Masonry is more than bricklaying

CanWest News Service
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VANCOUVER - For Luke Shelley, masonry is quite simply all in the family.

The 20-year-old apprentice mason - in his third year of training - works for his father Brian, owner of Shelley and Sons Masonry.

VANCOUVER - For Luke Shelley, masonry is quite simply all in the family.

The 20-year-old apprentice mason - in his third year of training - works for his father Brian, owner of Shelley and Sons Masonry.

His two other brothers are also masons, including one who recently made the switch from a career as a computer programmer.

When I was younger, I wanted to be anything but a mason, Shelley said in an interview. But once I started into it, I loved it. And its a family company, so we try to keep the standards up.

By deciding to become a mason, or bricklayer as the profession is also called, Shelley is entering a field where the job opportunities - like other careers in the construction field - appear, at least for the foreseeable future, unlimited.

Theres tons of work right now, said Shelley. You just cant keep up. We gets calls every day for work.

Shelley, who has already bought a house with his brothers, especially likes doing custom stonework for chimneys, as well as brick block and cultured stone. We do high-end residential, but some commercial, too. I can point out job after job in Vancouver that Ive worked on.

While many think of masonry as merely laying bricks, stones or blocks, the profession is also related to architecture because it requires a considerable amount of pre-planning and blueprint analysis.

Masons do everything from laying a simple masonry walkway to installing a condominium buildings ornate exterior. They typically use materials ranging from stone, brick and concrete to cover walls and floors.

They also build patios, roads and waterproof and restore concrete surfaces.

Cement masons smooth and finish freshly poured concrete, apply surface treatments, and restore concrete structures.

The Business Council of B.C.s The Third Option Rocks career guide, which was published in 2005, says qualified masons can earn from $34,000 to $85,000 a year, with experienced masons earning more than $85,000.

According to B.C. Work Futures, masonry often demands physical strength and considerable outdoor work. A typical work week is 35 to 40 hours, with weekend, evening work and overtime often required to complete projects on time.

Wayne Bransfield, an experienced mason and instructor at Trowel Trades Training Association said masons are always in demand - not just in Canada, but in other countries where a masons expertise is needed to build kilns or blast furnaces for steel. Our apprenticeship program is accepted throughout the world. Ive worked in Japan, Korea, Indonesia, China. Its mostly U.S. and Canadian companies needing people overseas, but Toyo Engineering in Japan hired me direct (in 1996).

Bransfield said the overseas pay can be especially lucrative. I wont leave the country for anything less than $50 an hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For that, he said, hes expected to work between 12 and 18 hours a day, seven days a week. And all your expenses are paid.

As well, he said, for every eight weeks he got two weeks holidays.

Masons can work a regular workweek overseas, he said, but theyll still likely be paid for additional hours if its negotiated in the contract.

Organizations: Business Council of B.C.s The Third Option Rocks, Trowel Trades Training Association

Geographic location: VANCOUVER, Japan, Canada Korea Indonesia China U.S.

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