The Taj Mahal, the Roman Coliseum, the Egyptian pyramids and the Great Wall of China have all stood for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, and are examples of the timeless durability of masonry work. Masonry is the art, craft and science of building with stone, and although materials and techniques have changed over the centuries, stonework is still as prevalent today as in the days of the Roman gladiators.
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Masonry is a very physical job that requires carrying heavy materials, operating machinery and working outside with concrete, brick and block, stone, marble, tile, glass, brick veneer, granite and terra cotta. Masonry employment can sometimes be inconsistent, as construction projects tend to slow down during winter. A mason may lay a walkway, build a retaining wall, pour a structure's foundation or restore an ornate exterior on a high-rise building. A competent mason must know how various patterns, colours and textures of materials will work together, as well as be able to read blueprints, comply with safety standards, work with building codes and handle hazardous materials. Masonry foremen oversee crews that perform masonry work.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, first-line supervisors of construction trades, such as masonry foreman, earn a median annual wage of £38,142, or £18.3 per hour. This median falls within a range of £23,536 to £61,106 per year. The masons that foremen supervise, such as stonemasons, earn a median annual wage of £24,167. Cement masons and concrete finishers earn a median salary of £23,042, and brick and block masons earn the most money, at £30,504, though still substantially below a foreman's salary.
The area in which a masonry foreman works can substantially impact his earnings. The highest paying metropolitan area for this line of work is the San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood, California, area, paying an annual mean wage of £55,490. The top paying nonmetropolitan area is Railbelt/Southwest Alaska, paying an annual mean wage of £53,202. Conversely, a lower paying metropolitan area would be Springfield, Missouri, paying an annual mean wage of £32,298. West Arkansas is a lower paying nonmetropolitan area, paying an annual mean wage of £25,909.
Becoming a Foreman
A career as a mason typically begins as a mason's helper or tender, an assistant. These workers carry materials, mix mortar, and assemble scaffolds on construction sites. A mason may also begin in an official apprentice program sponsored by local unions, contractors or trade associations; these programs include at least 144 hours of classroom time, as well as up to four years of on-the-job training. Upon completion of this training, an apprentice may become a full-fledged journeyman, earning a mason's salary. Typically, only after many years of proven competence in the masonry trade, and working with other employees, a mason may be hired as a foreman, to supervise masonry crews, monitor the quality of their work and keep projects on schedule.
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