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Bricklayers utilize mortar, a mixture of cement, lime, sand, and water. They spread the mortar with a trowel, then place and tap the brick into place. Bricks may be cut or chiseled to fit unusual spaces such as those around windows and doors. Bricklayers who specialize in firebrick and refractory tile are known are refractory masons; they are usually employed in steel mills, oil refineries, glass furnaces, incinerators, and other places that require high temperatures during manufacturing. Painting, cleaning, and caulking workers are responsible for the final cleanup on building projects or replacing bricks and making repairs on restoration projects.
Stonemasons work with natural stone such as marble, granite, or limestone, and artificial stone made from concrete or other masonry materials. They use a specialized hammer to cut and chisel the stone, and often work from a set of drawings. Stonemasons set the stones with mortar and align them with wedges, plumb lines, and levels. Eventually the wedges are removed and an instrument called a tuck pointer is used to smooth the mortar.
Bricklayers and stonemasons usually work outdoors in variable weather conditions. They must be able to lift heavy materials and stand, kneel, and bend for long periods. Dependability and a strong work ethic are desired qualities, as are knowledge of basic math and mechanical drawing.
While some brick masons, block masons, and stonemasons learn their skills informally, many others attend industry-based training programs or participate in apprenticeships which often last between three and four years. Most who learn informally begin as helpers, laborers, or mason tenders, carrying material, assembling scaffolds, and mixing mortar. With time, brick masons, block masons, and stonemasons may advance to become supervisors or business owners. Others may move on to construction management or building inspection.
Job opportunities for bricklayers and stonemasons are expected to grow as fast as the national average, and should be best for workers who have completed specialized training. To learn more about training to become a brick mason, block mason, or stonemason, visit the Mason Contractors Association of America website. More information about bricklaying can be found at the International Masonry Institute National Training Center and the National Concrete Masonry Association.
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