Tag: masonry


What Are Different Types of Brick Masonry?

Within the mason’s craft there are many service offerings pertaining to the subject of brick work. Each category of work in relationship to brick masonry has its’s own unique, but sometimes similar skill set requirements.

The categories of brick masonry include new build brick construction, restorative brick work, heritage brick work, chimney construction, repair and rebuilding, and brick paver installation.

As a result some brick masons choose to specialize in a few genres of such work, while some will engage and have expertise in all aspects of brick masonry.

For example; new construction house building requires the mason to lay high volumes of bricks daily. As the work involves massive scaffold setups, and having apprentices transport bricks to the scaffold and supply high volumes of mortar to keep the brick layers moving. Mass production is the objective in this type of brick masonry.

Restorative brick masonry deals with such work as tuck-pointing deficient areas in existing brick wall structures, rebuilding support columns and brick piers, replacing concrete sills at window and door openings, and steel lintel replacements.

Having the ability to tint mortars to match existing mortar colours, identify, source, and or harvest styles of bricks to create close matching, are skill sets particular to this form of brick masonry.

Dove-tailing on restorative masonry, is dealing with heritage homes and buildings that present their own unique requirements. For example; buildings which hold a heritage designation are typically governed by committees of the Preservation Board. Such boards supply and approve the standards which are required to return a building as closely as possible to it’s original configuration.

As a result; the mason involved with such work must have the ability to work closely with engineers and specifiers to re-create their visions of a final product. Such work presents challenges due to working access, property and public protection, dealing with hidden and unforeseen conditions, structural elements and adaptation when unknown problems present themselves.

The skills required to complete such work must be supplied by masters in the trade, with skilled apprentices providing the support work to carry such project forward to completion.

Brick masters involved in this type of work typically have the experience to replicate complex brick designs, complete corbelling work, and have the ability to deal with elements such as stone work in association with such projects.

Chimney repairs and rebuilding is another highly demanded service for brick masonry. Such projects typically involve one to three days at a given site, and so it also reflects a high volume model of delivery.

This specialized work requires an expert understanding of fireplace and chimney function in order that the finished chimney project is able to draw correctly, and is compliant with building code standards for height and  fire compliance, and safety.

Rebuilding a chimney often involves complex setups of scaffold, working on steep roof pitches, and working at considerable heights. The master chimney builder must have the ability to dismantle an old chimney safely and transport the debris to the ground, and then get required materials up to a precarious working area at height.

This work requires considerable experience to replicate the styles of older complex chimney designs, and involves the installation of new flu tiles, and cement caps on top of the chimney; often involving form work in order to pour a new cement cap.

Teams of two (for simple projects) to six masons on larger chimney builds are typically required to complete such work.

Interestingly, in Canada; the most skilled masons are an average of fifty-five years old. Younger generations of people over the past thirty years have been less attracted to this type of trade work. Likely this is due to the fact that the work is physically demanding and one must have the ability to work at considerable heights.

As a result; qualified brick masons are in high demand as majour Canadian and U.S. cities continue to experience a construction boom. Canadians also compete with U.S. wages, where trades people earning even a similar wage , can gain an advantage with the exchange rate of present days.

A less dangerous, but still very physically demanding type of brick masonry ; is landscape masonry work where brick masons that complete ground walkways, patios, pool decks and the like, use paver bricks or stones.

Such work can be dry laid or laid in beds of mortar, and jointed using cement. This genre of brick masonry enjoys great popularity because its finished result is aesthetically pleasing to the consumer, and provides added value as a popular remodelling choice.

Within the realm of brick work for the outdoor living environment, a trend has developed involving transforming outdoor spaces into living environments that include features like outdoor fireplaces, outdoor kitchens, and pizza ovens, as examples.

In all instances, the expert brick mason is the catalyst necessary to provide a superior result, that homeowners feel highly satisfied in making such an investment.

Brick masons working on exterior landscapes must be familiar with concepts of drainage, dealing with frost and settlement considerations, must have the ability and mathematics skills to calculate complex designs and elevations. Having an artistic eye is also key to being able to deliver an exceptional finished result for the client.

AVENUE ROAD MASONRY is fortunate to have two generations of masonry expertise supported by teams of brick masons, technicians and apprentices, who possess some or all of the brick masonry services discussed in this article. As demand continues to increase based on having a solid reputation for quality, and demand due to the aging housing stock in the GTA, there is no shortage of opportunity for young people who would like to learn a noble trade that can provide them with a career for a lifetime.

To learn more about masonry apprenticeship, employment opportunities, or about any type of masonry or related services; visit us at www.avenueroadmasonry.com or view us on Youtube™. AVENUE ROAD MASONRY is an equal opportunity employer whose values include honesty, respect, and value of hard work.


Can Masonry Work Be Done In The Winter?

The answer to this question is both yes and no. Confused? Here is some information to clarify what type of masonry projects can be handled during the cold winter months in Toronto.

One only has to look along the skyline of Toronto, to view all of the tower cranes involved with high rise condominium and office tower development. Residential construction continues to boom in the (905) areas, as demand for low rise housing continues to rise. Indeed, construction goes on year-round in the GTA despite colder winter conditions.

Masonry work such as concrete forming work, installation of block and brick, fireplace and chimney construction, are all services. Masons require to keep up with demand regardless of the fact that four months of the year; Mother Nature can dispatch bitter cold and precipitous weather.

In the context of residential housing maintenance; such jobs as rebuilding chimneys, and tuck-pointing deficient mortar joints on exterior walls and columns are historically left for the warmer months of the year. Most masons will agree that the best results are achieved in warmer weather conditions.

Mortar which has been mixed using anti-freeze (a trick for very cold days); can result in white marks bleeding down the brick when warmer temperatures present themselves. It is also suggested that it can serve to corrode the mortar mix, if too much is used. Ideally mortar should be mixed at temperatures above zero degrees farenheit; with no real consequence if the temperature fluctuates slightly below.

There are techniques such as mixing mortar in smaller batches in a warmer space (like a heated garage). The apprentices then can feed the masons usable batch quantities that will not be subject to freezing temperatures for long. The mason must also consider the results from the perspective of the curing of mortar or concrete.

To handle such concerns; enveloping the work area with heavy tarps, using construction heaters and     (carefully providing for ventilation in the process), allows jobs like pouring concrete garage floors ,and basic brick laying functions to keep moving.

The reality is that when temperatures plummet to a level which is highly uncomfortable to work in; it is foolish to attempt any form of masonry work. Indoor work such as building or remodelling masonry fireplaces can be done provided that there is a warm space to mix mortars and keep materials at an indoor temperature.

When one considers the subject of winter in relation to masonry work. It is prudent to inspect work which has either been completed in colder weather, and to look for damage which can result to existing masonry after the effects of a harsh winter.

Case in point is the fact that many people salt their driveways, and over time, brick work near grade or concrete foundations exposed, can experience corrosion over time. Glazing can weather on the surface of bricks leaving them porous and subject to further moisture infiltration. It is important to check grading near foundations so that winter melt off, does not find its way into cracks near the foundation.

In late winter/ early spring; as long as surfaces to be inspected are exposed, it is an ideal time for homeowners to request inspections and receive written estimates for remedial masonry work. Typically masons have their schedules filled up quickly in today’s construction climate (skilled masons are already in short supply –you may have heard).

This allows the home or building owner to decide, and book their work for the upcoming (and short), warm seasons ahead.

Masonry items that should be inspected include:

  • Brick or stone support columns (such as porch locations)
  • Brick or stone chimneys
  • Brick walls (which may require tuck-pointing work to fix shaled or porous bricks, and void mortar joints)
  • Foundation water-proofing (inspect for cracks between foundations and walkways or driveways)
  • Pouring garage floors (correcting cracks or heaving old floors)
  • Foundation leaks resulting in water ingress to basements ( may require new weeper tile and below grade foundation repairs
  • Heaved concrete or stone walkways (sinking, chips or damage)
  • Concrete sills beneath windows
  • Steps (concrete or stone- sinking, erosion, remodelling)
  • Structural cracks in exterior masonry walls (cracks which look like a stair pattern- often signalling a structural issue)
  • Decorative Masonry- items such as planters, walkways, pizza ovens, outdoor fireplaces, outdoor kitchens etc.)

Other types of masonry work that can be undertaken in winter months can include completing brick or block in-fills in walls or door openings to accommodate the installation of retro-fitted windows, doors and patio sliders. This work usually requires installation of metal lintels or metal beams which are placed above windows and doors to support the weight of upper building structure. The mason completes such work by supporting the beams on adjacent supporting masonry wall structure; and then making good the rough openings with block and or brick.

The advantage again being that a heated space may be available to mix mortar. Such work is often required by the DIY customer tackling their own minor renovations, or the professional renovation contractor completing such work.

Historically, masons viewed the winter months as a time to take a break, work on training apprentices, or teaching their craft in accredited facilities. The demand today however, has resulted in a tremendous shortage of skilled masons in the greater Toronto area, and Canada as a whole.

To learn more about masonry services, or how to become a skilled mason’s apprentice, visit: www.avenueroadmasonry.com