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What Questions Should You Ask Before Hiring a Bricklayer?

Bricklaying is a physically demanding task involving heavy lifting and extended periods of standing, kneeling, and bending. Hence, workers in the industry suffer one of the highest work hazards in the construction industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a total of 650 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses and 13 fatal occupational injuries were recorded amongst brick masons and block masons in 2019. These casualties majorly include cuts, lacerations, bone fractures, and muscle sprains, strains, and tears, as well as falls, slips, and trips.

Therefore, hiring a professional bricklayer is as much a matter of safety as it is ensuring that a proper bricklaying job is done. Professional bricklayers perform their duties in compliance with national construction safety regulations and industry masonry standards. However, not every mason near you that claims to be a professional bricklayer should be considered. To ensure that you hire the best bricklayer nearby for your project, you should ask the following questions.

  1. Are You a Licensed Bricklayer?

    Bricklaying and masonry are often used interchangeably. Regardless of the term used to describe them, thirty-one states require bricklayers to obtain a professional license. The requirements for obtaining a bricklaying license vary from state to state. For example, California requires all bricklayers that wish to work on projects worth more than $500 to obtain a masonry contractor’s license. In Arkansas, bricklayers are issued general contractors’ licenses for projects that are worth more than $2,000, including the cost of labor and materials.

    In Hawaii, bricklayers are exempt from obtaining a contractor’s license if the project is worth less than $1,000 and does not require a building permit. New Mexico requires anyone involved in any construction-related jobs to obtain a state-level license, while Maine does not issue licenses for home construction and repair but requires that all projects worth more than $3,000 must have a written contract. In states like New York, Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky, New Hampshire, and Kansas, contractors’ licenses are typically issued at a local level.

    As such, you should always contact the local consumer protection agency office near you to find out the licensing requirements for bricklayers in your locality before hiring one. You should also verify the authenticity of any license that a bricklayer presents to you. You can do this through the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies’ website.

  2. Are You a Bonded and Insured Bricklayer?

    Hiring a bonded and insured bricklayer is very important. Every occupation has risks and hazards and this is even more pronounced in the construction industry. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the construction industry accounted for one out of every five deaths that occurred in 2019. The construction industry also had a nonfatal occupational injury and illness incidence rate of 2.8 per 100 workers during this period.

    If your bricklayer is not bonded and insured, you stand the chance of not receiving any form of financial compensation if your project is not completed for any reason. You can also be sued if a workplace injury occurs whilst your project is ongoing, or because of it. Do not take for granted asking to see a bricklayer's certificates of bonding and insurance because they live near you. Ensure that the bricklayer’s insurance coverage includes general liability and workers’ compensation plans and that the premiums on these plans are up to date. It is a good idea to find out from your local consumer protection agency whether there are any minimum bonding and insurance requirements for bricklayers in your state or county of residence. You can also contact the organizations that issued the bricklayer’s bonding and insurance certificates to verify their authenticity.

  3. What Kind of Work Are You Specialized In?

    Bricks used for bricklaying can be grouped into various categories. For example, they can be grouped into two based on their use; Facing Bricks and Backing Bricks. Facing bricks are typically used on the exterior of buildings and are required to withstand exposure to unfavorable weather conditions while backing bricks are typically used for structural purposes and are not exposed.

    Bricks can also be grouped according to their raw materials:

    • Burnt Clay Bricks – these have good resistance to moisture, erosion, and insects and are typically used for walls, columns, and foundations. Burnt clay bricks have relatively high compressive strength when compared to other types of bricks
    • Concrete Bricks – these have heat resistance and sound reduction qualities and are typically used for fences, internal brickwork, and facades
    • Sand lime bricks – these bricks generally have a smoother finish that does not usually require plastering. They are typically used for exposed brick walls and pillars, structural walls and foundations, and ornamental purposes
    • Fly Ash Clay Bricks – these bricks are generally lighter than burnt clay and concrete bricks. Fly ash clay bricks tend to expand when they come in contact with moisture, and this can lead to pop-outs. Fly ash bricks can be used for pillars, foundations, structural walls, and jobs that require bricks with high fire resistance
    • Fire/Refractory Bricks – these types of bricks have been specially created to withstand extremely high temperatures. They are commonly used in chimneys, furnaces, outdoor brick barbeques, and pizza ovens

    Finally, bricks can also be grouped according to their shapes. These include:

    • Airbricks: these types of bricks contain large holes that allow air to circulate. They are typically used in cavity walls and suspended floors
    • Brick veneers: these bricks are thinly-shaped and are mostly used for surface cladding
    • Bullnose brick: these types of bricks are molded with round angles
    • Capping bricks: capping bricks are used to cap the tops of freestanding walls
    • Hollow bricks: these bricks typically weight less than other bricks and are generally used in areas where load-bearing is not required like partition walls
    • Paving bricks: these types of bricks contain iron and are used typically used in underfoot paving applications
    • Perforated bricks: these are lightweight bricks that have cylindrical holes drilled in them

    Professional bricklayers are generally capable of working with any type of brick. However, you should never make this assumption. Before you hire a bricklayer near you, find out whether the bricklayer is capable of working with the type of bricks that are needed for your project.

  4. Who Will Do the Work?

    Make sure that you get a definitive answer to this question. The number of workers that are required for a bricklaying project usually depends on the scale of the project. Properly inform your bricklayer on the type of work you want done, and find out how many workers will be needed to perform the job. Make sure that these workers are all licensed per your state of residence’s requirements. Any bricklayer involved in the project should also be bonded and insured. It is also a good idea to find out whether the inclusion of additional workers would affect your bill at the end of the day.

  5. Do You Offer a Warranty?

    A warranty is a legally enforceable assurance that is offered by the provider of a product or service. Always ask any bricklayer that you intend to hire whether you will be offered a warranty after the job has been completed. Professional bricklayers typically offer a type of warranty known as a workmanship warranty. A workmanship warranty usually covers any faults or repairs that may occur during a stipulated period after the bricklaying job has been completed. Note that warranties generally have conditions that must be followed, otherwise they can be voided. If this happens, your bricklayer will no longer be responsible for any faults or defects that occur. As such, after picking your preferred bricklayer from the near me directory, always ask for written warranties with all the warranty’s conditions clearly stated.

  6. Will This Job Require a Permit?

    Professional bricklayers near you generally know the types of permits that will be needed for any project in your city, and this is one of the reasons why you should always hire one. A permit is a government-issued approval that authorizes you to carry out home improvement projects. Permits are generally required for any work that will significantly change the structure of your home. Note that the specific types of projects that require permits depend on your location. For example, the City of Seattle, Washington, does not require permits for minor repairs or alterations that cost less than $6,000. However, if the repair involves work on load-bearing support or if it reduces your home’s light, ventilation, egress, or fire resistance, then you must obtain a permit, regardless of the amount involved. In the City of Garden Grove, California, you will need to obtain a building permit to build a masonry fence that is higher than 36 inches. The City of Chicago, Illinois, requires building permits for any work that removes, changes, or cuts any portion of an exterior wall, interior wall, partition, floor, roof, structural beam, column, or load-bearing support.

    It is always a good idea to contact the local building department office near you to find out whether your project will require a permit before you commence any bricklaying work.

  7. Will You Provide References?

    According to the Federal Trade Commission, before you hire a bricklayer, you should always ask for the names, phone numbers, and addresses of at least three of the bricklayer's previous clients living near you. Requesting for references is a good way to weed out unprofessional bricklayers. You can also find reviews online on bricklayers that you wish to employ through third-party websites like Yelp, Google Review, and Better Business Bureau.

  8. Do You Have a Business License?

    Bricklayers typically own or work for small businesses. The United States Small Business Administration defines a small business as any business that has less than 500 employees. According to this agency, small businesses make up 99.9% of all businesses in the United States. One of the requirements for operating a small business in the United States is licensing.

    Always find out whether a bricklayer is legally allowed to conduct business in your area of residence. You can do this by asking for the bricklayer’s business license and verifying its authenticity with your local Office of the Secretary of State. Note that a business license and a professional license are different documents. A professional license certifies that a bricklayer near you is qualified to perform brickwork, while a business license certifies that the bricklayer is legally authorized to conduct business in a particular area. 

What Are Common Bricklaying Problems?

Some common bricklaying problems and defects are:

  • Improperly mixed mortar
  • Improperly filled bed joints
  • Cracking
  • Shrinkage
  • Displacement and spalling
  • Efflorescence
  • Mold growth
  • Staining
  • Bulging walls
  • Damaged bricks
  • Mortar deterioration

How Much Does Bricklaying Cost?

Bricklayers typically charge an average of $40 - $100 per hour for their services. Bricklaying involves a wide scope of jobs, as such, you can pay as low as $400 or as high as $15,000 for a bricklaying project. This amount is dependent on the type of job that you want done and the amount of materials that will be required for it.

Some common bricklaying cost estimates are:

Cost estimates by type of job per square foot:

Repairing brick mortar
$10 - $20
Installing brick siding
$10 - $30
Removing brick siding
$2 - $6
Repairing brick siding
$3 - $10
Repairing brick steps
$20 - $50
Repairing spalling
$8 - $12
Brick restoration
$50 - $200
Repairing bowing brick walls – $75
$200
Installing an exterior brick wall
$5 - $45
Installing an interior brick wall
$5 - $15
Repairing foundation cracks
$50 - $500
Building a garden brick wall
$25 - $35
Building a brick fence
$15 - $40
Tuckpointing
$5 - $25
Repointing
$3 - $15
Installing brick pavers
$5 - $15

Cost estimates by type of brick:

Clay bricks
$0.50 - $1
Hollow bricks
$0.60 - $0.80
Concrete bricks
$0.50 - $5
Fire bricks
$0.50 - $2
Face bricks
$1 - $1.50
Thin bricks
$0.30 - $2
Antique bricks
$7 - $10

What Are the Factors That Affect the Cost of Bricklaying?

The cost of bricklaying is affected by the type of brickwork that has to be done. Bricklaying involves a wide range of jobs, and bricklayers typically charge per hour. Therefore, jobs that are labor-intensive like building brick walls and fixing foundation cracks will invariably cost more than jobs that do not require a lot of labor. Note that the size and location of the area that has to be worked directly influence the labor-intensity of the job. The type of brick used for the bricklaying also affects the cost of the job. For example, burnt clay bricks and hollow bricks are generally cheaper than fire bricks and antique bricks. It is recommended to hire contractors near you to limit travel, carriage, and other logistic costs associated with labor-intensive works like bricklaying.

What Qualifications Should Bricklayers Have?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are about 60,650 brick masons and block masons currently employed in the United States. Bricklayers typically have a high school diploma or its equivalent. However, some bricklayers also attend technical schools that offer masonry-related programs. Many bricklayers grow their skills through on-the-job training and apprenticeships from more experienced bricklayers. Bricklayers can also obtain professional certifications from organizations like the Mason Contractors Association of America, the Home Builders Institute, and the International Masonry Institute.

Do You Need a Handyman or a Bricklayer?

Hiring a handyman near you instead of a professional bricklayer may seem like the cheaper option, but in reality, it is not. Handymen typically handle minor household repairs and other odd jobs, and they do not have the necessary training or experience to perform brickwork. As such, hiring a handyman will very likely exacerbate the initial problem, thereby costing you more money. However, employing the services of a professional bricklayer to handle any brickwork you have ensures that the job is done properly the first time, saving you time and money. In addition, a professional bricklayer is also usually bonded and insured, thereby insulating you from any expenses related to unforeseen job defaults and on-the-job injuries.

What Are the Common Post Bricklaying Expenses?

The cost of maintaining your brick structure is the most common post-bricklaying expense. This usually involves cleaning and sealing it. Brick cleaning and sealing cost an average of $4 - $8 per square foot. You should find out whether your bricklayer also provides this service, and whether it is included in your warranty.

You may also decide to paint your newly built brick wall to improve its aesthetic appeal. The cost of painting is not typically included in the cost estimate for your bricklaying job, and you may have to hire a separate contractor for this. It is a good idea to ask your bricklayer for recommendations on professional painters. Painting a brick wall will cost you an average of $1.50 - $4.50 per square foot.

Does Homeowner Insurance Cover Bricklaying Expenses?

Homeowner’s insurance is a form of insurance that covers the cost of unexpected losses and damages to your property. According to the Insurance Information Institute, 98.1% of the insurance claims filed in 2018 in the United States were due to property damages caused by fire and lightning damages, wind and hail damages, water damages, and theft. As such, if a previously existing brick structure in your home or on your property is affected by any of these, then your homeowner's insurance policy will probably cover the cost of repairing or replacing it. However, if the damage to your brick structure is due to old age or lack of maintenance, then your insurance company will not cover your bricklaying expenses.

Note that the total amount a homeowner's insurance policy will pay to cover bricklaying expenses depends on the insurance company. As such, you should always have a clear understanding of an insurance policy's terms and conditions before purchasing one.

Can I Use Digital Payment to Pay My Bricklayer?

Yes, you can. There has been an increased use of digital payments to carry out transactions because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to reducing physical contact between people, digital payments also have the advantage of being faster, more transparent, more secure, and more convenient than many other forms of payment. Nevertheless, you should confirm that your bricklayer accepts payments via digital methods before you initiate a digital payment. It is also advisable to collect a receipt of payment from your bricklayer if you conduct any cash transactions.