Words: Cassandra Stern
“Lost time is never found again.” – Benjamin Franklin
Even one of the world’s oldest professions can benefit from some technological innovation from time to time! For example, while masonry has historically been one of the most tried-and-true building construction methods, recent developments in construction industry technology have already proven to help masons work faster, more efficiently, and with more precise results.
Construction industry professionals like masons know that work can sometimes get slowed down by inefficient processes, delayed communication, and even miscalculations or errors. At the same time, dirt, dust, and debris can cloud visibility, making level readings difficult and accuracy more tenuous- and worse, high wind or bright sunshine can obscure to make delicate work even more challenging.
In this day and age, touch-free tools, smartphone apps, and machinery with digital integration like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth are the wave of the future. They can allow masons the ability to perform highly skilled work with unprecedented levels of accuracy and efficiency. This article explores different tools and tech that will leave a considerable impact on work performance and the project’s bottom line. Mason contractors who have issues overestimating projects or struggle to receive updated building plans on time may find these options of particular interest. While this list is by no means comprehensive, it certainly highlights the wide variety of innovative technology available to contemporary mason contractor professionals.
#1 Klein Tools – Dual-Laser Infrared Thermometer, 20:1
Mixing chemicals or products on the jobsite that require temperature monitoring? Unsure if your mortar has fallen victim to the elements? Options like the Klein Tools Dual-Laser Infrared Thermometer eliminate the need for unnecessary exposure or close contact with these types of potentially caustic construction materials, and this version features greater accuracy than previous models. With one simple click, this tool can accurately gauge surface temperature between -40 to 1200-Degree Fahrenheit (-40 to 650-Degree Celsius) with an optical range of 20:1. For even greater control, the Dual-Laser Infrared Thermometer also offers user-controlled limits and alerts that can be set to activate in the event the temperature exceeds or fails to fall within the targeted range. Available at a wide range of popular retailers, including Home Depot, check it out here.
#2 EXTECH Mini Thermo-Anemometer with Humidity
Those who need more than just temperature monitoring out of their thermometer, particularly masons working in warmer, wetter climates, can benefit significantly from adding a device like the EXTECH Mini Thermo-Anemometer with Humidity to their toolkit. Waterproof and with an easy-to-read LCD screen, this tool simultaneously measures air velocity, temperature, and wind chill. In addition, users can control the averaging function with three different, measurable intervals, and the foldable protective housing ensures this rugged, high-tech device will work as hard as you do. The EXTECH Mini Thermo-Anemometer with Humidity is tripod mountable for touch-free use and can assist even the most experienced mason in accurately monitoring real-time weather conditions that may affect productivity. Available here for $178.98 plus tax and shipping.
#3 Nautiz X2 Rugged Mobile Device by Handheld
Even the most advanced apps are useless without a reliable device to access them with – and the recent advent of rugged handheld phones and tablets like the Nautiz X2 by Handheld is changing the construction industry’s landscape one by one. The second-generation rugged mobile device Nautiz features more powerful processing power and a more extended battery than the first. Still, like its predecessor, it can be used as an all-in-one mobile scanner, time tracker, level, weather advisory, and more.
It also features built-in protection from dust, water, high altitudes, extreme temperature, and even intense humidity, making it an excellent option for masons working in various environments and climates. Finally, the Nautiz X2 runs an Android platform, making it easy to download the apps and tools needed to make the workday flow more smoothly. Masons equipped with this device will confidently measure, calculate, enter time tracking, and communicate with jobsite foreman more quickly and efficiently with tech like this. For more information and a price quote, visit here.
#4 Ruggtek RTA 380 Rugged Tablet – SESITEK
Sometimes a mobile device, though powerful, simply doesn’t have the physical ability to stand up to the intense physical demands on the jobsite. For example, perhaps the screen is too small to display readable plans and measurements easily, or your jobsite is remote and requires extended battery life for all digital devices to survive the rigorous workday. There are various available options like the Ruggtek RTA 380 Rugged Tablet to simplify the workday and improve productivity.
The device’s 8” touchscreen is built into a durable one-handed design for quick and easy reference on the jobsite, and Android OS is compatible with most major app downloads. According to their website, the device’s “basic version features USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports, a mini HDMI port, a MicroSD slot to expand memory, and two cameras, dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and 4G LTE communication (data & voice),” which are a lot of features for a compact device. Devices like these are perfect for supervisors needing to access updated plans, check timeclock software, or prepare schedules and project estimates. For more information or to obtain a quote, visit here.
#5 Building Calculator
Every mason will want to download this app for work projects, tasks at home, and everything in-between. While Building Calculator was not explicitly designed for masons, it is packed full of options that are especially helpful for those working with brick and mortar. According to the app’s download page, its features include:
- Foundation calculator – calculate concrete volume, weight, and soil load
- Concrete value for foundation plate calculation – calculate concrete volume and load area by foundation and material cost.
- Concrete value for strip foundation calculation – calculate concrete volume and load area for foundation and material cost.
- Reinforcement steel calculator
Perhaps the most exciting features for masons are the brick calculator, which can calculate the number of bricks needed for walls by dimension, including the “amount of bricks for building different size walls, a number of brick lanes upright and load for foundation,” as well as the functionality to estimate a rough materials cost. Finally, the app also includes a block calculator, wall block parameters, insulant calculation for walls and foundation, and so much more. As a bonus, Building Calculator is entirely free and available for download for any Android device here.
One of the Digital Age’s most significant impacts has been the consistent increase in connectivity. An instant connection has paved the way for increased efficiencies like the ability to communicate with teams across the country instantly, make real-time adjustments to budgets and plans, and place an expedited order for additional building materials or reserve equipment with just a few clicks. Fieldwire focuses on ease-of-use, instantly connecting foremen, supervisors, project managers, architects, and other team members through a shared platform. Users can share and edit plans, track performance, log issues, create schedules, reports, and forms, share documents and PDFs, and more. It can be accessed through any mobile device, tablet, or PC with an internet connection as a bonus. For mason contractors looking to digitize a paper-driven process finally, an app like Fieldwire is a great place to begin. For more information, visit here.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for a mason contractor looking to incorporate new technology into the daily business flow. While one company may need an intensive, expensive overhaul of their devices and apps, others may embrace a more gradual introduction with cheaper products with a minor initial impact. Whatever the case, research should always be the first step when looking to add new tech to the jobsite. Like a potential customer would on a new construction project, be sure to obtain and compare price quotes, learn more about available options, and work with experienced professionals when onboarding teams to a new system. With all the information you need readily available, it will be much easier to make the right purchasing decision for yourself or your mason contracting company regarding innovative technology for the jobsite.