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Masonry Tip: Chimneys

So many great homes feature chimneys. Winter is coming both fall and winter tend to bring wind, rain, snow, and more across the country. Houses with chimneys will soon be using the beautiful and functional fireplaces to keep homes warm and maybe even roast some marshmallows over the flames during a storm.

No matter how beautiful a fireplace or chimney is, they are often lacking one thing: a crown. The crown of a chimney is much like the roof of a house. It protects the inside of the chimney from damage from rain, snow, and debris. While it’s rare for rain or snow to fall at a perfect angle to fall into the fireplace, it is likely that wind will buffet it onto the wall of the chimney and no one needs that. Such events can cause horrible damage to the structure.

The crown of a chimney can be metal, concrete, or other materials. The problem is not many bricklayers or masons know how to construct one properly, but more people in this profession should take into account the importance of a chimney crown. It should be sloped to guide the water away from the chimney and ideally, a metal flashing pan should be placed below the crown to catch anything the crown did not catch.

If you have a home with a chimney without a crown, act fast! You or the mason you have hired should inspect the top portion of the chimney for any damaged or rotted bricks and rebuild when needed. Do not allow for the crown to touch the clay flue liners and use the proper urethane caulk for the gap between the crown and the liner. Keep the crown extending at least 3 inches beyond the chimney.

Once the crown is in place, it is useful to attach galvanized wire lath to the blocks and reapply stucco. Do not simply add stucco on top of the existing stucco because any cracks already present will just seep into the new surface and you’ll be back at square one, stick with the wire method mentioned earlier.

It is starting to get cold in certain parts of the country, so inspect your chimney now. Ideal temperatures for chimney work is between 40 and 70 degrees, striving for cloud coverage and low wind. This will keep supplies at optimal performance and keep workers comfortable. Read this article for some more detail.

You can learn how to do tasks like this and more by signing up for our online courses for Masonry and Bricklaying certification, for both the apprentice and master levels. Check out our website to learn mor about how you can start your new satisfying career today!

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Brick by Brick! How Bricks Are Making the World Better

Recently, students and geeks alike are teaming up to sell bricks for great causes! For what seems like insane amounts of money for bricks, the donations per brick are helping to create wonderful things.

Thanks to Matthew Inman (from The Oatmeal), people can donate $125 to get a few lines of text (name, message, anything) on a brick which will then be used to help build a museum to honor Nikola Tesla Tesla is probably best known for the Tesla Coil found in many science classrooms but he was also responsible for AC power and transmission. The Tesla Museum will seek to help people learn about his contributions to the world and gain the recognition of his peers such as Edison. Over $2 Million has been raised thus far from crowdfunding and other forms of donation. Outside of this $2 Million, $200,000 has been raised by selling bricks. There are also options to donate more for walls, added text or images on bricks, and more. For those not willing to donate as much, shirts are available online for $15 and $24 donations. The location surrounds Tesla’s original lab and the roof will be replaced using the first batches of brick donations.

$125 seems like a lot of money for a simple brick, but for high quality museums, repairs to the lab, and everything else the Oatmeal crew and others must do to create this museum, it would be worth it to have your name or message standing in a building for decades (if not centuries). Not only will this facility educate people on a fantastic scientist, but it will provide some masons and bricklayers with work for a great cause. If interested, surely our training program could prepare you to start your own crowdsourced project or you could contact The Oatmeal or the Bricks For Nick program at teslasciencecenter.org.

Another great idea involving bricks for great causes involves young students at West Lafayette Jr./Sr. High School. These young people are seeking to help displaced families in Afghanistan by selling bricks donated by Lafayette Masonry for $10. These bricks do not travel to Afghanistan, but they serve as a symbol for what the $10 is giving to the Khaled Hosseini Foundation’s Student Outreach for Shelters program. The money is going straight to the families who need to build their own shelter, allowing better materials and more of them. Buyers are encouraged to decorate the bricks and use them at home for decoration or any other use. All of this was inspired by the book A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. A problem was presented to these students and they felt they had the ability to do what they can to assist families in need overseas.

Much like the Tesla project, it may be entirely possible to offer assistance, materials, bricks, or more to these young students trying to change the world a brick at a time. The article gives contact information for someone in charge of the program and anyone can donate, not just students in the area.

Masonry and bricklaying are wonderful jobs and these structures may last for generations, but it’s important to realize just how much of a difference a few bricks can make—especially once professionally installed.

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Tulsa Tech Masonry Course Builds 9/11 Tribute

Tulsa Tech (Oklahoma) offers a course in masonry as an entry level course, often taken by new college students. Every year a few weeks before the anniversary of the attacks on 9/11 the students build a small memorial. This year the students built an 8 ft by 10 ft wall featuring the numbers 9 and 11 (11 symbolizing the two towers) with American Flag accents. The memorials every year are open to students and faculty and the memorials are constructed and left in the masonry classroom. Every year, visitors become emotional as they remember that tragic day in American History.

A few things make this incredibly interesting. For one, many of these students were very young when the towers fell (and soon, young students will not have been born when this event happened). The instructors are making sure these students never forget what happened and that they respect how difficult it is to construct any building, even a small memorial without proper training. Not only is Tulsa Tech teaching history and respect for those who have fallen, they’re teaching respect for a trade that serves many purposes. Masonry is art; these memorials tend to make visitors cry more than any television memorial or professionally build reminder.

These young students are in an entry-level masonry course. They don’t spend the entire course writing notes, watching videos, and making small models with legos or something. They are thrown straight in there and the results of these memorials year to year are amazing. The students must designate roles and learn the craft quickly enough to produce a product in a matter of weeks, from start to finish.

Last year, the students creased an American flag from colored bricks. In 2012, it featured colored tile, mosaic style centerpiece, and multiple types of stone. 2010 featured two different tributes since there was a day and evening course. One was a tribute to the fire department of New York with a basic brick flag pattern background while the other focused on the actual towers. Both featured black and gold towers. The main thing these memorials have in common is the presence of the 9-11 date and a sense of patriotism.

Masonry is a trade as old as time itself, but the uses for it keep growing. Memorials, businesses, homes, and more can be created from stone, brick, tile, and mortar. These kids prove that passion can move mountains. Their hard work, dedication, and respect of our history makes these a wonderful sight, regardless of their skill level. Some are particularly awe inspiring while others are less physically impressive or detailed but filled with emotion, respect, and remembrance. Never forget.

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Australians Don’t Want to Lay Brick?

                An article posted August 28, 2014 states that Australians aren’t interested in bricklaying and masonry even though the salaries can be as high as $100,000. Unemployment in Australia is at 14%, the highest it’s been in 13 years and the number of apprentices in the field is lower than the past 10 years. Not only is the unemployment rate high, but the need for bricklaying is increasing due to no interest in the jobs.

The theory behind young people avoiding entering the bricklaying and masonry career field is the physical labor of the job. This is odd because the same people not wishing to work in a physically demanding job are going to gyms all the time. They want to pay to get fit (though probably not with a desire to actually be strong) but get paid by sitting around in an office chair even though many of these kids would either love masonry of be really good at it. Carpentry is viewed as profitable and attractive job options because of the boom in the housing industry, but these people don’t realize how important and useful bricklaying is for housing.

Parents are another problem. They are encouraging their children to go into fields which high competitive rates make it nearly impossible to get work in a career which requires a university degree. While higher education isn’t always needed for masonry and bricklaying, having a college degree doesn’t mean masonry is “beneath” someone. Mathematics, physics, and more can be very useful, especially when starting a new bricklaying business. It also allows for working in fresh air, freedom in work hours (especially when owning the business) and even the chance to travel across the world. Starting as a bricklayer can lead to owning a company and getting out of the sun and dirt, but keeping the knowledge and passion for this trade. College dropouts can make up to $100,000 per year when they enter the business roles of masonry.

There is no shame in bricklaying and masonry. On the contrary, it’s a much needed trade which should be admired. If you see a bricklayer, thank them for building such amazing structures and working so hard. It’s a hard job that should not die out. Become a mason or bricklayer through our program and maybe you can help teach Australia a thing or two about having a passion for trade and how profitable such a career choice can be. Not everyone is fit for office jobs or university, but nearly anyone can be a bricklayer—passion is key. Everything else will come in time.

Don’t let America end up like Australia. Pass down this passion to others. People say Americans are lazy, but apparently Australians take lazy to an entirely new level. Read the entire article here.

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Downsides of Being a Bricklayer

Bricklaying and masonry is a fantastic career choice. The pay is good, the work can be very steady, and it’s a trade you can take with you and encourage your friends, loved ones, and children to partake in to keep this art, trade, and skill alive. That is not to say that it won’t take a toll on your personal life or the lives of those around you. Some personal bloggers touch on what it’s like being closely involved in the life of a bricklayer, such as discussed in this blog. Today, we’ll discuss some downsides but also discuss why those are not any worse than other jobs.

  1. Smell of a hard day’s work: Bricklaying is hard work outside in all types of weather and temperature. Regardless of season and time of day, a mason is likely to come home smelling of sweat and dirt. Nothing a good shower can’t fix (with good body wash or soap meant for tough grime, like Axe Snakepeel or just a good relationship with a loofa and a bar of soap).
  2. Laundry troubles: As dirty as a man’s skin and hair may get, imagine the grime on clothing. Regardless of what type of clothing is work, grout, dirt, sand, and mud is likely to get everywhere. The bright side? No uniform to dry clean, the clothes can be cheap (depending on requirements with the company), and denim gets better with a little wear-and-tear.
  3. Bring work home: Any job done relating to construction, landscaping, and the like will involve bringing some work home. A little sand never hurt anyone. Invest in some air-duster to clean out small crevices and a good vacuum. Leaving work shoes outside or in a designated spot inside can reduce the tracked-in-dirt. At least masonry doesn’t lead to oil smudges over everything like with mechanics. Being in positions of power (including self-employed) can lead to bringing home important information on scraps of wood, napkins, and more and is often followed up by work-related calls and emails any day of the year.
  4. Unreliable work hours: With any construction job, contracts can start and end with little or no notice. If bricklayers aren’t in a good union, this can lead to long stints of unemployment. However, with the level of training you receive throughout certification program, it should be easy to find new work even if it’s small side jobs outside of your technical employer.
  5. High risk of injury: Heavy lifting, long hours, and high temperatures can lead to physical damage to the body as well as emotional and stress related problems. However, this can happen with nearly any job. Those in offices sometimes have such high stress it gives them heart conditions or the long hours staring at computers gives even the best CEO migraines and eye problems. Work requires taking risks. This is one instance where having a nest egg for emergencies comes in handy—and high quality health insurance (especially those which pay to help replace wages lost during long stints of inability to work).
  1. The early bird gets the worm—or work: Most workers in contracting and construction fields need to get up incredibly early and may work very late. However, the amount of time needed to shower in the morning is decreased and coming home to a long shower and a peaceful environment will never be as satisfying as it is with a bricklayer.

The article linked earlier mentions fellow bricklayers and trade workers being “loose cannons and generally a bad influence.” There is no rule that bricklayers must all act a certain way. Many are as sweet as can be at all times and live healthy, happy, peaceful lives. Saying they’re all a bad influence or rude and filthy is not true for all members of any given group. It’s likely that when a group of men performing laborious tasks they’ll get a little boisterous, but chances are, they don’t often bring that home. There is nothing wrong with marrying a bricklayer or becoming one. Any woman would be lucky to have a man so dedicated to a wonderful trade.

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How To Prevent Disasters in Masonry

Cracks from age, weather, and more can lead to disaster.

Despite how resilient and sturdy stone and brick can be it still needs to be properly maintained. Unlike wood which can rot easily, stone resists many common damaging effects caused by weather and time. However, if masonry and brick were truly indestructible the Coliseum would be in perfect condition and brick houses would never deteriorate after decades.

Nothing is perfect. Any water entering cracks and crevices can freeze and cause damage. Much like other forms of rock and stone water can erode the building materials over time. Mortar is the perfect place for water to enter due to the slight porous element of the materials. Cracks can form from various types of damage and can worsen over time (especially with added elements such as water or added wind, sand, etc). Weather events like hurricanes, tornadoes, and more can cause trauma through the rapid water damage and movement of heavy objects. Stone and brick may prevent large amounts of damage, but if something hits that structure wrong or if the structural integrity is already compromised there’s no telling how much damage may occur in a bad storm, earthquake, or other disaster.

Chimneys are susceptible to water entrance though when properly built minimal outside elements can enter. Inspections of chimneys and roofs should be conducted regularly to ensure everything is holding together and to check for cracks and imperfections which can lead to larger amounts of damage.

Many things are placed on the outside walls of homes, including siding and stucco. If something can penetrate the outer layer, it can get trapped close to the brick and cause damage discussed above. This applies to any way inside or out in which water may become trapped near stone. Gaps need to always be filled and properly maintained to guarantee the best protection for your structure. Bricks and stone are often the structural integrity of a building and without that, only rubble will remain eventually.

Many people think brick layers and masons only focus on the act of building, but the best ones also know how to spot trouble and fix it. Grout may need to be touched up, bricks may need to be removed and replaced, and cracks may need to be filled. When working with brick or stone it is best to know how to spot and prevent as much damage as possible.

Working with Charlie’s program will help you learn the skills to build strong, safe, and resilient structures. Knowing what it should look like and how to do it can help decide when to change or repair anything. Further research and experience will only help you to become the best mason around—just remember to maintain your work as best as possible and always be aware of the elements.

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BIG NEWS! New Video Available and Financing Available!

                Our newest and probably most impressive video to date is our video entitled “Learn to Lay Brick in 1 Day” for the low price of $99. This is perfect for those wanting to go for a test drive before buying the full Apprentice Mason Course or the Master Mason Course. If you want to do some home repair and home improvement, this video will be very helpful. Building a patio, pathway, or yard-wall will be a breeze with our help. If you already know a lot about home improvement, purchasing this lesson can save money since it means one less job you’d need to hire out for.

Hobbyists, homeowners, landlords, and more can benefit from all of our courses, but our new 1 Day course can help you learn the basics from where you can build stronger skills and gain the confidence to continue on to our other courses. Improve the quality of your home for higher resale value or to make your home, yard, or garden more homey and enjoyable. A beautiful home is a happy home and learning from us will help you make sure the job is done correctly the first time so you don’t have to pay for new work if an incompetent bricklayer does the job wrong. Save money, save time, and ensure the masonry work runs smoothly.

We are now offering financing options for our full courses. Payment plans allow you to pay in parts so you don’t have to break the bank before you can start your new lucrative career in masonry and bricklaying. These courses are a wonderful investment so you can begin earning $25 per hour or more! Anyone with reasonable mental and physical ability can become a bricklayer, and now finances are much less of an issue! We understand that $300 is a lot of money if you’re unemployed or working for minimum wage. As long as you have a computer (Mac or PC) or a DVD player the courses are easy to watch and follow along. Our money back guarantee protects your investments to keep more money in your pocket and ensure your success.

For our financing plan, you pay for each lesson individually. This means you can stop partway through if you don’t have the time or decide this isn’t the field for you (which we highly doubt since the work is great). If you already have some knowledge, you can skip lessons (though certification may not be guaranteed) or buy them a few at a time so as not to feel overwhelmed before you complete the courses. Our certification and money back guarantee do not apply if only some parts of the course are purchased—please consider purchasing the full course if possible.

You can use Paypal if you want, but we also allow debit and credit card payments, just through the Paypal system.

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Some Basic Tools for Masonry

Mortar pans and mortar boards: These allow masons to move, carry, and access mortar with ease. Some of these are a board style, while others resemble more like a bucket. Regardless of the exact make or model, this item is ideal to keep mortar in one place without it getting on other work. Cleanup becomes easier and the job can go by quickly. Many of these pans and boards boast helping masons maintain full motion and ease of carrying or cleanup.

Chisels: These are often used when removing stone, mortar, concrete, and other materials. Hammers are often used for especially difficult material. Beveled chisels are often used for corners since they feature an undercut blade. Chisels with a rectangular cross-section are often used for the tougher jobs. Paring chisels are long and thin, which are useful in places like housing joints and cleanup work. Chisels made of certain materials will cause less damage to brick and concrete, so always do your research to make sure all your tools are the appropriate material for the job at hand.

Pneumatic chisels: These are amazingly useful due to the decrease of manual labor required. Like other pneumatic devices, air is used to pressurize the device and when released, high power is achieved with next to no human strength requirements.

Jointing tools: Jointing concrete is an important step in masonry. This controls the locations of cracks caused by the shrinking during the drying process or temperature fluctuations. Various tools are available to complete this task including: bullhorns, convex brick and barrel jointers, groovers, dowels, etc.

Split Head hammer: Unlike other mallets and hammers, these allow the user to remove the face to replace it with other heads and faces which may be more appropriate for different jobs. Hammers and mallets are most often used in accompaniment with chisels. Many mallets and hammers are made from buffalo rawhide or other non-marring material to decrease damage on other tools or the materials being used. Some non-marring materials also decrease the chances of sparks that often occur when metal strikes metal.

Brick trowels: This is used for leveling, spreading, and shaping various materials used in masonry such as mortar and concrete. The type of trowel most used in masonry has a pointed noise capable of spreading material in a “buttering” fashion. This allows for precise movements and placement of mortar or concrete. Other styles of trowels include: bucket, concrete finishing, corner, gauging, margin, pointing, round, step, tile setter, and tuck pointer.

Fairly recently, many of these tools have featured handles made of leather. This is a vast improvement over wood since wood can expand, crack, and damage easily due to increased and decreased moisture. Leather prevents sweat or water from cleaning from damaging the handle, prolonging the life of the tool. Leather is also more comfortable for the human hand to hold.

 

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Why Modern Buildings Benefit From Masonry

Since the time of the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans man has been using the masonry technique to create beautiful buildings which stand the tests of time. Masonry offers many of the same benefits today as it did throughout history.

Fire resistance: Bricks are usually made of non-combustible materials, decreasing the chances and damage of fires within the structure. Even without regular maintenance, the integrity of the walls will not be compromised by the presence of fire.

Strong: Masonry—be it bricks, concrete, or stone—can bear heavy loads. It has been used for large structures meant to withstand beatings and constant attempts of destruction, like in castles and forts.

Weather resistance and the Environment: Masonry can handle heat, cold, rain, wind, sunlight, and many other weather-related causes of wear-and-tear. Bricks are not indestructible, but they can withstand much more than some other materials. Due to the natural components of masonry, “green built” structures are often made this way, allowing for tax breaks and lower permit fees for homebuilders. No trees are killed and no man-made products are being introduced to the ecosystem.

Low maintenance: Building material like wood, metal, and plastic siding need much more upkeep than masonry. The natural substances stand strong for years to come.

An example of a structure which did not use masonry

Mildew, Rot, Mold, and Bugs: Termites and wood roaches cannot live off of stone and brick. Other pesky house-killers like mold, fungus, and rot have a hard time growing in brick and stone. Allergens like mold and mildew cannot penetrate the masonry built walls so allergy sufferers should highly consider the resistance of masonry. The general air-tight abilities of brick decreases the amount of any pests entering the home, keeping you and your loved ones safe from structural damage from rotting and sickness from pests and spores.

Sound Proofing: Bricks and stone can block out noise, meaning neighbors hear less of your noise and you hear less of theirs. Masonry can absorb sound and reduce sound transmission. This allows homes to be closer together or in areas of high traffic and noise while not sacrificing privacy and home quality.

Insurance and Home Value: Due to the qualities listed above, insurance rates for masonry made buildings are usually very low, with most insurance companies offering up to 15% lower rates for homeowners of stone and brick houses. Similarly, masonry homes often retain much of their value and can be sold for much higher prices due to high quality with low maintenance. Home value is also effected by the variance of colors, textures, finishes, and styles masonry can provide.

Get your Masonry certification today and begin work in a beautiful, timeless, needed art. Help the world preserve this form of building to maintain high standards of quality, beauty, and usefulness.

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Three of the Most Famous Masonry Buildings in History

  1. The Colosseum in Rome, Italy.
    The Colosseum shows how durable masonry is even when left unattended for centuries. Completed over 2,000 years ago in AD 80 it contained 80 arched entrances which allowed 55,000 spectators into the amphitheater. Natural erosion has taken its toll, but the structure is still sound and recognizable, seeing millions of tourists per year and showing off the masonry skills the Romans had.
    The famous gladiator battles were held here for the entertainment of the poor and the wealthy alike. Slaves, prisoners of war, and criminals (usually male, ocassionally female) entered the ring to fight. So many fights would happen in a day that eventually more sand would need to be placed on the floor to soak up the blood.
  2. The Taj Mahal in Agra, India.

Known as one of the wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal was crafted in soft white marble (using an interlocking arabesque concept) and detailed with various precious stones. It was crafted by masons in honor of Mumtaz Mahal in 1623 by the orders of Shah Jahan. The construction took 20,000 workers and 22 years. Mumtaz Mahal’s body rests in the Taj Mahal mausoleum today. Contained in the giant double dome structure is eight chambers representing the eight divisions of the Koran. The marble for the construction were carried from Makrana for 400 km. Bricks were made locally to use on the interior walls. The bricks facing outward are made of the soft white marble.

  1. The Pyramids in Ciaro, Egypt.
    The earliest known examples of stone masonry are found in the pyramids in Egypt. As of 2008, 138 pyramids had been discovered, with estimates of up to 100,000 of workers used to construct each one. No one knows for sure how the structures were built, though there are many theories. Pyramids served as tombs for pharaos, queens, and other nobles. Often times, many servants are buried within to serve the pharaoh in the afterlife.
    The most well-known pyramid is the Great Pyramid of Giza—the largest of the seven wonders of the world. Pyramids once had a cover of casting stone (Tura limestone found across the river), making the outer surface smooth and what is seen today is the core structure. 2.3 million Limestone blocks (likely from nearby quarries) make up the Great Pyramid, with 5.5 million tonnes of limestone, 8,000 tonnes of granite (from Aswan) and half a million tonnes of mortar.

Many works of masonry are still a mystery to modern man. This craft, this art, needs to live on. Masonry stands the test of time over and over again, leaving behind beautiful, mysterious, awe inspiring buildings we need to treasure and learn from.

Get your masonry license today and be a part of history!