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Construction Laborers and Helpers
Construction laborers and helpers do many basic tasks that require physical labor on construction sites.
Construction laborers and helpers typically do the following:
- Clean and prepare construction sites by removing debris and possible hazards
- Load or unload building materials to be used in construction
- Build or take apart bracing, barricades, forms (molds that determine the shape of concrete), scaffolding, and temporary structures
- Dig trenches, backfill holes, or compact earth to prepare for construction
- Operate or tend equipment and machines used in construction, such as concrete mixers
- Help other craftworkers with their duties
- Follow construction plans and instructions from the people they are working for
Construction laborers and helpers work on almost all construction sites, doing a wide range of tasks from the very easy to the extremely difficult and hazardous. Although many of the tasks they do require some training and experience, most jobs usually require little skill and can be learned quickly.
The following are occupational specialties:
Construction laborers do a variety of construction-related activities during all phases of construction. Although most laborers are generalists—such as those who install barricades, cones, and markers to control traffic patterns—many others specialize. For example, those who operate the machines and equipment that lay concrete or asphalt on roads are more likely to specialize in those areas.
Most construction laborers work in the following areas:
- Building homes and businesses
- Tearing down buildings
- Removing hazardous materials
- Building highways and roads
- Digging tunnels and mine shafts
Construction laborers use a variety of tools and equipment. Some tools are simple, such as brooms and shovels; other equipment is more sophisticated, such as pavement breakers, jackhammers, earth tampers, and surveying equipment.
With special training, laborers may help transport and use explosives or run hydraulic boring machines to dig out tunnels. They may learn to use laser beam equipment to place pipes and use computers to control robotic pipe cutters. They may become certified to remove asbestos, lead, or chemicals.
Helpers assist construction craftworkers, such as electricians and carpenters, with a variety of basic tasks. They may carry tools and materials or help set up equipment. For example, many helpers work with cement masons to move and set forms. Many other helpers assist with taking apart equipment, cleaning up sites, and disposing of waste, as well as helping with any other needs of craftworkers.
Many construction trades have helpers who assist craftworkers. The following are examples of trades that have associated helpers:
- Brickmasons, blockmasons, stonemasons, and tile and marble setters
- Painters, paperhangers, plasterers, and stucco masons
- Pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters
Roofers repair and install the roofs of buildings using a variety of materials, including shingles, asphalt, and metal.
Roofers typically do the following:
- Inspect problem roofs to determine the best way to repair them
- Measure roof to calculate the quantities of materials needed
- Replace damaged or rotting joists or plywood
- Install vapor barriers or layers of insulation
- Install shingles, asphalt, metal, or other materials to make the roof watertight
- Align roofing materials with edges of the roof
- Cut roofing materials to fit angles formed by walls, vents, or intersecting roof surfaces
- Cover exposed nail or screw heads with roofing cement or caulk to prevent leakage
Properly installed roofs keep water from leaking into buildings and damaging the interior, equipment, or furnishings.
There are two basic types of roofs, low-slope and steep-slope:
- Low-slope: About two-thirds of all roofs are low-slope. Most commercial, industrial, and apartment buildings have low-slope roofs. Low-slope roofs rise 4 inches or less per horizontal foot and are installed in layers.
For low-slope roofs, roofers typically use several layers of roofing materials or felt membranes stuck together with hot bitumen (a tar-like substance). They glaze the top layer to make a smooth surface or embed gravel in the hot bitumen to make a rough surface.
An increasing number of low-slope roofs are covered with a single-ply membrane of waterproof rubber or thermoplastic compounds.
- Steep-slope: Most of the remaining roofs are steep-slope. Most single-family houses have steep-slope roofs. Steep-slope roofs rise more than 4 inches per horizontal foot.
For steep-slope roofs, roofers typically use asphalt shingles, which often cost less than other coverings. On steep-slope roofs, some roofers also install tile, solar shingles, fiberglass shingles, metal shingles, or shakes (rough wooden shingles).
To apply shingles, roofers first lay, cut, and tack 3-foot strips of roofing over the entire roof. Then, starting from the bottom edge, they nail overlapping rows of shingles to the roof.
A small but increasing number of buildings now have “green” roofs that incorporate landscape roofing systems. A landscape roofing system typically begins with a single or multiple waterproof layers. After that layer is proven to be leak free, roofers put a root barrier over it, and, finally, layers of soil, in which vegetation is planted. Roofers must ensure that the roof is watertight and can endure the weight and water needs of the plants.