Craft Competitions: Masons Race to Finish Line at Bricklayer 500
The Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 has been held annually at World of Concrete in Las Vegas for the past 14 years. Masons from across the nation who already have won their regional competitions gather before thousands of spectators to build the biggest and best-quality brick-and-mortar walls they can in only one hour.
For the 2016 competition, held on Feb. 3 earlier this year, 22 of the best mason and tender teams squared off in a lot across the street from the Las Vegas Convention Center, with color commentators narrating the action while roaming cameras recorded the action for big screens placed around the arena. Each team has 60 minutes to build as tall as they can a 26-ft, 8-in. double-wythe wall of at least 500 bricks. The contest isn’t about pure speed—24 judges walk around the arena, keeping an eye on the masons and tenders for mistakes and carefully checking the quality of the brick walls during the judging period.
When the dust settled, 22 teams had built some impressive walls, but the trophy went to Scott Tuttle, who, with his tender and brother Brian Tuttle, built a 775-brick wall. Tuttle, a mason with Clearfield, Utah-based Quik Trowel, took home the grand prize, which included a 2016 Ford F250 4x4 Super Duty Truck, a $5,000 check from Spec Mix and a grab bag of new power tools and work wear.
Not to focus too much on speed, the judges also awarded a Top Craftsman award for the wall they deemed as the “most sellable.” Overall third-place winner Darian Douthit of Providence Masonry of Miami, Okla., along with his tender Andy Zepeda, took the Top Craftsman award for his 687-brick wall.
Grinning widely from the cab of his new F-250 after the awards ceremony, Tuttle says he is no stranger to the Spec Mix World’s Best Bricklayer competition. He competed in previous events alongside or even against his brother Brian. Between the two of them, they have qualified to compete in 13 of the previous Spec Mix championship showdowns. Tuttle tells ENR the Tuttle brothers won’t be on the same team next time. “We’re both going in the nationals this year. I got a different tender. Should be interesting,” he says.
ENR: Why did you decide to compete?
Tuttle: My brothers tried it the first year [the competition was held], and I always liked competitions and decided to try the next year. It took me about three years before I could beat my brother in the competition, but once you learn the criteria, the challenge gets softer.
How did you prepare for the competition?
For the regional competitions, you just go in. You don’t practice because you’re too busy working. When you hit the nationals, that’s when you practice.
What was the experience like to meet so many other members of your trade at the competition?
It’s good to get in there and see how the other guys do it and see different techniques from around the country. The [World’s Best Bricklayer] has improved every year. Past champions are coming back, and the quality is a lot better than it was.
What has winning meant for you?
It’s helped out in the business, but, personally, it’s not a big deal. I’ve been keeping pretty busy right now with work.
What’s your opinion of construction as a career?
It’s pretty good, you know. It’s a great thing if you like to work outside and work with your hands.
What’s the most important challenge facing the construction industry today?
Probably getting enough new workers. A lot of young people are going to college, and they aren’t thinking of construction as a career. For us, it’s all about finding the right guys who can do the work.