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 Masonry Workers Do

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.

Duties

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.

Work Environment

Masonry workers held about 292,500 jobs in 2016. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up masonry workers was distributed as follows:

Cement masons and concrete finishers178,900
Brickmasons and blockmasons91,100
Stonemasons18,900
Terrazzo workers and finishers3,600

The largest employers of masonry workers were as follows:

Poured concrete foundation and structure contractors27%
Masonry contractors22
Self-employed workers13
Construction of buildings10
Heavy and civil engineering construction7

As with many other construction occupations, the work is fast-paced and strenuous. Masons often lift heavy materials and stand, kneel, and bend for long periods. The work, either indoors or outdoors, may be in areas that are muddy, dusty, or dirty. Inclement weather can affect masonry work, but some masonry work, such as setting up floors, may not be affected.

Injuries and Illnesses

Brickmasons and blockmasons have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. Common injuries include cuts, injuries from falls, and being struck by objects. Many workers wear protective gear, such as hardhats, safety glasses, and earplugs, to avoid injury.

Work Schedules

Most masons work full time. Although most masons work full time, some work more hours to meet construction deadlines. Masonry work is done mostly outdoors, so masons may have to stop work during inclement weather. Terrazzo masons may need to work at night when businesses are closed.

How to Become a Masonry Worker

Most masons have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn either through an apprenticeship program or on the job.

Education

A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required for most masons.

Many technical schools offer programs in masonry. These programs operate both independently and in conjunction with apprenticeship training. Some people take courses before being hired, and some take them later as part of on-the-job training.

Training

Most masons 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 perform tasks on their own.

The Home Builders Institute and the International Masonry Institute offer pre-apprenticeship training programs for eight construction trades, including masonry.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Some workers start out working as construction laborers and helpers before becoming a mason.

Important Qualities

Color vision. Terrazzo workers need to be able to distinguish between small variations in color when setting terrazzo patterns in order to produce the best looking finish.

Dexterity. Masons repeatedly handle bricks, stones, and other materials and must place bricks and materials with precision.

Hand–eye coordination. Masons apply smooth, even layers of mortar; set bricks; and remove any excess before the mortar hardens.

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

Physical strength. Workers should be strong enough to lift more than 50 pounds. They carry heavy tools, equipment, and other materials, such as bags of mortar and grout.

Unafraid of heights. Masons often work on scaffolding, so they should be comfortable working at heights.

Pay

The median annual wage for masonry workers was $42,900 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,750, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $76,020.

Median annual wages for masonry workers in May 2017 were as follows:

Brickmasons and blockmasons$49,770
Cement masons and concrete finishers40,650
Terrazzo workers and finishers40,590
Stonemasons38,940

In May 2017, the median annual wages for masonry workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Masonry contractors$47,270
Construction of buildings46,980
Heavy and civil engineering construction42,300
Poured concrete foundation and structure contractors39,750

Although most masons work full time, some work more hours to meet construction deadlines. Masonry work is done mostly outdoors, so masons may have to stop work during inclement weather. Terrazzo masons may need to work at night when businesses are closed.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of masonry workers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Although employment growth will vary by occupation, it will be driven by the level of construction needed to meet the demands of a growing population, including demands for more commercial, public, and civil construction projects such as new roads, bridges, and buildings.

Employment of cement masons and concrete finishers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Cement masons will be needed to build and renovate highways, bridges, factories, and residential structures in order to meet the demands of a growing population and to make repairs to aging infrastructure.

Employment of brickmasons and block masons is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, 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 a growing number of other kinds of brick buildings. Although expensive, brick exteriors should remain popular, reflecting a preference for low-maintenance, durable exterior materials.

Employment of stonemasons is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Natural stone is both a durable and popular material. As incomes and the population continue to grow, more homeowners will prefer natural stone for its durability and aesthetic value.

Employment of terrazzo workers and finishers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Terrazzo is a durable and attractive flooring option that is often used in schools, government buildings, and hospitals. The construction and renovation of such buildings will spur demand for these workers.

Job Prospects

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

Employment projections data for masonry workers, 2016-26
Occupational TitleSOC CodeEmployment, 2016Projected Employment, 2026Change, 2016-26Employment by Industry
PercentNumeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Masonry workers292,500326,6001234,200

Brickmasons and blockmasons

47-202191,100100,500109,400employment projections excel document xlsx

Stonemasons

47-202218,90020,700101,800employment projections excel document xlsx

Cement masons and concrete finishers

47-2051178,900201,5001322,500employment projections excel document xlsx

Terrazzo workers and finishers

47-20533,6004,00012400employment projections excel document xlsx

Contacts 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 ApprenticeshipUSA program online or by phone at 877-872-5627.

For more information about training for masons, visit

Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.

Home Builders Institute

International Masonry Institute

Mason Contractors Association of America

National Association of Home Builders

NCCER

Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association

The Associated General Contractors of America

The National Terrazzo and Mosaic Association

O*NET

Brickmasons and Blockmasons

Cement Masons and Concrete Finishers

Stonemasons

Terrazzo Workers and Finishers