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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all, my name is Dan. I have always wanted to be a mason. I started looking for a job as a tender a couple years ago but couldn't find a spot, so I spent the past two years helping tile setters. But that job isn't panning out (bad company) and have beenI want to get into masonry. I guess what I want to know is if you guys are staying busy and if any of you think the economy will turn around enough for companies to start bringing on new tenders. Thanks in advance.
 

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Gumby
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Dan I hate to see a man left hanging. I am not a brickie, but a concrete contractor in Florida.
Times may be hard but there is always work to be done. Where are you located? That may spark some interest.
How old are you?
Anyway if no brickies reply and that is your goal then here is what I would do. Put on some clean clothes and go around all your local brickie type businesses and sell your self. Collared shirt, shave etc. Shake hands firmly and look people in the eye. Look for businesses in the phone book, online, and drive around construction sites. Be humble but confident. Talk to any contractor you see. Just because they are not a brickie doesn't mean they don't know one. Bring your mason trowel, wear work boots and jeans, tool belt etc.
If you have no luck locally expand your radius.
If you still have no luck, the military is an option. All branches have brickies, AF, Army, Marines, Navy. I am retired AF.

Since you gave me no details, I may have provided too much advice but I hope you appreciate why! Good luck in your future. Come back for more if you need it. Americans are always willing to help the able!
 

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Location Location Location!

Be aware that from my personal experience you'll have to dedicate an average of 2 yrs to the trade before you have gathered enough knowledge to begin making the transition onto the wall.

Even then you will have to be lucky enough to find a company willing to train you. Masonry is an art and a very permanent one at that.

The growing pains and small mistakes will be on display for all to see, bringing the quality of the company down.

I'm not trying to scare you away from the trade, just letting you in on some of the issues that make it a difficult thing to do.

Another possibility is the Bricklayers Union, they have an apprenticeship program.
 

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I agree with Ian completely, I've been a brickie for 25yrs.. when i got my start i did exactly what ian described.. I made calls showed up at contractors office to the point they knew me on a first name basis, you have to be a little persistent..I knew i was a hard worker so i told these people i would work for free for a week and if i'm not as good as your best guy I'll go down the road no hard feelings..thats how confident i was in my abilities. sell yourself like Ian stated. Started out as a labor in the union, worked with the same company for 5 or 6yrs. then they sent me to apprentice school to become a bricklayer because i let it be known from the beginning that was my intention. However they hate to loose a good labor.. anyway depending on your location and how much building is going on it may be tough to get into the union.. In the mean time find a brick contractor and learn as much as you can. All that being said this work is not for everybody getting your feet wet as a tender/laborer will give you an idea if this type of work is for you or not.I wish you the best of luck sir any question you have there are many acomplished masons that post here and will be happy to answer your questions...
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the responses guys. A little more infor on my part woulda helped, so here we go. Im 23 and I live in Kenosha Wisconsin. I've spent the past two and a half years in the flooring trades, mostly ceramic but some carpet, vinyl and carpentry experience. The guys I have worked with are a tough bunch, but very fair. They expect me to save them at least four hours a day, and I do that easily. I love hard work (as proof- on firday I moved over 10,000lbs of tile in an hour and a half pretty much by hand. Loved every minute of it), and love working outdoors. I've done everything from huge commercial jobs to tiny repairs, but I prefer commercial and new comstruction. I spent one weekend tending a mason when a friends dad was building a new garage- loved it.

I guess what I really want is to learn. The hard work comes with that. And I fully expect some old timers to test me before I get to touch anything important. I know full well what im heading for, and the thought of firing up a mixer and toting some block makes me excited. The only thing I don't look forward to is ladders; not real fond of them.

Oh yeah, Im fully aware of the **** economy- I spent the first six months of the year on the bench. :censored:
 

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The only way to learn about it is to be around it..If your working for a commercial outfit they will have machines you don't have to carry material up ladders like the old days, at the very least a small contractor will have wheel pulley or electric pully with a basket.. On bigger jobs you have a ground man mixing and running the machine(lift ) supplying the guys on the scaffold with material..Not to say you won't have to climb a ladder .. Any way you sound like a good hard working kid.. I can tell you it's really hard to find good guys and when i find one I keep him working..Get out there call your local union hall, call some brick contractors and tell them what your all about..Tell them what you want to do and you will do whatever it takes to get there..Once you get your shot and you will, If you work hard and your a good guy people will help you..One other thing show up every day rain or shine and don't be late!!!
hope this helps
 

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Look into trade schools in your area for any one who has a masonry course, around here the provincial government has a school & also one of the union halls runs one. I myself wont even look at hiring anyone as an apprentice until they have gone thru school, and my tenders/labourers know that I wont consider them either if they wont show the commitment to attend a school. An apprentice is such a dead loss to the company that you need all the learning you can get before starting on the wall.
 

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Look into trade schools in your area for any one who has a masonry course, around here the provincial government has a school & also one of the union halls runs one. I myself wont even look at hiring anyone as an apprentice until they have gone thru school, and my tenders/labourers know that I wont consider them either if they wont show the commitment to attend a school. An apprentice is such a dead loss to the company that you need all the learning you can get before starting on the wall.

I thought someone stole my screen name and password when I saw this. I do offer concrete repair as one of my services using a awesome product, but have not gotten around to speaking on it.

Good to see another 4th Generation Craftsman.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Looked into that route, 4th gen, the problem was they only hold classes during the day when I'm working. Im even considering getting a third shift job and taking the classes, but I don't know if I shoot myself in the foot by leaving the trades. In the mean time I must pound the pavement and try to find a spot with the right contractor. Again, thanks for the responses. I appreciate the advice and insight, keep it coming. :thumbup:
 

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"they only hold classes during the day when I'm working". yup it aint easy but your still young and you gotta show your commitment coz a prospective employer is going to be putting a lot of investment in you.
 

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Buy or find some old brick. Lay up 24"X24"X48" mock chimney on a 1/2 sheet of plywood. Tear down repeat. Or start with just building a straight brick wall. Get 100 bricks and figure out how long/high the wall will end up being, lay brick, tear down replete.
 

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Most brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons pick up their skills informally, observing and learning from experienced workers. Others like myself received initial training from industry-based programs like a union apprenticeship.Not knocking any residential guys I have found some of them to be the fastest best brickies I've ever worked with. However IMO an apprenticeship program generally provides the most thorough training. Apprenticeship programs usually require 3-4 years of on-the-job training, in addition to a minimum of 144 hours of classroom instruction each year in blueprint reading, mathematics, layout work, sketching, and other subjects. In which case just being a mason could be a stepping stone....the first month of my apprenticeship included nothing else but spreading mortar, You must crawl before you walk!! after a bit you lay to the line with the aces building the leads.. some pick it up faster that others.. At any rate if you can't get an apprenticeship find someone to take you under there wing and show you the ropes. the very first thing you need besides a strong work ethic is to learn how to spread mortar.. the next thing would be laying to the line, as your skills increase the rest will come when you are capable. Being a lead man is the easiest job there if you can keep a corner straight...You have to show them you can do it!!! There is alot of masons who pick the trade up but there are few who actually got it!!! Sorry for the ramble hope things work out for you, if you were in my area I'd start u tomorrow.
 

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Buy or find some old brick. Lay up 24"X24"X48" mock chimney on a 1/2 sheet of plywood. Tear down repeat. Or start with just building a straight brick wall. Get 100 bricks and figure out how long/high the wall will end up being, lay brick, tear down replete.

That's not a bad idea CJ, & if the OP was willing to drive an hour or so North, I would gladly supply him those brick for free.

Now hibernia, the reality check (as you already know) is that things are slow here & not likely to pick-up that fast. I run a non-union company doing mostly residential & very little small commercial. We have been very lucky to stay extremely busy for most of the year, until the last year or so. We're still holding our own, but I don't see this side of masonry hiring in the next year or 2. Unfortunatly, the new construction brick & full veneer stone jobs have mostly been taken over by fireplace supply cos. who hire non-masons. Block basements have gone to poured wall contractors. I just don't see the residential side of masonry ever booming around here again.

As for the union, they could probable offer you more oppertunities in the next few years. As I recall, there's a huge warehouse project going in yur county right now. There was some talk that any Mil. union contractor on the job had to have a 1:1 ratio with the Kenosha union. This could mean that the Kenosha union may not have as many people on the bench. Probably something worth looking into for your own benefit, as it can't hurt to check it out.

Good Luck with whatever you decide. :thumbup:
 

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Jo, I don not understand what you mean about the fireplace companies doing veneer work with non masons. Could you explain this some more?
 

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Jo, I don not understand what you mean about the fireplace companies doing veneer work with non masons. Could you explain this some more?

Sure NJ, I'll try my best.

The vast majority of homes getting a FP in my area are going with zero-clearance units, whether it be gas, wood, or electric.

Most all builders use either a large HVAC supply house or a specialized FP only type store. Mostly the latter of the 2 because they have full showrooms for the HO's to select from.

All of these FP stores have there own "installers" for both the unit & the interior surround. They have all pretty much branched out to exterior cultured stone work also, seeing as they already have the installation crews & are generally suppliers for a few cultured stone brands anyway. This has really helped drop the bottom out of the cultured stone prices, as well as the quality o fwork.

These "installers" are not masons by any means. Many of them don't even speak English from what I have witnessed. They pay little or no attenion to WRB's, proper lathe overlapping, stone installation, etc.... Generally they lay the stone in this matter:
Start at the bottom, staple a sheet or 2 on at a time with no regard to wall stud locations (sounds like a firing range:w00t:), normally skip the rough plaster coat, butter the back of the stone with a hand, glove or just scoop the stone through their mud tub, grout & joint as they go, usually only using 1 or 2 boxes at a time, jump the planks up & repeat. Normally they set the scaffold at 2'+ away from the wall, too, using no outriggers or brackets. I have no idea why.

The sad part is that these homes all look the same, no attention to the little details like arches, keystones, etc...
I can guarantee alot of these applications will be part of mold remedition in the next decade or so, too.

I wish I could recall the numbers a 35 year+ veteran masonry salesman told me about cultured stone a few years ago. Just for the sake of giving you an idea, I'll pull a few #'s out o fmy a$$!:jester:

Something like a 800% increase in cultured stone production in the last 12-15 years, but actual masons where only reporting an increase of 5-10% increase in cultured stone work in that same period. Again, DON'T read those numbers as fact, & they may also be a regional/local thing, IDK.

Sorry for the long post & steering this thread off track!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
Again guys, thanks for all the great feedback.

Crosby- Thanks for the vote of confidence. I appreciate it. And I would love to find an apprenticeship, but they are hard to come by. I will look for the opportunity though.

Jomama- I think I might take you up on your generous offer. I would send you a pm, but the site wont let me.:laughing: And I think you're referring to the Uline warehouse. It is indeed huge, but last time I drove by it it looked like it was almost done. I may be wrong though, I need to look into it. It is really unfortunate, the current state of the trades. Between illegals undercutting real craftsmen and people unwilling to pay for quality, it was bad before the economy got tough. I hope for all of us it picks up significantly.

CJKarl- I think that is a wonderful idea, and will pursue it. Thank you for it.
 

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Again guys, thanks for all the great feedback.

Crosby- Thanks for the vote of confidence. I appreciate it. And I would love to find an apprenticeship, but they are hard to come by. I will look for the opportunity though.

Jomama- I think I might take you up on your generous offer. And I think you're referring to the Uline warehouse. It is indeed huge, but last time I drove by it it looked like it was almost done. I may be wrong though, I need to look into it. It is really unfortunate, the current state of the trades. Between illegals undercutting real craftsmen and people unwilling to pay for quality, it was bad before the economy got tough. I hope for all of us it picks up significantly.

CJKarl- I think that is a wonderful idea, and will pursue it. Thank you for it.
No problem young sir.. I suspect you will find your way if your persistent.. that being said all the recommendations here are solid.. CK has is right on the money, one thing use lime and sand so you can use it again the next day after tearing it down...Just need to temper it again... The posters here are all professionals and know what they are talking about......I wish you the best young man, good luck to you..
 

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No problem young sir.. I suspect you will find your way if your persistent.. that being said all the recommendations here are solid.. CK has is right on the money, one thing use lime and sand so you can use it again the next day after tearing it down...Just need to temper it again... The posters here are all professionals and know what they are talking about......I wish you the best young man, good luck to you..
Very good point, I was going to mention that, but forgot.:whistling

Hibernia, we are indeed speeking of the same project. It's the only major project I could think of in your area. I friend of mine (electrician) has been there for months & intends to be working there untill next summer, I believe. May not be much help, but it very well may have helped shorten the line in that union hall. I don't mean to be negative about any of this BTW, I just feel that if your confortable with the union now, it may be your best bet to find a job in the next few years. If you ever want the brick, just PM me. Good Luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Yeah there are a few decent sized commercial jobs going right now. i will go talk to some union contractors and call the ba to see what they say. i have a feeling the ba wont be happy, though. i was union but had to leave the union a few months ago when my unemployment ran out and my bills didn't.
now, when mixing the sand and lime what ratio im using. im guessing its fairly rich.
thanks again.
 
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