“Identify and Act” on Problems – Builders tell Bricklayers
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Modern Federation home in locally manufactured Red Face clay bricks

In Western Australia we recently interviewed a range of building supervisors from major companies to identify current bricklaying skills gaps that may exist in both the residential and commercial sectors.  The purpose was not only to get closer to the needs of builders in terms of the type of work that exists and the skills required, but also to get feedback on our trade and future trends.

The Survey showed that in the residential construction industry, particularly in Perth, there are bricklaying “skills gaps” most evident in multi-storey construction, homes requiring additional engineering, in the use of a diverse range of clay bricks and in architectural applications.

Ten actions points were identified to assist WA bricklayers improve skills knowledge and minimise problems on site:

  1. Develop process to “identify and act” on problematic product.
  2. Understand manufacturer product range including special shapes.
  3. Measure product per manufacturer’s guidelines to establish correct joint sizes.
  4. Improve tolerances and standards knowledge.
  5. Promote mortar batching best practice to control colour and strength and minimise efflorescence.
  6. Promote brick cleaning information and best practice.
  7. Provide additional technical and engineering information on flashings, damp proofing, wind loading, seismic control, sill detail, control joints, general jointing, weep holes, use of different brick ties, columns, corners, sound proofing and fire resistance, multistorey and commercial construction applications.
  8. Improve plan reading and set out planning and installation.
  9. Develop a specific building supervisor training strategy.
  10. Circulate contact details of support agencies, training providers and manufacturers to bricklayers and supervisors

Site inspectors from Austral Bricks and Midland Brick were interviewed to get their perspective on where the trade could improve in terms of correcting reoccurring problems.  Brick manufacturers and builders were also asked how we could improve the standing of bricklayers in terms of skills capability in line with the AS 3700 and AS 4773 standards.

Whilst it is nationally recognised that Perth based bricklayers have additional skills in terms of double clay brick construction, our bricklaying training rate (the percentage of apprentices to tradesman) is much lower here than in other States.  At least two thirds of WA bricklayers have been self-taught, acquiring skills on site from others.  This training methodology is very hands on and is vital to learning the day to day operations of the trade.  However, without formal training technical and engineering elements are not as well learned.

The cost of rectifying poor brickwork in WA can be in the six figure range annually, replacing product that may have been installed incorrectly, cartage, disposal and trade services to rectify faulty or unacceptable brickwork.

ABBTF welcomes your comment on the survey findings as many bricklayers have a lifetime of experience to offer on the subject.  Additionally we’d like to hear from new bricklayers and supervisors, especially on where you need additional support.

Dean Pearson
ABBTF WA Manager

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