What Masonry Workers Do
Masons use bricks, concrete blocks, or concrete to build walls, walkways, and fences.
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.
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 structure vertically and horizontally
- 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.
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 on 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 must monitor how the wind, heat, or cold affects the curing of the concrete. They must have a thorough knowledge of the characteristics of concrete so that they can determine what is happening to the concrete and take measures to prevent defects. Some small jobs may require the use of a supportive wire mesh called lath. On larger jobs, reinforcing iron and rebar workers install the reinforcing mesh.
Segmental pavers—also referred to as patio pavers—install interlocking masonry walkways, driveways, and patios. Workers need to prepare the site carefully to ensure the masonry units connect properly without gaps or ridges.
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 terrazzo preliminary work of pouring, leveling, and finishing concrete 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 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 and/or polishing compounds to new or existing concrete.