Geometry, Physics and Commercial Nous – Ingredients for a Bricklayer

Geometry, Physics and Commerical Nous - Ingredients for a Bricklayer Photo

It’s fair to say that many bricklayers get a bum rap from people who don’t understand the skills and knowledge that go into being a first rate bricklayer.  For generations, bricklayers have variously been accused of being without the skill level required of other trades.  If you’ve spent some time on a building site you have probably heard someone say “Don’t ask me I’m just the dumb brickie?” which is the way some bricklayers side-step an argument.  As we all know, it takes a long time and much repetition, to undo this kind of selfdeprecation.

So, what sort of thinking does it take to be a brickie? About Bricklaying.

In practical terms, when you put it all together a bricklayer has many specialised skills in building a structure – skills certainly recognised and valued by the architectural side of design.

Maths is very important to a bricklayer!  He has to know measurements and how many bricks of the size he is laying go into a square metre of walling. He also needs to work out quantities of sand and cement for every square metre of walling.  Maths also plays a part as he steps out the length of the wall and is critical in working out the height of a wall so that all perp joints and bed joints are even.

Science is important to a bricklayer.  A mortar mix is a great concoction of various materials and chemical reactions.   It’s no simple matter to keep a mixture workable for as long as possible during construction and as hard as possible over the next 7 days, ensuring all the bricks laid have successfully bonded together.

Plan reading is important to the bricklayer.  It is by understanding the drawing of architects and engineers that a bricklayer brings forth into a 3 dimensional product that which has previously just been a concept or idea on paper.  The need to understand these drawings, diagrams and instructions is critical before the work has commenced so that the bricklayer can give the builder a quotation that will win the work.  Complete comprehension is required of plans during construction to ensure the vision of the designer passes from the imagination of the architect to the hands of the bricklayer.

To an architect a bricklayer’s skills are highly specialised and highly important to achieving the final result.

Material Science and Geology are important to a bricklayer.  By understanding the nature of a clay product against a concrete block and their abilities to expand or contract over time, the bricklayer understands where to place critical expansion or controls joint throughout his walls.

Communication is important to a bricklayer either between the gang he is working with, the builder on site or the residential client; as is his ability to be able to coordinate his operations efficiently between other trades such as electricians, plumbers and renderers etc.  A harmonious worksite is one that finishes on time with a result all can be proud of.

Geography is important to a bricklayer with the job location in relation to the ocean.  A house being built close to a bay area or a surf area will determine the different types of mortar he will use as well as the different wire ties he will use and how he will space them.

It almost goes without saying that a fair deal of geometry and physics and good business sense goes into a bricklayer’s day. Try to construct an arch without the basic rudiments? I don’t think so.

John White


One Response to “Geometry, Physics and Commercial Nous – Ingredients for a Bricklayer”

  1. Gerty Gift

    I never knew that geology would be an important thing for a bricklayer to understand. It makes sense, since they would have to take into account how the clay expands and reacts. I’ll definitely appreciate our bricklayer more now that I know all of this.


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