Have you hired a bricklayer and you're not sure what he'll get up to? Here's a quick guide so you know what's in store...
Bricklayers do small one-off jobs but they are also an essential part of a building team, constructing and maintaining various structures. These include internal and external walls, chimney stacks and tunnel linings on both domestic and commercial buildings. They can also build fancy stuff like arches, garden walls, barbeques and benches.
A bricklayer coming to work on your project will use a variety of tools (both hand tools and power tools such as a cement mixer) and materials (bricks, blocks, mortar, lintels) depending on what the job involves.
Your brickie can't just turn up and start building a wall. He first needs to measure out the area and make sure he understands the architect's or designer's plans. He then works from the corners building up with bricks and mortar. He may work in a team, or at least have a labourer with him to keep supplying him with materials. The trade can be quite hierarchical, with labourers handing out tools, materials and tea, junior bricklayers doing straightforward laying and the more experienced bricklayers taking care of corners and decorative brickwork.
As he builds up a wall your bricklayer will be using a spirit level and plumb-lines (string stretched horizontally as a building guide) to ensure the wall is straight. He may also use tools to cut and shape the bricks (for instance around openings for doors and windows). And he will shape and make neat the mortar in between known as "pointing".
Your bricklayer will either use a corner lead or corner pole method to build. Corner lead involves building a pyramid of bricks at each corner. Once these are complete the walls in between can be filled, often by a less experienced bricklayer. But corner leads need to be really precise so they are time consuming and expensive.
Corner poles, also known as masonry guides are the alternative. The corner poles or posts are fixed and plumb-lines stretched between them, to guide the bricklaying. A layer of mortar (a cement mix) is then laid and bricks are laid and built up, with mortar to hold them in place.
On a big project a bricklayer may need temporary platforms of even scaffolding to reach up high. And if windows and doors are being inserted into a wall then a joiner will follow close behind to put in the frames.
So what sort of person do you want your bricklayer to be? He should be able to follow plans and be methodical, careful and physically fit - there'll be a lot of heavy carrying involved. You may also need him to be a good team worker and get on with other contractors if he's working as part of a bigger project.
And what sort of qualifications is he likely to have? Most brickies learn their trade on the job but there are formal qualifications they can get if they are happy to study. Local colleges can provide courses to gain NVQ qualifications in Trowel Occupations levels 1 to 3. This involves learning the essentials such as setting up and taking down working platforms, building structures (e.g. walls) and safe loading and unloading of materials.
Beyond the basics there are areas for specialist training including bricklaying, stone fixing and craft masonry. Once fully experienced bricklayers can become supervisors or estimators and beyond that construction managers.
If you are hiring a bricklayer it's worth taking an interest in what he is doing (while allowing him to get on with the job). Not only will it put you in a position of confidence but like anyone, your bricklayer may appreciate the interest you are taking in his trade.