Stone masons erect walls made of stone and build stone floors and exteriors. There are two basic types of stones used by stone masons. The first is natural cut stone, which includes marble, granite, and limestone. The second is artificial stone, usually made from concrete, marble chips, or other masonry materials. Most stone masons work on buildings that are non-residential in nature, such as hotels, office buildings, and religious structures. Stone masons start by examining sets of drawings that identify each stone by number. Assistants usually help them locate and haul these stones to the job site. Sometimes derrick operators are used to lift some of the larger pieces into position.
The process of building a stone wall is fairly complex. First, stone masons set an initial row of stones in a bed of mortar. They then work to align the stones using plumblines and levels. From there, they alternate layers of mortar and stone, smoothing the mortar to an attractive finish. Finally, they wash the stone with a cleansing solution to remove stains an dry mortar. When building stone floors, stone masons first spread a layer of mortar over the entire surface. They then use crowbars and hard rubber mallets to align and level the stones into place. At the end of the process, they fill the joints and was the stone slabs.
Those interested in a career as a stone mason should have good manual dexterity and eye-hand coordination. They need to be physically fit because the work is extremely physically demanding. They should enjoy working outdoors. Those who intend to become supervisors should have good leadership and communication skills.
In 2002, stone masons earned a median hourly wage of $16.36. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $9.43, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $26.59.
Training and Education
Most stone masons observe and learn from more experienced workers on an informal basis. Others are trained at vocational education schools or industry-based programs. Still others complete apprenticeship programs, which usually give workers the most comprehensive training. Those trained on the job begin working as helpers, laborers, or mason tenders. They carry materials, move scaffolds, and mix mortars, and eventually start learning how to spread mortar, lay brick, or set stone. On-the-job learning usually lasts longer than an apprenticeship.
Apprenticeships are typically sponsored by local contractors, trade associations, or union-management committees. They last 3 years and include at least 144 hours of classroom instruction each year in blueprint reading, mathematics, layout work, and sketching. Applicants are required to be at least 17 years old and sometimes to have a high school education. As they gain training and experience, stone masons may be able to advance to positions such as supervisor or masonry contractor. Some start their own businesses and end up spending most of their time managing employees rather than actually completing masonry work. Some move into related fields such as construction management or building inspection. Visit this page about trade schools for more information on related careers.
In 2002, stone masons held about 165,000 jobs. About 25% were self-employed, specializing in small jobs such as patios, walkways, and fireplaces.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of stone masons is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Overall population and business growth will be a major factor, creating a demand for new houses, industrial facilities, schools, hospitals, offices, and other structures. The need to restore old masonry buildings will also create demand. It is expected that there will be fewer applicants than job openings in this profession, creating good employment opportunities.