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Construction Trades

Learn how to differentiate the construction trades and what they encompass.
Male construction worker building brick wall with high vis and hard hat on

In this article, you will learn about construction trades. We will discuss six examples to help you to compare what is on offer and give you the confidence to know the different paths available.


Bricklayers, often shortened to ‘brickies’ and also known as masons, are those who lay bricks, stone, and concrete blocks in mortar to create structures such as walls and chimneys. They also undertake repair and restoration works on masonry and can include specialist decorative work and stonemasonry on heritage and historic buildings and structures.

Bricklayers often report a real sense of achievement in their work, as the end product is visible and often lasts a long time.

The role involves the placement of bricks, stone, and blocks and applying mortar to build the structure. It is a hands-on job but also requires accuracy, measurement, and detail as often the brickie will be working from specifications and plans. In some cases, brickies will use machines to cut the masonry, and will make use of spirit levels and string lines to ensure the wall is straight and orderly.

Brickies can work in all sorts of environments, indoors and outdoors, in people’s homes, on large construction sites as well as at height and in some cases below ground. There are three main routes to becoming a bricklayer – through an apprenticeship, college course or work experience by progressing from a labourer with the appropriate onsite training.

Carpentry and Joinery

Carpenters traditionally install wood products in people’s homes and on construction sites. Joiners traditionally manufacture products out of wood. However, based on regional terminology, carpenters are sometimes called joiners and vice versa. Carpentry involves the installation of structures, fittings, and furniture – from door frames to kitchen units to benches, bigger projects such as staircases, partitions, roof, and floor joists, as well as ‘shuttering’ which is used to hold the concrete in place while it sets. Much like a brickie, carpentry also includes the repair and renovation of wooden structures too. Joinery involves the manufacturing of products, including doors, staircases, and furniture.

Carpenters and joiners will often have to create plans or follow detailed instructions and technical drawings, and then measure, cut, shape, fit and finish the different types of wood they are working on. As such, using saws and machines is a daily part of the job. Because of the need to make and follow plans, a good grasp of maths is important. Places of work are varied, from homes and buildings to construction sites, and you may also work in a dedicated workshop. The routes into the trade are through apprenticeships and college training.

Painting and Decorating

Painters and decorators do a role that is self-explanatory: they apply paint, wallpaper, and finishes to the surfaces they work on, both internally and externally to the buildings and structures they are working on. Painters and decorators have to know which finishes (paints, stains, varnishes) to apply to a range of different surfaces and how to apply them. The common tools of the job are brushes, rollers, and spraying equipment as well as the tools required to strip surfaces and prepare them for finishing – such as sandpaper, heat guns, and steam strippers and materials such as filler and primer.

Painters and decorators are required to accurately estimate the amount of wallpaper, paint or finish required and so need attention to detail when measuring. They may also have to mix paints to achieve the correct texture and shade. Painters and decorators will work in a range of environments and a range of buildings and structures, including a height and outside. Common routes into employment include college, an apprenticeship or on-the-job training, or part-time study while working as a painter’s mate or helper.

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