All posts by Simon

Stronger together: building with overseas labour

Here at Quality Masonry, we reckon if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly. That’s why we bring together a great bunch of block layers and foremen who are awesome at what they do. They’re a diverse bunch too, with many of our best having come from overseas and found a place with us, working hard and delivering great results.

Overseas labour can be a real boon. Especially when cities like Auckland are expanding up and out at a faster and faster rate, overseas workers can fill the gap left by a shortage of skilled local workers. While that means it’s a great time for Kiwis to upskill, there’s also an opportunity to invest in overseas professionals who are committed to working well in New Zealand.

It’s never been easier for skilled workers to move here for employment. There’s a huge pool of labourers who applied for work visas – over 12,500 labourers’ work visas were approved in 2018 alone! That means a great chance of finding enthusiastic and talented people to invest in from anywhere in the world.

Take Raff, one of our valued foremen and all-around good bloke who learned block laying in his hometown in central Afghanistan, and who’s an out-and-out asset to our team. (We chatted about him in a previous blog.) We’ve also recently brought in three staffers from the Philippines – Ervin, Jimmy, and Rico. Not only are they awesome to have on board, they are helping us maintain our high standard for work in block laying around Auckland.

Working on site wouldn’t be the same without these good sorts at part of our team – not only are they great at what they do, but they also offer fresh perspectives on the world. We get a fantastic opportunity to share our Kiwi culture and learn about how others in the world live. 

It’s not just perspective. Our overseas workers give us a real edge – since every project is different, having fresh ideas on site can make a real difference. Our overseas workers often bring in solutions to everyday problems that we might not have thought of, and when that new perspective meets the Building Code, we can work some real magic.

Since our local senior guys know the regulations and Building Code best, we tend to have them in charge of projects – they can keep an eye on everything and maintain our high Quality Masonry standards while our newer team members learn the best practices. It’s a great learning opportunity, and a chance for our newest labourers to develop the skills and advance regardless of where they’re from, under the supervision of our senior guys. 

We’re pretty proud of our guys – they’re hard working and knowledgeable, and they care about what they do. Ultimately that means we’ve got teams on site who work well together, and can continue to deliver projects on time and on budget every time.

Getting it right the first time: Meet our foreman, Raff

When it comes to a strong block-laying team, having great foremen on board makes all the difference.  That’s why we’re proud to have Raff as part of our team, working hard to help us deliver quality results.

Raff brings with him a lifetime of experience. “My older brother was a brick layer,” he says. “When I was young, I jumped in with him, for fun. I was interested in what he was doing and how he was doing it.”

It was the start of something great. Raff was bitten by the block laying bug, and has been in the construction industry ever since.

In 2017, Raff was looking to start his block laying apprenticeship and found his home with Phil McKay at Quality Masonry.

“I wanted to find the right company and the right people to work with,” says Raff. “Phil’s performance, his quality is the best. He’s a good leader. Everything he does, it’s the right thing. As soon as I joined Phil at Quality Masonry, I knew I was in the right place.”

We reckon Raff is in the right place too. He’s a real asset to our team, since quality is at the foundation of his work. He’s always looking at the project as a whole, and looking forward to make sure his work lasts a lifetime. “Whenever I’m on site, I’m thinking – if this wall is going up, it’s going to be here for ages. The water can’t get through; the steel can’t rust. We have to do it the right way, to a high standard.”

“It’s about building something that lasts a hundred years – or more,” he says.

Getting it right the first time is what drives Raff, and his growing skills as an apprentice and as a foreman. And if he’s ever in doubt, he turns to Phil’s expertise. “All the time, I’m thinking about the work – is it right, or is it wrong? I’ll turn to Phil, and he’ll take the time to explain the reasons why things are done the way they are. Phil’s good like that. He’ll take your hand and lift you up.”

It’s this kind of leadership that inspires Raff, who steps up to the plate if Phil’s ever off site and makes sure the team are working hard to ensure Quality Masonry keeps its reputation as the best block layers in the industry.

 Raff’s keen to lead by example and show the younger apprentices the proper way and the safest way to work, to make sure that each job is hassle-free. “That way, when the end of the day comes, we go home safe and happy,” he says. “We laugh, we all enjoy ourselves. It’s hard work, but we enjoy it.”

And when’s he’s not enjoying working outdoors and the team, Raff’s out exploring Auckland with his young family.

“We have a son, so our weekends are out at the mall or the park. He loves playing soccer. He’s three and a half years old, so when he’s not in daycare he’s practically a full-time job!”

Getting the foundations right: A Kalmar project

For businesses like Kalmar, a good reputation in the construction industry is built one block at a time. One of their newest projects, SKHY Precinct – an apartment block on Khyber Pass Rd in Auckland – needed reliable subbies to deliver quality workmanship and results. That’s how they knew the team at Quality Masonry would be the right choice for their block laying needs.

Getting it right

Aaron Goddard, Site Manager for Kalmar, says the right tradies make all the difference in a construction project. With directors personally committed to the success of each project, Aaron needed subbies on site with a plan of action and good heads on their shoulders to ensure a high standard would be maintained.

“In today’s market of too much work and not enough labour, we are finding there are a lot of quality issues,” says Aaron. “The biggest challenges are people showing up to work and not having done any work prior, or having me show up every five minutes to make sure their work is right.”

Just as well the quantity surveyor for this project has a good relationship with Phil McKay and knew that our team had the block laying skills and experience to work with Aaron to deliver the right results.

Real strength

Aaron’s task for Quality Masonry included a couple of retaining walls, a block lift from ground to level five, and a couple of blocks through the stairwell of the new apartment building. 

“Design- and build-wise, thankfully it was a straightforward project,” says Aaron.

With a solid opportunity like this, we worked hard to prove our worth over and over.

“They’d come and do a floor in a day – come for one day, get a floor poured, come back 10 days later… Everything was done in time that we wanted.”

But it’s not just about reliable workmanship. One of the biggest benefits of choosing Quality Masonry is the right attitude towards getting a project done. With a focus on the bigger picture, our team pride ourselves on knowing how to work with site managers like Aaron and his team to ensure we’re always on track.

“I need people who show up pre-planned, know what they’re doing, and highlight and solve issues,” he said. “Sometimes Quality Masonry would show up and things weren’t yet ready. They’d work in with us to get it done. They’d help for the final cause, not just have a moan and bugger off.”

Results, as promised

“We need people who can show up with a good plan, know what they’re doing, and come to me with any major issues,” shares Aaron about why initiative and responsibility are so important on a job site.

The outcome of choosing to work with Quality Masonry? Results, as promised. “The end results were good: what we expected and what we paid for. Everything we wanted was done in time.”

Choosing Quality Masonry for Kalmar’s latest project meant a hassle-free block laying component from a switched-on team.

“The guys on site were good – they worked well together. Phil was very accommodating and we worked together to mitigate any issues of programming and delay and get things done on time.”

With Quality Masonry’s work done, Kalmar’s apartment block is on track for completion in July 2019. We can’t wait to see the final product.

How Quality Masonry combats common block laying issues

As the foundation for all construction jobs, it’s really important that your block laying is done right from the get go. After 19 years in the business, we know what the most common block laying issues are – and how to overcome them to get the job done. Discover how below.

Bad footings

The footings of a building distribute the weight of the foundation walls and the building itself. We can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure the footings are solid and completely flat from the start before any block laying commences. If it’s not flat before we begin, that imperfection will creep up through the whole wall. Some people think you can just build up or jam down to make the wall level, but if there’s a hump or something uneven in the footings then the whole wall won’t be level.

If the footings aren’t right, our skilled team are equipped to start correcting them before the block laying starts. At every site we have experienced foreman assessing the job to pick up on any block laying issues and make sure they are corrected to prevent further errors (although obviously the more accurate the footings are from the beginning, the better!).

Project delays

I can’t even count the number of times a new project supervisor has underestimated how long a job will take. They’ll often think that earlier parts of the project will be completed quicker than they end up taking and ultimately the block laying stage will be delayed. Delays are often hard to predict – whether contractors are unable to deliver on time or there are a few days of bad weather in a row, delays can come down to a whole lot of different factors.

Obviously the more notice we get about any potential delays, the better. But Quality Masonry has two foremen, plus Phil and a sizeable team, which means we can be pretty flexible if we need to be. If there is a delay, we can always move those team members assigned to the job onto other active projects, and then move them back when the job is ready to start.

Changing briefs

The brief is where all details and specifics are put to paper to outline what the job requires. Knowing what’s needed up front is essential so that the quote remains the same, and we know we can deliver in time. Discussing changes to the brief or any adjustments with Phil is really important to keep everyone on the same page and avoid any block laying issues. We aim to keep the doors of communication wide open so we can stay on top of things.

Lack of apprentices and workers in NZ

Despite the fact that there’s plenty of work available, it’s surprisingly challenging finding Kiwis that want to do the job, experienced or not. Block laying in a city like Auckland can be a lucrative work opportunity and we hope more Kiwis will consider the profession to keep up with all the work that’s out there.

For us, our focus is on reliability and the ability to learn and get better. We’ve done our best to hire a diverse team from across the world who show up each day and know how to work hard. To safeguard each project, we’ve got experienced, qualified foremen on site to make sure everything if up to scratch.

There you have it – some of the common block laying issues and obstacles that you might face in the industry, and the ways Quality Masonry gets around them. For us, the trick is to be flexible and work with what you’ve got. Having the right team working on a job is the best way you can ensure your project runs smoothly and with all the experience behind Quality Masonry, we’re equipped to handle anything you throw our way.

Contact us today for a quote.

Meet Shane: Our Master Foreman

At Quality Masonry, we pride ourselves on having some pretty great guys on the team. One of those is Shane, one of our main foreman. Working tirelessly on the front lines of Quality Masonry, he’s one of the core reasons we always deliver our projects to the highest quality, on time.

He’s been with us for 10 years, starting off as an apprentice and earning all his qualifications in block laying along the way.

Since then, he’s gone on to help build our reputation as the best block layers out there. “It’s great to be with the same company that saw me through getting qualified,” shares Shane about why he’s stuck around so long.

Shane appreciates feeling productive at work. There’s nothing like the satisfaction of finishing a construction job, seeing that it’s complete and thinking, “Ah yes I did that!”

He considers every job an achievement when he’s finished and is proud to work for Quality Masonry.

In his spare time, you can catch him chilling out in the garden, working around the house, and doing a bit of landscaping when he can.

Keen for a new challenge? Join the Quality Masonry team

Do you know any young or strong, able people looking for a great opportunity? We’re on the hunt for new labourers to join the Quality Masonry team – a worthwhile career opportunity for anyone who isn’t afraid of hard work. There aren’t all that many block-laying apprentices in Auckland but there is plenty of work out there.

It’s a physical job but it’s also really rewarding – and the work keeps coming! If anyone you know could suit the block laying profession, please let us know.

Introducing Phil and the Quality Masonry block laying team

Master block layer Phil McKay from Quality Masonry and family

Welcome to our first Quality Masonry blog – over the coming months, we’ll introduce you to our team, highlight common issues with block laying and how to avoid them, and look at key aspects of the industry to ensure you get real value from your block layers.

First up, let me introduce myself – I’m Phil McKay, and I’ve been in the block laying game for decades. After starting out as a youngster doing landscaping, I got sick of digging pretty quickly and branched out into block laying. Not long after, I started Quality Masonry.

These days, I head up a team of six guys who are passionate about doing the job right. If you’ve got a medium to large commercial project, we’re the guys who will make sure your block laying is done correctly from the start, and always on time.

From enquiry to quoting, you can expect a quick response and because we’re more organised than your average block layers, we usually get our block laying finished with time to spare.

The quality of the job comes from treating our staff right, giving them full training, and working alongside them to make sure they’re always doing the best job possible. That’s why so much of our work is built upon referrals from past and present clients.

Outside of work, you’ll usually find me being a taxi driver to my kids (that’s them above), but when I can get away for a bit I’m generally watching a rugby game or off fishing.

If you’re keen to get a quality block laying project underway, enquire here or give us a call on 024 844 331. We’ll make your job easier by getting our job done right the first time.