as well as lay walks, curbstones, or special types of masonry for vats, tanks, and floors. They also set stone exteriors. 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. Build stone structures, such as piers, walls, and abutments.
- Terrazzo workers and finishers - Also known as terrazzo masons, if you work in this job sub-sector you will make walkways, floors, patios, and panels beautiful and attractive. 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 a mixture of cement, sand, pigment, or marble chips to floors, stairways, and cabinet fixtures to fashion durable and decorative surfaces.
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 masonry walls
- Align structures, using levels and plumbs
- Clean and polish surfaces with hand tools or power tools
- Fill expansion joints with caulking materials
- Lay out and install rainscreen water systems
Education and Experience
Apart from on-the-job training, masonry workers typically participate in a three-year apprenticeship, usually sponsored by a union or contractor association. Cement masons and terrazzo workers don't need specific licenses or certifications. Community colleges often offer 12-month, 18-month and two-year certificate and associate programs. Many technical schools offer programs in masonry as well. Programs undertaken will often operate both independently and in conjunction with apprenticeship training. After completing an apprenticeship program, masons are considered journey workers and are able to do tasks on their own.
- Annual pay: A ‘mason’ worker will most likely earn a salary of around $45,000
- Employment of masonry workers is projected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Population growth is expected to result in the need for masons to work on construction of schools, homes, and other buildings.
- Entry-level education: Typically requires a high school diploma or equivalent
Career Growth Opportunity
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.
- American Concrete Institute - The American Concrete Institute is a leading authority and resource worldwide for the development, dissemination, and adoption of its consensus-based standards, technical resources, educational & training programs, certification programs, and proven expertise for individuals and organizations involved in concrete design, construction, and materials, who share a commitment to pursuing the best use of concrete.
- American Institute for Innovative Apprenticeship, Bricklayer - An on-the-job training cohort as well as related instruction is outlined by this organization.
- Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. - 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.
- Bricklayers Int’l. Masonry Institute - IMI representatives offer technical support, education and information about all masonry products, systems and performance.
- Brick Masons Apprenticeship Training - The mission of the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee is to develop progressive standardize training to educate the members of the Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers; insuring and providing the Masonry Industry with the most highly trained and highly skilled workforce possible.
- Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Inc - 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.
- Mason Contractors Association of America - The Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) is the national trade association representing mason contractors. 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.
- Masonry Institute of America - The Masonry Institute of America was founded in 1957 under the name of Masonry Research. We are a promotion, technical and research organization established to improve and extend the use of masonry.
- National Association of Home Builders - NAHB represents the largest network of craftsmen, innovators and problem solvers dedicated to building and enriching communities operating at the local, state and national levels.
- 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.
- National Concrete Masonry Association - NCMA knows concrete masonry systems deliver the best in building. Our association fights the advocacy fight to safeguard the work of our members, and through widespread promotion, we help make concrete masonry the first choice for designers, builders, and property owners, so communities are improved and made more resilient.
- Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association - The OPCMIA represents trained plasterers and cement masons for the purpose of protecting and promoting the quality of the industry and the livelihood of its members. If you’re looking for a career in a skilled trade with good wages and benefits and lifelong work in a fulfilling profession, you can earn as you learn to be a plasterer or cement mason through the OPCMIA International Training Fund’s Apprenticeship Program (ITF).
- 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.
- The Masonry Society - TMS is an educational, scientific, and technical society dedicated to the advancement of scientific, engineering, architectural, and construction knowledge of masonry. The Society is a non-profit.
- The National Terrazzo and Mosaic Association - The mission of the NTMA is to promote craftsmanship, education, and creativity of quality terrazzo. The Association establishes national standards for all Terrazzo floor and wall systems.