Bricklayers and plasterers are usually the first tradesmen employed on a building project where they are responsible for the building of the inner and outer walls of the building as well as the finishing of these structures. The bricklaying and plastering trade is one of the oldest trades in the building industry and has not changed much since the early days. The walls of the Egyptian tombs constructed 3000 years ago were plastered with a material very similar to that used on the walls of modern buildings. Bricklaying still consists mostly of placing bricks and blocks on top on one another whilst following the three rules of plumb, level and straight.
Bricklayers are skilled journeymen who construct and repair walls, partitions, steps, free standing piers, arches, fireplaces and other structures made of brick, concrete block or masonry materials. They may specialise in one type of masonry material such as firebrick or cinder block work. They first study the blueprints or building plans to check specifications and determine the most accurate layout. Mortar is then mixed and a layer or bed of mortar is spread as a base, after which bricks are positioned by hand to assure a neat, uniform appearance. Excess mortar is cut off. Mortar joints are then finished off so that moisture cannot penetrate.
Bricklayers must have a thorough knowledge of the different types of bricks that are available, also of the correct mortar mixtures and of how to adapt building methods to different weather conditions. They need to know how to weld metal supports for bricks. In addition, they may supervise helpers.
Plastering comprises the artistic and functional covering and finishing of the interior and exterior walls of building according to specifications and design. Plasterers’ work generally entails protecting, strengthening, covering and decorating brickwork and concrete by plastering the surface. They spread sand-cement plaster on the walls and a sand-cement screed on the concrete sub-floors with a trowel. Walls are finished off until smooth, or may even have a brushed or patterned finish. After levelling the concrete floor with the screed, ceramic tiles or other floor finishes are laid. The wall surfaces in kitchens and bathrooms may then be tiled.
The work includes tasks such as the plastering of concrete ceilings and the cutting and fixing of plasterboard ceilings. Plasterers not only apply but also prepare coatings to walls and other surfaces. Some plasterers also do complex decorative and ornamental work, using mouldings or other design accessories.
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