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What Masonry Workers Do About this section

Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons
Masons clean excess mortar with trowels and other hand tools.

Masonry workers, also known as masons, use bricks, concrete and concrete blocks, and natural and manmade stones to build walkways, walls, and other 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 handtools
  • Construct masonry walls
  • Align structures, using levels and plumbs
  • Clean and polish surfaces with handtools or power tools
  • Fill expansion joints with caulking materials
  • Lay out and install rainscreen water systems

Masons build structures with brick, block, and stone, some of the most common and durable materials used in construction. They also use concrete—a mixture of cement, sand, gravel, and water—as the foundation for everything from patios and floors to dams and roads.

The following are examples of types of masons:

Brickmasons and blockmasons—often called bricklayers—build and repair walls, fireplaces, 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. Refractory masons are brickmasons who specialize in installing heat- and fire-resistant masonry materials in high-temperature areas such as boilers, furnaces, and soaking pits in industrial buildings.

Cement masonsandconcrete finishers place and finish concrete. 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, cement masons use their knowledge of how conditions may affect concrete and take steps to prevent defects. On small jobs, such as constructing sidewalks, cement masons may use a supportive wire mesh called a lath. On large jobs, such as constructing building foundations, reinforcing iron and rebar workers install the reinforcing mesh.

Stonemasons build stone walls and 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 into 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. 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 imperfections with a grinder. Terrazzo workers also install decorative microtoppings or polishing compounds to new or existing concrete.

Work Environment About this section

Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons
Masons typically work outdoors.

Masonry workers held about 302,100 jobs in 2019. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up masonry workers was distributed as follows:

Cement masons and concrete finishers 200,400
Brickmasons and blockmasons 81,900
Stonemasons 16,800
Terrazzo workers and finishers 3,000

The largest employers of masonry workers were as follows:

Poured concrete foundation and structure contractors 27%
Masonry contractors 21
Construction of buildings 11
Self-employed workers 10
Heavy and civil engineering construction 7

As with many other construction occupations, masonry work is strenuous. Masons often lift heavy materials and stand, kneel, and bend for long periods. The work may be either indoors or outdoors in areas that are dusty, dirty, or muddy. Inclement weather may affect outdoor masonry work.

Injuries and Illnesses

Brickmasons and blockmasons risk injury on the job. Cuts are common, as are injuries occurring from falls and being struck by objects. To avoid injury, workers wear protective gear such as hardhats, safety glasses, high-visibility vests, and harnesses and other apparel to prevent falls.

Work Schedules

Most masons work full time, and some work overtime to meet construction deadlines. Masons work mostly outdoors, so inclement weather may affect their schedules. Terrazzo masons may need to work hours that differ from a regular business schedule, to avoid disrupting normal operations.

How to Become a Masonry Worker About this section

Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons
Apprentices learn by working with experienced masons.

Masons typically need a high school diploma or equivalent and learn the trade either through an apprenticeship or on the job.

Education

A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required to enter the occupation.

Many technical schools offer programs in masonry. These programs operate both independently and in conjunction with apprenticeship training.

Training

Masons typically 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 do 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 as construction laborers and helpers before becoming masons.

Advancement

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.

Important Qualities

Ability to work at heights. Masonry workers often use scaffolding, so they should be comfortable working at heights.

Color vision. Masonry 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. Masonry workers must be able to place bricks, stones, and other materials with precision.

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

Physical stamina. Masonry workers must keep up a steady pace while setting bricks, and the constant lifting can be tiring.

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

Pay About this section

Masonry Workers

Median annual wages, May 2020

Masonry workers

$47,710

Construction trades workers

$47,480

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

The median annual wage for masonry workers was $47,710 in May 2020. 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 $31,580, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $79,640.

Median annual wages for masonry workers in May 2020 were as follows:

Brickmasons and blockmasons $55,080
Terrazzo workers and finishers 51,430
Cement masons and concrete finishers 46,000
Stonemasons 43,650

In May 2020, the median annual wages for masonry workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Masonry contractors $52,780
Construction of buildings 50,130
Poured concrete foundation and structure contractors 46,170
Heavy and civil engineering construction 44,630

Most masons work full time, and some work overtime to meet construction deadlines. Masons work mostly outdoors, so inclement weather may affect schedules. Terrazzo masons may need to work hours that differ from a regular business schedule, to avoid disrupting normal operations.

Job Outlook About this section

Masonry Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Construction trades workers

3%

Masonry workers

-3%

 

Overall employment of masonry workers is projected to decline 3 percent from 2019 to 2029. 

The employment of masons is linked to the overall demand for new building and road construction. Masonry, such as brick and stone, is still popular in both interior and exterior applications, but changes in products and installation practices are expected to decrease the need for masons. For example, fewer workers are needed to install innovations such as thin bricks, which allow buildings to have the look of brick construction at a lower cost. Additionally, the increased use of prefabricated panels will reduce the demand for most masonry workers. These panels are created offsite by either contractors or manufacturers in climate-protected environments, but fewer masons are needed to install the panels at the construction site.

Employment of terrazzo workers and finishers is expected to decline due to the increased installation of polished concrete, which will shift some work from terrazzo workers to cement masons and concrete finishers.

Job Prospects

Despite declining employment, about 24,800 openings for masonry workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Overall job prospects should be good as construction activity continues to grow to meet the demand for new buildings and roads. Workers with construction experience 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, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Masonry workers

302,100 292,100 -3 -10,000

Brickmasons and blockmasons

47-2021 81,900 76,700 -6 -5,200 Get data

Stonemasons

47-2022 16,800 16,300 -3 -500 Get data

Cement masons and concrete finishers

47-2051 200,400 196,400 -2 -3,900 Get data

Terrazzo workers and finishers

47-2053 3,000 2,700 -10 -300 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

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 Apprenticeship program online or by phone at 877-872-5627. Visit Apprenticeship.gov to search for apprenticeship opportunities.

For more information about training for masons, visit

Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.

Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers International Union

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

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