The difference between bricklayers who run successful businesses and those who can struggle at times can be in the detail of managing jobs. It’s all about productive utilisation of labour, because as we all know, Time is Money.
Some of the more successful bricklayers have said to us that time is the most costly aspect of bricklaying, not the current rate at the time. This is not to say the rates always truly reflect the skills and work necessary to complete the job.
We have gathered tips from a number of bricklayers on how to avoid loss of time on the job by good planning and use of the gang. These tips seem to be simple and common sense but may help some bricklayers save some time
Make sure the job is ready to start. Don’t take the builders word visit the site beforehand on the way home from the current job. Make sure there is access, the bricks have arrived and the job is ready to start. Some jobs are boggy or under water with no access.
Rain. It may be raining where you live but not at the job site. Check local weather forecasts. It is worth going to the job either way and waiting three or four hours until the rain stops or if not, go home. Sometimes some inside work is possible.
Have the right tools and equipment. Make sure you have a full set of tools the job requires. They should be tested and in working order.
Work a full day. Many bricklayers lose time by not starting on time and finishing early. To make an extra batch at the end of the day can get more bricks laid to achieve the daily quota which is worth money.
Counting bricks. The average number of bricks or blocks laid in a day is not what you think. Counting bricks every day is important to work out your average over a week, a month and six months to get a realistic figure. 400 bricks or 150 blocks a day is very hard to achieve. A guide is to achieve 12.5 blocks per man hour to get 100 blocks per day. Brickies are like punters who back horses, they remember the good days but not the bad days, so a good laying rate is hard to consistently achieve.
Understand costs and profit. Keep good records of your costs on each job and know when you are making money or losing money. Each job stands alone and lessons from a good job can help to make money on a bad job.
Batching Mortar. The 6:1:1 mix needs to be consistent. Bucket batching is a good way to get the exact mix and can save money on cement. Some mixes can be too strong and cost money. Mortar supply is essential to keep trowels working. Sometimes rotating mixing and laying can give the whole gang an appreciation of the workload and skills needed with each job.
Teach your apprentice well. Time in teaching an apprentice is valuable. The sooner the apprentice learns all parts of the job the sooner he/she will be productive and make you money. Getting the apprentice on the trowel early in first year is essential to their development and productivity.
Cover the brick packs and laid work to protect them from wet weather.
Take bricks from packs in accordance with the manufacturers’ advice included on the pack to get the right blend.
Clean down work each day using a firm brush.
Sort out any issues with members of the gang or the builder immediately and don’t let issues fester.
We would love to hear from bricklayers who might disagree, agree or add to this list on ways to improve productivity. Tell us what you do.
General Manager – ABBTF