The material commonly used by cement masons, concrete finishers, segmental pavers, and terrazzo workers is concrete, a mixture of Portland cement, sand, gravel, and water. Their work varies in complexity, from the straightforward task of laying a simple masonry walkway to the intricate task of installing an ornate interior or exterior on a high-rise building.
- Cement masons place the forms that contain and give shape to the liquid concrete.
- They also supervise the pouring.
- Concrete finishers then smooth the tops, sides, and edges. If necessary, they also add grooves at specific intervals to prevent cracking.
- They may also add color to concrete or add texture to concrete surfaces.
Segmental pavers plan, cut, and install flat pieces of masonry usually made from concrete or brick. These pavers are typically used to create patios, sidewalks, driveways, streets, parking lots, and plazas. Work consists of grading the area, adding a level base of sand, placing the pavers in the desired pattern, and adding sand to fill the joints.
Terrazzo is a composite made with tinted concrete or epoxy resin that is topped with marble chips and other fine aggregate material. Terrazzo is most often used to create walkways, floors, and patios. Workers build the terrazzo in layers. The first layer is usually a mixture of cement or plaster. Once dry, a sandy concrete layer is added and divider strips are placed in the concrete wherever there will be a joint or color change. The final layer, a mixture of colored cement and fine marble chips, is placed on the mortar base, rolled, and leveled. After it is thoroughly set, the surface is cleaned, polished, and sealed to create a lustrous and impenetrable surface.
Most masons and finishers receive their training on the job. Some attend vocational schools or take courses, while others become apprentices. Those who begin with on-the-job training will usually start as a laborer or an assistant to an experienced worker. They will typically start by performing tasks such as edging, jointing, and using a straightedge on freshly-placed concrete, eventually progressing to more complex tasks. In order to be accepted into an apprenticeship program sponsored by local contractors, trade associations, or local union-management committees, applicants should have a high school diploma or GED, be at least 18 years old, possess a driver’s license, and be legally authorized to work in the United States. Apprentice programs last approximately three to four years. Apprentices must complete at least 144 hours of classroom instruction during each year of the program in subjects such as math, blueprint reading, cost estimation, and safety.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook expects average employment growth for masons of about 13 percent over the next 10 years. While all jobs in the construction industry are sensitive to economic fluctuations, jobs for workers in these fields will likely be created as the growing population will create a need for new highways, bridges, factories, and other residential and commercial buildings. In addition, there will be an ongoing need to repair and refurbish existing highways, bridges, and other aging structures. Much of the funding for these projects is expected to come from the federal government as it tries to stimulate the national economy.
Salaries vary depending upon the worker’s experience and specialty. The median hourly wage for cement masons and concrete finishers is $16.87. It is $17.25 for terrazzo workers and $13.17 for segmental pavers. The middle 50 percent of cement masons earn between $13.46 and $22.71 per hour. The middle 50 percent of terrazzo workers earn between $13.65 and $23.12 per hour, while the middle 50 percent of segmental pavers earn between $10.77 and $16.41 per hour. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $9.14 to $11.02 per hour. The highest 10 percent of cement masons and terrazzo workers earn more than $30.12 an hour, while the highest 10 percent of segmental pavers earn more than $19.33 an hour. Apprentices or helpers usually start at about 50 to 60 percent of the wage rate paid to e