How to become a bricklayer
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These related trades are perfect for those who are great with their hands, don’t mind physical work outdoors and who love to stand back and proudly think: “I built that”...
While both of these jobs are similar in that they are both at the “hard” end of construction, a fundamental difference is in the materials they use. Bricklayers - as the name suggests - are focused on laying bricks, while masons cut, prepare and lay stone. Both of these trades require good knowledge of building and construction and a key eye for detail.
A day in the life of a bricklayer
As a bricklayer, you’ll spend most of your time laying bricks to form structures including walls, chimneys and fireplaces. They spend a lot of time working outdoors in all weathers and are often required to work at height, so need to be comfortable with scaffolding.
It’s physically demanding work, whether you’re moving bricks or mixing mortar. You’ll most likely spend time working with others as part of a team and you’ll use various hand tools such as trowels, hammers and chisels as well as power tools such as grinders and mixers for cement and mortar.
As a stone mason, the basic nature of the work is similar but you’ll spend more time cutting and preparing natural materials like granite and quartz which don’t come premade in a uniform shape like bricks. Stone masons sometimes work on older buildings which require specialist restoration; that means you might work with architects, historians and conservationists.
Due to the amount of cutting and shaping of stone, it can be dusty work and you’ll also spend time in the workshop which means protective equipment like face masks are essential when preparing materials which you’ll be taking onto sites.
Bricklaying training and experience
For a Level 1 Certificate in Construction Skills you need 1 or 2 GCSEs at grades 3 to 1 (D to G) or equivalent, while a Level 2 Diploma in Bricklaying requires two or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D). Some colleges also offer part-time courses.
Apprenticeships with a construction firm are open to anyone over the age of 16 and you’d work a minimum 30 hour week split between on-the-job experience and college training. For an intermediate apprenticeship, you’ll need some GCSEs including English and maths, or equivalent qualifications. If you can get a job as a construction site labourer your employer may provide training so you can become qualified.
Stonemasonary training and experience
For stonemasonry, a Level 1 Certificate in Construction Skills or a Level 2 Diploma in Stonemasonry for which you’ll need 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D) or equivalent are good foundations.
As with bricklaying, an apprenticeship is a good way in; an advanced apprenticeship in stonemasonry heritage skills takes around 30 months to complete and for that you’d need 5 GCSEs (including English and maths) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent.
If you have some experience as a bricklayer you may be able to find work assisting a stonemason and then do on-the-job training to gain a qualification in stonemasonry.
Newly trained practitioners can expect £17,000 - £20,000 while trained and experienced bricklayers can earn £20,000 - £30,000. Master bricklayers can easily earn £40,000 plus, and if running a team, the sky’s the limit. Salaries typically depend on where in the country you’re working, your employer and any overtime you’re able to get.
Newly trained stonemasons can earn £19,000 - £25,000, while more experienced stonemasons can earn £25,000 - £35,000. Senior stonemasons with particular experience can earn much higher salaries, especially if they are self-employed.