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What is a typical day in cement masonry and what type of problems do you face while working?

I'm getting into it and wanna know what I can.

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Donald’s Answer

Hi Christopher,

The building trades associated with masonry have been around for centuries. There is "something" concrete about it.(pun intended) ..that is, after you've completed the work, there is tangible evidence of your participation in that project. While it is most times anonymous,(although some mason's leave a mark/ or signature) if you get satisfaction in participating in teams sports this may be a career to explore.

All that said, it is hard work. Depending on what type of masonry you decide to do, if you are not in shape now, you'll quickly get in shape or change career paths. Bricks, blocks, stones and mortar are all heavy, and preparing them and a worksite with ladders, scaffolding etc is hard. This is physical labor and prepare to be sore your first few (or more) weeks. Weather conditions also dictate if you work or not. Being in a temperate climate is a great advantage although any extreme will affect the process. Wind, rain, heat, cold; each has it's own problems and opportunities.

The work varies significantly depending on what construction you are working with. In New York, every masonry building is totally inspected and repaired every five years. There is constant work. Here, most of the contractors work with union labor. Working on very tall buildings is a unique experience. So getting in an apprentice program is essential. If you're building residences in Malibu, the working conditions may be quite different.

A typical (if there is such a thing) day will start early. If you are new to the business, expect that you will be one of the first people at a job-site, setting up for the days work. Moving materials, ladders, starting to prepare the mud (mortar) etc. Different masons each work differently so you'll have to know their preferences. The placement of materials, consistency of the mortar and your support is essential to getting the job done quickly and efficiently. The pace varies depending on the mason or company you are working with. The hardest part of the day is getting set up and once things get going a flow is established. You have to figure when to bring more materials by how fast or slow things are going.

You also have to maintain situational awareness at all times. Proper footwear, eye protection, hearing protection, and gloves will give you basic protection. Heavy duty clothing is required. This is not a sneakers and jeans job. Cleaning tools and equipment at the end of the day will generally be done by the youngest employees. Do this well and it makes for an easier start the next day. The pace is quick and the faster the job is done, the more profit is made...time is money.

Always keep in mind, you will be a member of a team of builders. Each depends upon each other to do quality work and complete work on the schedule they committed to. When things get behind, it effects everyone's ability to get their jobs done and make their living. If this happens, tempers and admonitions will start to fly. If fingers are pointed at you, they are about the work. If the same thing happens again, it's about you! Don't make the same mistake twice.

If you hire out with someone who is looking to build her/his business, knows how to treat people, knows the business and is willing to bring you along..... it will make an enormous difference. If you hire out with an individual or business interested strictly in profit at the expense of people, it probably is not going to be a great start. Knowing a trade will most always get you work. At one house I owned it took years to get a skilled stone mason to rebuild a stone wall for me.

As you become skilled in your trade, you will develop a reputation that will generally precede you. Your ability, dependability, work style, how you get along with people will all travel with you and your tools. All will be important for your future in this business.

If you are thinking seriously about this, observe a few construction sites in the area you want to work. Talk with some of the people who have started out. I recommend talking with union and non-union folks. You might want to talk with some contractors and ask specifically who they are looking for as employees.

Everybody on top, literally started at the bottom.....know that you will too and use that time to observe the best, avoid the worst and become the skilled tradesman you want to be. There is dignity, satisfaction and a good living to be made in this business for those who are willing and able. Working safely is a condition of employment here. Be careful at all times.. Maybe you start a company of your own someday.
Good Luck,
Don Knapik

Donald recommends the following next steps:

Talk to contractors who are doing the type of work you want to do.
Go to a union hall and ask for information on apprentice programs
Explore possibility of DIY courses at construction supply stores (Home depot/lowes)
Local community colleges may have courses.
Explore the many types of jobs.. Foundations, stone, blocks, bricks etc Suscribe to trade magazines to keep up with the latest in methods and technologies
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Dan’s Answer

Hi Christopher,

Great question.

Typical day in this field could involve multiple tasks depending on your skill level and experience. there are more creative tasks when you have more experience but at the beginning the apprentice level guys work on tedious clean up and more grunt work while they learn.
This can be hard work and if you stick it out through that nd focus on learning its a good field to move up in. I always enjoyed the science behind mixing concrete and the different strength of concrete when using it for different things. Concrete floors being poured for a large building, or a Foundation wall that will hold up a multi-story building.

The days will be tough as its a physical job that will test your strength every day. I also think that its a rewarding job because at the end of the day you can look at what you accomplished/built and it is physically in front of you, I find that to be a great benefit in the construction trades.

I hope some of this information helps you out.

Best of luck

Thank s

Dan

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