Builder Job Description - Skills and Requirements
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What Does a Builder Do?
Builders carry out construction, maintenance, repair, renovation and remodelling work in the residential, commercial, institutional and industrial sectors. They work on houses, flats, schools, hospitals, sports facilities, industrial plant, factories, warehouses, shopping centres, railway stations and airports, and also build infrastructure, such as roads, railway lines, bridges, viaducts, and tunnels.
The work performed by a builder during a standard construction process is as follows:
- First, the building site is staked out, using protective barriers and signs. Then, all the necessary machinery and equipment, such as concrete mixers, cranes and hoists, as well as all building materials, are brought to the site. The ground is prepared and earth moving operations are carried out, using excavators, bulldozer, diggers and loaders
- Next, the construction phase begins. This includes laying the footings and foundation walls or columns, marking out the wall positions, building the perimeter walls, erecting the frame, and installing the beams, joists and girders and the roof covering. The work required may vary depending on the building materials used. For example, it may be necessary to install formwork and rebar for reinforced concrete, or other wooden or metal structural members
- Next,the walls and any other masonry structures are built, following the lines marked out previously. Where bricks are used these are laid one by one, with a layer of mortar placed between the new brick and the previous course. Walls must be built level, plumb and straight in order to ensure stability
- At this stage, the walls may need to be insulated and/or soundproofed, if the design calls for it
- Once the frame has been completed, the builders install the electricity, water and gas connections in conjunction with electricians and plumbers
- Finally, the finishing work is carried out. This includes plastering the walls, fitting windows and doors, laying the floor and painting the surfaces
- Once the work has been finished, the site is cleaned and cleared. This includes dismantling any scaffolding and restoring the land in accordance with the applicable environmental regulations
All of the above work is carried out in accordance with the construction plan prepared by an architect or engineer, under the supervision of the site manager and the construction foremen.
Builders use a wide variety of construction materials. The most common are bricks (fired or unfired), mortar, lime, iron, steel, wood, stone, terracotta, plasterboard (or drywall), prestressed or ordinary reinforced concrete, as well as various types of precast and prefabricated structures.
The principal work tools of a builder are:
- Brick hammer - a hand tool used for breaking and shaping brick and stone
- Trowel - a tool used for leveling, spreading and shaping cement, plaster and mortar
- Plastering trowel - tool used for spreading and smoothing plaster
- Plumb line (or plumb bob or plummet) - used to determine the verticality of a wall or other structure
- Spirit level or laser level - tools used to determine both how level a horizontal surface is and how plumb a vertical surface is.
Builders also use a variety of other tools, such as hammers, shovels, picks, scalpels, taping knives, pliers, saws, drills, measuring tapes, brushes, wheelbarrows and concrete vibrators (used to compact freshly poured concrete).
Builders may be self-employed or else work for a construction firm. The size of the firm - i.e. small, medium or large - is a factor in determining the type of work done by a builder, as well as the types of project they work on.
For example, a self-employed builder or the employee of a small-medium sized firm is likely to have a more versatile role, carrying out a range of tasks, such as smaller-scale brickwork and masonry jobs, flat and apartment remodelling work, roof and balcony repairs, finishing work and sheet metal work. In particular, when carrying out remodelling and renovation work for private clients, it is not uncommon for builders to do everything themselves, e.g. painting and plasterwork, dry lining, tiling etc.
In larger-sized firms, builders may work on much bigger construction projects, such as tower blocks, entire residential districts, industrial facilities, underground railways, roads and tunnels. It is much more common for construction workers on these sorts of projects to specialize in a specific area, for example, steel erection, insulation or soundproofing.
On building sites, construction work is typically carried out in teams, under the supervision of a foreman. Builders therefore need to be able to work well as part of a team and collaborate with the other members of the site team, including other construction workers and labourers, technicians, surveyors, project managers, architects and engineers etc.
Since building is mainly a manual job, builders need to have strength, stamina and good all-round physical fitness. They should also be comfortable working at heights.
The typical workplace of a builder is a building site - noisy, dusty places that are exposed to the wind rain, cold and heat. Builders may be required to work at considerable height on scaffolding or roofs, as well as underground - excavating a tunnel, for example. Given the numerous risks associated with building sites, it is essential that builders carefully follow all relevant safety and accident prevention regulations and wear the correct personal protective equipment (PPE), including hard hats, gloves, protective glasses and safety shoes.
Builder - Duties and Responsibilities
The main duties and responsibilities of a builder include:
- Building residential, commercial and industrial constructions and carry out road works - in stone, brick, reinforced concrete, including pre-cast and prefabricated structures
- Preparation and operation of heavy earth-moving machinery and equipment
- Laying piping and ducting
- Soundproofing and insulation work
- Carrying out finishing work on buildings
- Demolition and excavation work
- Erecting and dismantling scaffolding
Builders are required to carry out all work in accordance with the applicable safety and accident prevention regulations.
How to Become a Builder - Training and Requirements
For aspiring construction workers, nothing beats practical experience and on-the-job training. Starting out as an apprentice, under the supervision of more experienced colleagues, novice builders can acquire all the skills they need to work in construction.
Those wishing to enter the construction industry can also to choose to attend a training course for builders, which are usually held at colleges and other vocational training providers. Course content typically includes construction techniques, reading construction drawings, using tools and operating machinery and equipment, and the properties of building materials.
Another essential element of a builder’s education is learning about health and safety regulations. Building sites pose a wide range of hazards, so those who work there must take all necessary precautions to ensure their safety.
What Skills Are Needed to Work as a Builder?
Builders need the following skills:
- Building site preparation skills
- Ability to operate construction machinery
- Knowledge of building techniques and methods
- Ability to read technical drawings
- Ability to check that work performed is of the required standard
- Manual skills
- Measurement and estimation skills
- Strong, fit and healthy
What's the Career Path of a Builder?
The career prospects of a builder depend largely on their specialist area. After a period as an apprentice or builder’s labourer - which involves assisting a construction site team with their work - a builder may choose to focus on a specific sector, such as steel erection, insulation and cladding, soundproofing, waterproofing or flooring. Alternatively, they may decide to specialize in laying, fitting or installing a specific building material, such as plaster, dry walls, wooden floors or tiles, A further alternative is to become a rope access specialist, and work restoring historic buildings or carrying out repair work on high-rise office blocks.
In terms of career advancement, a builder may progress to the position of foreman - i.e. a supervisor responsible for a group of construction workers - and eventually work their way up the ranks to become a site manager.
Finally, other valid alternatives include working as a self-employed builder and opening up one’s own building firm.
Top Reasons to Work as a Builder
Working as a builder is suited to anybody who enjoys doing practical or manual work in the open air. An added attraction may be that it involves creating something tangible that is destined to last and that will be used by others.
The lack of formal entry requirements means there is relative ease of access to jobs in construction, while building sites and construction firms can be found everywhere, making it relatively easy to find work close to home.
Finally, since builders move wherever the work takes them, the industry offers the opportunity to travel the world.