What Is Mason Work? (Definition, Types and Salary)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 14 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A career in the construction industry can provide you with competitive pay and the opportunity to practise a skilled trade. One such trade is mason work, a traditional method of building structures that incorporates manual preparations and precision work. To pursue a career in mason work, it is important to know what the duties and scope of the job are. In this article, we explain what is mason work, examine the various types of mason work, discuss the skills needed for this trade and look at how much masons can expect to earn.

What is mason work in construction?

Mason work, or masonry, is a construction trade that entails building structures out of component parts made of various materials, such as brick or stone. Practitioners of masonry, known as masons, are manual labourers who lay these components together and usually bind them with a substance such as mortar, a paste made with a mixture of cement, lime, sand and water that hardens when dried. Masonry involves skilled labour, as most forms of mason work involve laying individual components in precise arrangements and are thus resistant to mechanisation.

Related: Blue-Collar Jobs vs. White-Collar Jobs: What's the Difference?

Forms of masonry

There are several types of masonry, each based on the material and method of construction used. The most common types of masonry are:

Brick

Brickmasons build structures using various types of bricks, such as:

  • Sun-dried: sun-dried bricks are slabs of clay left to dry and harden in the sun. These are typically less durable and feature in temporary abodes.

  • Burnt clay: also made of clay, these bricks are fired and hardened in a kiln. There are four classes of burnt clay bricks, with the first-class being the smoothest and the fourth-class being the most irregular in shape.

  • Fly ash: fly ash bricks contain water and fly ash, a powdery by-product of coal burning. It can be a cost-effective substitute for cement blocks in structures such as foundations, pillars and walls.

  • Concrete: concrete bricks contain eponymous concrete, plus components such as sand and cement. They are a versatile material, often used for building facades, barriers and retaining walls.

  • Sand-lime: also known as calcium silicate bricks, sand-lime bricks contain sand, lime, water and often pigment. They are useful for load-bearing structures because of their strength, and their precise edges are helpful for bricklaying.

  • Engineering: these bricks, often used in civil engineering. They contain clay and other materials. Their great strength and low porosity make them suitable for use in structures susceptible to water seepage.

Related: 13 Civil Engineering Interview Questions and Sample Answers

Stone

Stonemasons use stone material to build residential, commercial or civil engineering structures. There are numerous subcategories of stonemasonry:

  • Ashlar: ashlar is stone that has been finely dressed, or cut and cleanly squared off for a specific project. Ashlar structures have regular surfaces and feature in much classical architecture.

  • Fixer: fixer stonemasons fix stones onto buildings using tools and materials such as cement, epoxy resin, grouts, mortars and dowels.

  • Memorial: memorial stonemasons produce memorials such as headstones, typically also engraving inscriptions in them.

  • Rubble: rubble stonemasons use rough or crudely dressed stones and set them in mortar. A variant of rubble masonry is dry rubble masonry, in which the masons lay the rough stones without mortar.

  • Slipform: this form of stonemasonry involves creating forms, or short containing structures, into which the mason places stones and concrete.

Concrete block

Concrete block masonry uses large breeze blocks or blocks made of ordinary concrete, typically in the construction of industrial buildings such as factories. Concrete blocks afford several advantages over brick. For example, they are larger, which allows the mason to set a concrete block structure in less time. The blocks also contain voids that can be filled with concrete and steel rebar to increase stability and strength.

Gabion

Gabions are large wire baskets, cages or boxes that contain various materials, typically stones. Gabion masons stack these structures together to create walls that are useful for stabilising slopes or protecting against erosion. The large size and easy assembly of gabions allow for relatively fast construction of structures.

What is the work of a mason?

The specific duties of a mason may vary depending on the type of masonry, but there are some activities that are common among masons, such as:

  • Dressing components: masons are responsible for cutting and shaping the materials they work with, such as bricks and stones.

  • Mixing binding substances: in addition to preparing components, masons also mix the mortar or cement they use to bind the components into cohesive structures.

  • Transporting and placing components: laying the components to build structures is the fundamental work activity of the mason.

  • Reading and adhering to building plans: masons follow technical drawings created by architects when laying materials for structures.

Work environment for masons

As manual labourers, masons perform much of their work outdoors. They normally work full-time hours and often on a deadline, although weather conditions can affect work frequency. The job can be strenuous, as it involves lifting, transporting and placing heavy materials as well as using a variety of heavy tools and equipment.

Masons often face physical hazards on the job, such as lacerations from tools or materials, traumatic injuries from falling materials or tools and falls on the job site. Because of these hazards, masons normally wear protective gear such as gloves, hard hats and goggles.

Masonry skills

Certain skills can be useful for entering and maintaining a career as a mason. These include:

Technical skills

Most mason job descriptions are likely to mention adeptness with the basic technical skills of masonry. Some of these skills are the ability to build, repair and maintain structures such as walls, walkways and barriers. Depending on your speciality, you may also need knowledge of certain techniques. For example, a stonemason would benefit from knowing the various ways to arrange stones to create different structures.

Familiarity with tools

Masonry involves the use of several tools. Some common masonry tools are:

  • Trowel: these tools are useful for dispensing and spreading cement or mortar across surfaces.

  • Chisel: chisels have various uses. Masons often use them to cut materials, remove bricks from walls and break away excess cement or mortar.

  • Hammer: these are fundamental to masonry work. The head of a mason's hammer typically has a blunt side for striking or chopping and a narrower side for chipping or scoring.

  • Brush: masons use brushes to clear the fragments of stone, brick, cement and mortar that accrue on the work area in the normal course of duties. Brushing away these fragments helps to ensure cleanly laid components.

Physical fitness

Masons are manual labourers, so it is important to be capable of meeting the physical demands of the job. Masonry involves frequent transitions from standing to bending as well as extensive kneeling. It also requires lifting heavy materials and tools repeatedly throughout the day.

Dexterity

Dexterity refers to the ability to perform tasks with your hands, which is essential to the handiwork of masonry. Masons should be able to place bricks, stone and other building components repeatedly and with consistent precision. They must also exercise control over their hands to perform precise activities such as chipping, breaking and clearing materials.

Reading and listening skills

Reading and listening skills are crucial to a mason's success because masonry involves following both written and verbal instructions to build structures according to clients' requirements. The ability to read technical drawings is also important, as these are the plans that guide a mason's work.

Related: Building Communication Skills: 10 Types of Listening

Masonry requirements

Many masonry positions in the construction industry require candidates to complete at least their higher secondary education. Employers may also prefer that you have two to three years of experience in masonry. A substitute for experience may be the completion of a masonry course through the National Skills Qualifications Framework, or NSQF, a system for acquiring the knowledge and skills for trades. The NSQF offers several qualifications for masons, from level 1 helper mason to level 4 mason general.

Related: Types of Workplace Training: Definitions and Examples

Average salary for masons

Masons earn an average salary of ₹2,66,893 per year. However, factors such as experience, employer and location may affect how much you earn as a mason. For example, masons in Delhi report earning significantly higher than the national average, with ₹4,11.391 per year. Speciality may also affect your salary. For instance, brick-masons report a much higher national average salary, earning ₹6,45,480 per year.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing.

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