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Bricklayer

Ringa Tiri Porokere

Alternative titles for this job

Bricklayers lay bricks, concrete blocks and tiles to construct or repair buildings, walls, arches, chimneys or paved areas.

Pay

New or unqualified bricklayers usually earn

$18-$20 per hour

Highly experienced bricklayers may earn

$35-$40 per hour

Source: Census, 2013 and Careers New Zealand research, 2016

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a bricklayer are good due to a shortage of workers.

Pay

Pay for bricklayers depends on their skills and experience. 

  • Apprentices may start on the training minimum wage, with pay rising as they gain skills and qualifications.
  • Inexperienced bricklayers with no qualifications usually earn $18 to $20 an hour.
  • Skilled bricklayers or those who have completed an apprenticeship usually earn $25 to $30 an hour.
  • Highly experienced bricklayers may earn up to $40 an hour.

Sources: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2013 Census information' (prepared for Careers New Zealand); and Careers New Zealand research, 2016. 

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Bricklayers may do some or all of the following:

  • consult with clients
  • design and draw bricklaying plans
  • read and follow construction plans
  • cut and shape bricks, blocks and tiles
  • make and place mortar
  • lay bricks, blocks and tiles in rows or shapes
  • alter, repair and restore brickwork.

Skills and knowledge

Bricklayers need to have:

  • knowledge of bricklaying methods, materials and tools
  • the ability to interpret building plans and drawings
  • skill in laying bricks, blocks or tiles
  • basic carpentry and maths skills
  • knowledge of decorating styles
  • knowledge of health and safety requirements.

Bricklayers who are self-employed also need small business skills.

Working conditions

Bricklayers:

  • often work long hours, including early mornings, evenings and weekends
  • work outside on construction sites and inside buildings, in conditions that may be noisy and dirty
  • travel locally to building sites

What's the job really like?

Bricklayer video

Charlie checks out what's involved in brick and blocklaying – 9.03 mins. (Video courtesy of the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation)

Charlie: Hi I'm Charlie Binks, I’m from Red Beach and I’m interested in a career in brick and blocklaying, so I came here.

Clinton: Charlie’s spending a couple of days with Humphrey Brick and Block, a company owned and run by Aaron Humphrey.

Aaron [to Charlie]: Good to see you’ve got your steel-capped boots on, and here’s your hi-viz shirt. Put that on and we can get started.

Charlie: Thank you.

Aaron: We currently have around 20 guys working for the company. We do all types of work – we do residential brick work, residential block work, and we also do commercial block work.

Right Charlie, this is Mike. He’ll run you through some things and see what’s involved in the industry.

Charlie: Right, let’s get into it.

Mike: Let’s go and check out some of the bricklaying tools.

This is our spirit level – it’s a really important tool for bricklaying. Trowels come in lots of different shapes and sizes. Today’s brick work is raked out – this is a raker. And you’ll be using a cordless drill to put in your wall ties.

Clinton: With Mike’s tour of the tools complete, it was time for Charlie to start work. Bricklaying apprentice Tyrone showed him how to mix some mortar.

Tyrone: It’s two buckets of sand, that goes in the mixer. One bucket of cement. And then two more buckets of sand.

Clinton: The mortar is the bond that holds the bricks together. So with the mortar mixed, it was time to lay some bricks – with a little help from Mike.

Mike: What you’ve got to do, is you’ve got to line it up, so if you look down that line, you’ve got to line it up with that one [points to brick] and that one. You don’t want to be too far back and you don’t want to be too far forward. Ok?

[Charlie places mortar and bricks]

Mike: That’s it.

[Charlie places more mortar and bricks]

Mike: Yep. A blind man’d love to see it, Charlie!

Wall ties attach to the framework, and they tie the brickwork to the framework.

[Charlie uses the electric drill to attach the wall ties to the wall]

Aaron: To give you an idea of how the work’s increased, a few years’ ago we were doing around 80 houses a year. Now we’re doing over 150 a year.

Currently we have two apprentices and they are extremely important to the industry – bringing up young guys up into the trade.

Charlie: So, Tyrone, how long have you been an apprentice for in this company?

Tyrone: It’s been about two months, two and a half months.

Charlie: How long does your apprenticeship take?

Tyrone: It takes about four years.

Charlie: So what’s the best part of the job?

Tyrone: You get to see what you’ve accomplished with your two hands.

Charlie: So what’s your ambition?

Tyrone: To be the best bricklayer I can. And own my own company one day – like Arron.

Craig [BCITO]: I come on site to see the boys, and take them through the qualification. See what he’s doing, see if he’s done any book work, written book work, and I ask him to take me through what he’s been doing.

When he’s done his three-and-a-half, four years, he’ll come out with a Level 4 qualification in brick and blocklaying. And you can go all around the world – it’s a great trade.

Mike: OK Charlie, we’ve done really well. We’ve laid three courses, the mortar’s getting nice and firm, and they’re ready to rake out. [Hands Charlie the ‘rake’]

Clinton: The mortar is raked out to give the walls an attractive finish.

Mike: Well done Charlie, your first brick wall. Congratulations.

Clinton: All apprentices get automatic membership of the Brick and Blocklayer Federation.

Melanie [CEO Brick and Blocklayers Federation]: Our role is to keep our members informed about any changes, because they’re continual in this industry, legislation, and make sure that they know about everything that’s happening.

We also make sure that training’s occurring. A lot of our members are Licenced Building Practitioners, and so they need to continue their training, to get their licence, and then we basically make sure they get the right training for it.

Clinton: In order to show Charlie the range of bricks and mortar finishes available, Aaron took Charlie to Midland Brick in Albany, where there are numerous displays to help architects, designers, builders and the general public, decide how they would like their finished house to look.

Aaron: This is called a parget finish. The mortar is proud of the brick. We have a rolled finish – the join is nice and half-round. We have just a standard flush finish where we use a sponge to get it nice and flat, we have the rake finish like you did with Mike.

Up here we have a soldier course, usually for windows and doors.

And this Charlie is a sill, they are the sills that go under the windows, we lay them on edge and tucked up under the window.

Clinton: Aaron and his team use a huge range of bricks and mortar finishes. Examples being at some recently completed work at New Zealand’s largest sub-division being built at Millwater, 40 minutes north of Auckland.

Aaron: There’s two-storey brick work and there’s also stone over the windows and lintels, and different coloured mortars as well.

We also do a lot of painted brick houses, where the customers like to paint the brick. They still like to do brickwork to get the cavity system, which is nice and dry.

Right Charlie, this is the masonry side of brick and blocklaying. Want to lay some blocks?

Charlie: Yep.

Aaron: These are normally used for commercial blockwork or for holding up walls, or reinforcing.

This here we have a stack bond masonry wall where the blocks are laid on top of each other, as opposed to over there we have a stretcher bond where the blocks are half way along each other.

Once we’ve got concrete in them, they’re the same strength.

Over here, we’ll get you to lay a block. So get your trowel.

[Charlie coats blocks with mortar and Aaron shows him how to use the trowel]

Aaron; Put it on there. Tap it on the edge. You’ve got to ‘spread the bed’. Put the toe down and come down. You’ve got a little bit left on the other side. Finish off. Bit more of an angle. That’s it.

Right. So ‘butter a block’. [Charlie coats the end of a block with mortar]. Get the block. We’re going to do stretcher bonds, so this block needs to go half way between each one. You lay it down nice and gentle, as level as you can.

[Charlie brings his coated block to the wall]. Come in to the block, and place it down gently and evenly. Squeeze it in so you squeeze that joint, watching your ends. That’s it. Nice.

[Aaron levels off the block using a spirit level].
There she goes!

Charlie: Sweet.

Aaron: Yeah, Charlie’s done really well today. He’s learnt all the ins and outs of bricklaying and blocklaying and I think he might have a good future in the industry.

Charlie: It’s been a couple of good days, brick and blocklaying. I’ve learnt a lot of skills and met a lot of nice people. Now it’s back to work!

Clinton: The BCITO manages brick and blocklaying apprenticeships, which typically take three to four years to complete. You’ll work under an experienced brick and blocklayer who’ll provide on-the-job coaching and support throughout your apprenticeship.

The BCITO offers ongoing guidance throughout your apprenticeship with regular on-site visits from a BCITO training adviser. Your skills are assessed on the job and through off-job training. You’ll earn while you learn. Brick and blocklaying skills can be used worldwide.

Entry requirements

There are no specific entry requirements for becoming a bricklayer. However, some employers prefer to hire someone who has or is working towards a National Certificate in Refractory Installation (Level 3), or National Certificate in Brick & Block Laying (Level 4), through an apprenticeship.

The Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) oversees bricklaying apprenticeships. 

Secondary education

There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a bricklayer. However, NCEA Level 2 in English, maths, technology and design and visual communication are useful.

Year 11 and 12 students can learn more about the construction industry, and gain relevant skills, by doing a National Certificate in Building, Construction and Allied Trades (Levels 1 and 2) through the BConstructive programme.

For Year 11 to 13 students, the Gateway programme is a good way to gain industry experience.

These programmes may help you gain an apprenticeship, but do not reduce the amount of time it takes to complete it.

Personal requirements

Bricklayers need to be:

  • accurate
  • motivated, and able to work to strict deadlines 
  • able to work well independently and as part of a team 
  • comfortable working at heights and in confined spaces
  • good communicators.

Useful experience

Useful experience for bricklayers includes:

  • industrial, interior or landscape design
  • construction site labouring
  • any other work in the building construction industry.

Physical requirements

Bricklayers must be fit and healthy, with strong arms and a strong back, as they are often bending and lifting. If they have skin conditions that are affected by concrete mix, they need to be able to manage this. 

Registration

Some building work must be carried out or overseen by a Licensed Building Practitioner. To get a licence, you have to prove your experience and/or have appropriate qualifications.

Find out more about training

Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO)
0800 22486 - info@bcito.org.nz - www.bcito.org.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Chances of getting a job as a bricklayer are good due to:

  • a construction boom that is predicted to extend until at least the end of 2021, meaning more building work
  • the extra 22,000 houses that are needed over the next 10 years in Auckland
  • the post-earthquake rebuild of Christchurch.

Bricklayer appears on Immigration New Zealand's construction and infrastructure skill shortage list and Immigration New Zealand's immediate skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled bricklayers from overseas to work in New Zealand.

However, like many building jobs, this role can be affected by economic conditions. A downturn in the economy can lower demand for bricklayers.

Many bricklayers run their own business

More than half (60%) of bricklayers are self-employed. Most of the remaining 40% work for building subcontractors.

Sources

  • BRANZ and Pacifecon, 'National Construction Pipeline Report 4', July 2016, (www.branz.co.nz).
  • Immigration New Zealand, 'Construction and Infrastructure Skill Shortage List', 17 December 2018, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
  • Immigration New Zealand, 'Immediate Skill Shortage List', 25 June 2018, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
  • McClintock, J, operations manager, Certified Builders Association, Careers New Zealand interview, June 2016.
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Bricklayers may progress to running their own business.

Some bricklayers specialise in paving and resurfacing outside areas with bricks, tiles, concrete or cobblestones.

An apprentice using a spirit level while building a block wall

Bricklayers may work with brick or concrete blocks

Last updated 1 April 2019