If you an outdoorsy type with an eye for detail – and you don’t mind getting your hands dirty – a career in bricklaying may be for you.
What does a bricklayer do?
Bricklayers lay bricks, concrete blocks and pre-cut stone in order to build and repair walls, foundations, arches, partitions and paved areas. They may also do ornamental brickwork – creating coloured or shaped patterns in buildings, walls, floors or archways.
As a bricklayer, you could be involved in the construction of a range of buildings and structures, from residential homes through to commercial buildings.
On-the-job tasks generally include:
- Reading and working from plans and specifications.
- Sealing foundations with moisture-resistant materials.
- Spreading layers of mortar as a base and binder for bricks.
- Repairing and maintaining clay bricks and cement blocks/bricks.
- Operating brick cutting machines.
- Erecting scaffolding (subject to licence requirements).
- Buying building materials.
- Organising skip bin hire as well as any other additional equipment for building sites.
As a bricklayer, you might work for a bricklaying subcontractor, or a building and construction company. Alternatively, you might work towards becoming your own boss, as a self-employed tradesperson.
There are different ways to specialise and advance your career as a bricklayer within the building and construction industry.
Arch builders specialise in building arches, and work with ornamental and unconventionally shaped bricks. Arch builders are also responsible for maintaining and repairing these structures.
Stonemasons work with hard and soft stone blocks and masonry to construct and renovate stone structures.
Stonemasons might specialise in monumental masonry for cemeteries or older buildings. Special skills are required for this job, including cutting letters into stonework, working with marble and granite, and affixing stone facades to buildings.
Chimney builders are specialist bricklayers who are experts at building chimneys. They work with materials that are able to withstand large amounts of heat. Chimney builders have an understanding of the unique shapes, regulations and requirements necessary to build and maintain these structures.
What makes a good bricklayer?
Bricklaying is a physically demanding job, so you will need to have a good level of fitness in order to keep up with the manual work involved. The added bonus is that working as a bricklayer should make you even fitter!
Happy to work in a variety of settings:
As a bricklayer you may work at heights and will generally work outdoors – although at times, you could find yourself working in tunnels and shafts too. If you struggle with enclosed spaces or heights, this may not be the job for you!
Good people skills:
On occasion you may have contact with the public, and more often than not, you’ll be working as part of a team, so communication skills and the ability to get along with others is a must.
Able to work independently and as part of a team:
There are times when you’ll need to work independently, too. As a bricklayer, you should have the ability to work with others and work alone as the need arises.
Good attention to detail:
Attention to detail and accuracy is hugely important. If you are somebody who takes pride in your work, and you get a great sense of satisfaction from doing a job well, bricklaying could be the career for you.
Before you begin building something, you need to know what you’re building and the best way to go about it. This means reading off the plans and having the technical aptitude to understand a project and correctly follow it through to completion.
Construction sites are hazardous places, so safety awareness and the ability to identify and manage potential risks in all areas of your work is paramount.
How to become a bricklayer:
Bricklayers usually start their careers with an apprenticeship, and learn their skills on-the-job while completing their studies.
There are two parts to an apprenticeship in bricklaying: the onsite training provided by your employer, and the offsite training provided by a TAFE or other registered training organisation (RTO).
Before commencing your apprenticeship training, you must first register as an apprentice with an employer who is prepared to employ you for the period of the apprenticeship – three years, or in some states, four. Most apprentices find their future employer by visiting work sites or asking around their local community.
The course you will need to complete is a Certificate III in Bricklaying/Blocklaying. This qualification involves approximately four to seven weeks a year of study, spread throughout the year, for the duration of the apprenticeship.
There are also Work Ready Programs (WRP) available in Queensland, Victoria and NSW, which offer a free introductory look at the trade of bricklaying. Completing a WRP will give you an insight into what happens on site, how a typical day is structured, how the team interrelates, and how you will learn as an apprentice on site. You also get to try out some basic tool skills, use a mixer, have a go at basic bricklaying, make batches, and learn about site safety. If you are considering a bricklaying apprenticeship, a WRP can help you get a clearer picture of the role of an apprentice bricklayer, the responsibilities of the job, and the opportunities available to you when you complete your apprenticeship.
For more information, check out the Australian Brick and Blocklaying Training Foundation (ABBTF) website.