Education and Training: On-the-job training or apprenticeship
Salary: Median—$16.82 per hour
Employment Outlook: Very good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Stonemasons build stone walls, floors, and the exteriors of private homes and other buildings. They also make stone piers, arches, sills, steps, and hearths.
Stonemasons work with both natural and artificial stone. The natural stones they use are marble, granite, sandstone, and limestone. The artificial stones are made of cement and cement mixed with marble chips or other masonry materials. Stonemasons use tools such as hammers, chisels, trowels, mallets, wedges, pneumatic (compressed air) drills, and brushes. They generally work with helpers who carry the stones.
Stonemasons sometimes work from plans that number each piece of stone. They spread a cementlike material called mortar between each row of stones with a flat, pointed tool called a trowel. When the stones are in the proper position, the stonemasons check their placement with a plumb line to make sure they are aligned. The stonemasons then smooth the mortar between the stones. Sometimes, the masons work with derrick operators, who run hoists that lift and lower large stones into place.
The stone facing that stonemasons put on the surfaces of buildings is called veneer. It is generally two inches thick, and it is fastened on and supported by the building's steel frame.
Sometimes stonemasons must cut stone to exact size. They determine the grain of the stone for easy cutting and mark a line along it. They use a stonemason's hammer to strike the stone along this line. Sometimes they use an abrasive saw to cut valuable stones.
Some stonemasons specialize in soapstone and other stones that are resistant to acid and are used to contain dangerous acidic substances. Masons set such stone into tank and vat linings and on floors.
Education and Training Requirements
A high school diploma is preferred but not required. Many stonemasons start out by working as helpers for experienced craft workers. Others learn the trade through courses at vocational or technical schools. The best training is a three-year apprenticeship sponsored by labor unions or industry groups. The apprenticeship consists of three years of on-the-job training combined with more than four hundred hours of classroom instruction. On the job, apprentices are helpers, learning to use the tools and materials. In the classroom, they are taught blueprint reading, mathematics, and other subjects relating to the craft. Applicants for the apprenticeship program should be at least seventeen years of age and in good physical condition.
Getting the Job
The best way to enter the craft is to join an apprenticeship program. Local union offices and industry groups will have information about training opportunities. It is also possible to learn a craft by getting a job as a stonemason's helper. Local contractors should have information about job openings for those who want to enter the field in this way.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Stonemasons are already at the top of their craft. However, experienced stonemasons can become supervisors. They can also become cost and material estimators for stonemason contractors. Some stonemasons start their own contracting businesses.
The employment outlook for stonemasons is very good. The need for new structures, spurred by population and business growth, will increase the demand for stonemasons. The number of jobs will grow about as fast as the average for all jobs through 2004, and many experienced stonemasons are expected to retire or transfer to other fields, creating more openings.
Because most stonemasons work outdoors, they can expect to lose work time in bad weather. Generally, they work forty hours a week and earn extra pay for overtime and weekend work. The work is physically strenuous and involves much heavy lifting. Stonemasons must climb ladders and scaffolding, and they are often stooping, standing, and kneeling. Many stonemasons belong to labor unions.
Where to Go for More Information
International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen
1776 I St. NW
Washington, DC 20006
Mason Contractors Association of America
33 S. Roselle Rd.
Schaumburg, IL 60193
United States Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship Training, Employer and Labor Services
200 Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20210
Earnings and Benefits
The median income of stonemasons in 2004 was $16.82 per hour. Union workers made more than nonunion workers. Apprentices usually start at fifty percent of an experienced craft worker's wage. They receive increases as they progress through their training. Union members generally receive paid holidays, life and medical insurance, and pension plans. The number of vacation days they receive depends on the number of days they work each year. Other benefits are negotiated separately for each union contract.