Diamond Certified Companies are Rated Highest in Quality and Helpful Expertise.

  • Why this rating is the most accurate.
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Diamond certified companies are top rated and guaranteed

Why Trust Diamond Certified Masonry Contractors Rated Highest in Quality?

A mason applies decorative brick to a new home exterior.

You are the customer. If your goal is to choose a masonry company that will deliver high customer satisfaction and quality, you’ll feel confident in choosing a Diamond Certified masonry contractor. Each has been rated Highest in Quality in the most accurate ratings process anywhere. And you’re always backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee. Here’s why the Diamond Certified ratings and certification process will help you find a top-rated mason and is unparalleled in its accuracy, rigor and usefulness:

1) Accuracy: All research is performed by live telephone interviews that verify only real customers are surveyed, so you’ll never be fooled by fake reviews.

2) Statistical Reliability: A large random sample of past customers is surveyed on an ongoing basis so the research results you see truly reflect a Diamond Certified company’s top-rated status.

3) Full Disclosure: By clicking the name of a company above you’ll see the exact rating results in charts and read verbatim survey responses as well as researched articles on each qualified company.

4) Guaranteed: Your purchase is backed up with mediation and the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee, so you can choose with confidence.

Click on the name of a Diamond Certified company above to read ratings results, researched articles and verbatim customer survey responses to help you make an informed decision.

More than 200,000 customers of local companies have been interviewed in live telephone calls, and only companies that score Highest in Quality in customer satisfaction–a 90+ on a 100 scale–as well as pass all of the credential-based ratings earn Diamond Certified. By requiring such a high score to qualify, the Diamond Certified program eliminates mediocre and poorly performing companies. Read detailed information about the ratings and certification process.

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Russell Calhoon is project manager at Paradigm Concrete & Construction, Inc., a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (925) 385-8993 or by email.

Russell Calhoon

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Russell Calhoon: A Firm Foundation

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

ANTIOCH — By the time Russell Calhoon started working for a concrete contractor, he already had a firm foundation in the trades. “I’m a third-generation builder,” he explains. “I grew up in construction and worked for my dad from childhood all the way to adulthood. My dad taught me a lot, both on and off the jobsite. He actually taught apprenticeship classes on roof framing and stair framing at a local college, and I often went with him to those. We eventually became partners in a business that held licenses in foundation work, general construction, plumbing, electrical, solar power and sewer work.”

After his father retired, Russell decided to switch gears and transition from hands-on building to management. “I went to work for some high-end general contractors as an estimator, and from there I progressed to project manager and production manager, which gave me a chance to learn the other side of the business,” he says. “During that time, I also went to construction management school and got my license. Later, while in between jobs, I did some subcontracting work for Paradigm Concrete & Construction. I asked the owners if they knew anyone who needed someone with my skills, and they said they did. Ten years later, I’m still here.”

Today, as project manager at Paradigm Concrete & Construction, Inc., Russell says his diverse professional experience continues to benefit him in his day-to-day work. “Having a background in all aspects of construction is really helpful because it enables me to look at each project as a whole. This allows me to properly prepare for each individual phase and prevent problems for subsequent subcontractors on the job.”

A resident of Martinez (where he lives with his partner, Lanakila), Russell spends his time outside of work on a variety of active pastimes. “My main activity outside of work is bocce ball,” he details. “I belong to the Martinez Bocce Federation and I’m a two-time national champion—I won titles in 1996 and 2003. I also enjoy sailing, which I’ve been doing all my life. I got my sailing license when I was nine years old.” Additionally, Russell enjoys going to the movies and spending time with his two adult sons, Alex and Ryan.

In regard to his professional career, Russell espouses the importance of fairness. “I believe a contractor deserves to make money and their client deserves a quality job for a fair price,” he explains. “As a contractor, if you aren’t being fair with your clients, you aren’t going to last in this business. It’s all about maintaining that balance of mutual benefit.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?

A: The Warehouse Cafe in Port Costa. They have awesome prime rib.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?

A: Hang out with Lanakila and watch a movie or play cards.

Q: If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?

A: Neither—I like being in the moment.

Q: Do you collect anything?

A: I collect Mexican folk art.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

A: Tahiti. My father planned to sail there with me when I was a kid and we never did, but I’m still planning to get there someday.

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Often-Overlooked Aspects of a Concrete Project


ANTIOCH — If you’re planning a concrete project, be sure to consider the following aspects: Minimum cost Most concrete contractors have a minimum charge for concrete work. If you only have one small project in mind, it might not meet that minimum… Read more

Expert Video Tip

Video: Concrete Cleaning Caveat

Complete Video Transcription:

ANTIOCH — Sarah Rutan: When cleaning recently poured concrete, you’ll need to exercise caution to avoid causing accidental damage. Today we’re in Antioch with Diamond Certified Expert Contributor… Read more




ARDEX Concrete
Dewalt Wet Saws
Makita Masonry Saws
Crown Mortar Mixers
TEC Masonry Products
Mer-Krete Mortar
ORCO Masonry Grout
Quik Flex Fast Setting Mortar
Laticrete Mortar
Quikrete Masonry Products
Bosch Concrete & Masonry Surface Grinders
1Flex Isolight Crack Isolation Mortar
AccuColor Epoxy Mortar & Grout
Sakrete Mortar Mix
Arriscraft Brick & Stone

concrete masonry unit (CMU) laying
stonework services
concrete finishing
home masonry services
commercial masonry work
concrete masonry
masonry cleaning
masonry supplies & tools
masonry restoration
masonry stonework
brick laying
masonry & stucco application
masonry repairs
brick & masonry work
chimney masonry work & repair

Bay Point
Bethel Island
Discovery Bay
El Cerrito
El Sobrante
Hilltop Mall
Los Medanos
North Richmond
Pleasant Hill
Point Richmond
Port Chicago
Port Costa
Rheem Valley
San Pablo
San Ramon
Tara Hills
Vine Hill
Walnut Creek
Walnut Heights
West Pittsburg


Concrete Masonry Association of California and Nevada (CMACN) (cmacn.org/)
Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI) (www.icpi.org/)
International Masonry Institute (IMI) (www.imiweb.org/)
Masonry Advisory Council (MAC) (www.maconline.org/)

Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) (www.masoncontractors.org/)
National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA) (www.ncma.org/)
State Contractors License Board (CSLB) (www.cslb.ca.gov
The Brick Industry Association (www.gobrick.com/default.aspx)
The Masonry Society (www.masonrysociety.org/)

Know What You Want
When You Look for a Mason in Contra Costa County, Ask Yourself

When you are thinking of hiring a mason in Contra Costa County, whether you are in Walnut Creek, Concord, Pittsburg, Richmond, or Antioch, you want to know what you are looking for first. You might find it helpful to draw up a list of questions so that you know precisely what you want before you go out and ask masonry companies for estimates and the like.

  • Do I want a Diamond Certified masonry company in Contra Costa County that is rated best in quality and backed by the Diamond Certified Guarantee?
  • Am I looking for a good mason to repair an existing structure? Do I care about matching existing stones, bricks, or grout?
  • Am I replacing an existing piece of masonry or installing something new?
  • If I am installing new masonry outdoors, what do I know about the space? Does it drain well, does it have a big gradient, is it relatively easy to manipulate?
  • Do I want to design my new feature myself or do I want a mason who will design it for me?
  • What kind of masonry work do I want the masonry company to perform?
  • Is the masonry work part of a larger project and do I need a separate contractor for it?
  • Do I need chimney repairs or to close up an existing chimney?
  • Do I want to replace gravel with stone or interlocking concrete in my driveway?
  • Am I interested in adding a masonry mailbox?
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What To Ask In Person
Asking Your Contra Costa County Masonry Firm Some Questions in Person

You might decide to go to your mason in Contra Costa County, or the mason might come to your home in Richmond, Concord, Pittsburg, Walnut Creek, or Antioch to provide an estimate or examine the job. When you meet in person, you might want to dig a little deeper into your specific project. You might want to ask about materials or design, or other questions that will amplify what you expect for your site. Some questions might include the following:

  • I am looking for a repair can you tell me if you can match the stones of the original and make the repair almost disappear?
  • Do you have any design suggestions for what I want to build?
  • Do you suggest any materials for the project?
  • How long do you think the project will take?
  • How many people do you think will be working on the project?
  • Do you have methods or techniques so that you can keep working in inclement weather?
  • Do you see any issues with the site anything that needs to be cleared, any problems with the soil, drainage, etc., that would prevent me from building what I want to?
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  • What To Ask References
    Questions for Clients of Masonry Contractors in Contra Costa County

    It’s best to choose a Diamond Certified mason because all certified companies have passed an in-depth ratings process that most other companies can’t pass. If you want quality from a mason in Contra Costa County and the greater Bay Area, you can have confidence choosing a Diamond Certified company. Diamond Certified reports are available online for all certified companies. And you’ll never be fooled by fake reviews. That’s because all research is performed in live telephone interviews of actual customers.

    If you can’t find a Diamond Certified mason within reach, you’ll have to do some research on your own. If you do, it’s wise to call some references provided by your mason. Keep in mind, though, that references provided to you by the mason are not equal in value to the large random sample of customers surveyed during the Diamond Certified ratings process. That’s because references given to customers from companies are cherry-picked instead of randomly selected from all their customers. So the contractors will likely give you a few customers to call that they know are satisfied.
    If you do call references on your own, specifically ask for a list of the company’s 10 most recent customers. This will help avoid them giving you the names of only customers they know were satisfied.

    • What materials did you use for your project? Did the mason supply them or did you source separately?
    • Were the people who did the job subcontractors or employees of the masonry firm?
    • Did the masonry firm offer good suggestions for materials and designs?
    • Was the masonry firm able to understand your design sense and execute what you had planned?
    • Were you satisfied with the work the masonry firm performed? Why or why not?
    • What did you have your mason do? Fix a chimney, install a retaining wall, install a pool, add an outdoor kitchen?
    • Did the masonry firm come punctually on workdays and work consistently?
    • Were there delays in the work or problems getting materials?
    • Was your property left clean and tidy after the project was complete?
    • Would you work with this masonry firm again?
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  • Review Your Options
    Finding and Hiring a Good Mason in Contra Costa County

    The Diamond Certified symbol has been awarded to companies that scored Highest in Quality in an accurate ratings process.

    Before deciding on the best mason in Contra Costa County for you, consider the following questions.

    • Can the mason work with your design approach either willing to execute what you have planned or willing to offer design and suggestions?
    • Is the mason willing to show you designs and explain details so that you understand what is being done?
    • Is the mason properly educated and licensed?
    • Is the masonry firm clear in their expectations of you if you have to clear the site first, is that clearly explained to you?
    • Is the mason committed to providing a quality job that will last over time?
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  • How To Work With
    Before you Hire a Masonry Firm in Contra Costa County

    In advance of the decision to hire your Contra Costa County mason, take the usual precautionary steps. Get two or three bids or estimates on the job. Look for masonry firms that deliver estimates in a punctual manner and that are courteous. Look at the firm’s experience, finding out how long the firm has been in business and what kind of masonry apprenticeship and training the employees have.

    Also, look for companies that match your expectations when it comes to the design process. You may want to control the design or you may be open to design suggestions. Either way, you want someone you can talk to so that they can take your aesthetic on board. Look up license information to be sure the mansonry company is currently licensed. You can also check whether there are any pending complaints against them.

    Be sure you have a way to contact the masonry firm a physical address is always a good idea, in addition to phone and email contacts. A physical address is one small guarantee that the Contra Costa County masonry firm you’re considering has a real presence in the community and can be contacted if all other ways fail.

    Once You’ve Found Your Contra Costa County Mason
    Now that you’ve found your Contra Costa County mason, it’s important to communicate well with them. You want them to understand what you need. You are not only repairing or adding a feature to your house, you are doing it with a sense of style. Show the masonry firm the designs or plans you have for your project. Ask to see any plans and designs they develop, and be sure to ask questions when you need to. Ask about materials and when they are expected for delivery. Ask for an estimated completion date along with some milestones that you can check on to be sure the project is on track.

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  • Be a Good Customer
    Making Your Contra Costa County Mason's Job Easier

    You can make your job easier for your Contra Costa County mason by communicating, as mentioned. You should also make your expectations very clear, so that there is no confusion about what you want and when you expect it to be done.

    Be clear about what decisions should be made by you material should not be substituted without your consultation, for example. Make yourself available to answer questions and respond promptly to any that come your way, so that the project can stay on track.

    How Can You Be a Good Masonry Customer?
    It’s the mason’s responsibility put in quality masonry using the best possible installation techniques. But you play a big part in the success of your mason, too. Here are a few simple steps you can take to be a good customer when hiring a Contra Costa County mason.

    • Be clear and upfront with the mason. Let them know what you want from your Masonry, the long-term outcome you’re expecting and specific ways they can satisfy your expectations.
    • Remember, a friendly smile goes a long way!
    • Before you hire a mason in Contra Costa County, restate your expectations and goals, and reiterate to the mason’s representative your understanding of the agreement. Most problems with local masons occur because of a breakdown in communication. By being clear about your expectations and theirs, you can avoid most conflicts.
    • Ask your mason if you should call to check on the progress or if he will call you with updates.
    • Be sure your service representative has a phone number where they can reach you at all times while they’re completing the masonry. The work will move along more smoothly if your mason can reach you for any necessary updates, questions or work authorizations.
    • When your contractor contacts you, return calls promptly to keep the mason on schedule.
    • Pay for the masonry work promptly.

    Why would you want to be a good customer? Masons in Contra Costa County appreciate customers who are straightforward, honest and easy to work with. Your good customer behavior sets the tone from your end and creates an environment conducive to a good relationship. Things may very well go smoother and any problems may be more easily resolved.

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Check The Work
Check Your Contra Costa County Mason's Work Against the Invoice

Your estimate that you request at the beginning of the job often acts as a kind of invoice. You should check that it covers all appropriate charges these may include materials as well as time charges and possibly charges by worker.

Ask for estimates and invoices that detail each charge individually a lump sum charge is less useful to you, since it is not clear what it covers. Check that the materials you paid for have arrived, check that they have been used to build the project as specified.

If you built a working feature, such as an outdoor fireplace or kitchen, test that it works properly before signing off on the job.

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Written Warranties
Ask Your Contra Costa Masonry Firm for Warranties

Ask your Contra Costa County mason for warranties on their services and materials used. Most local masonry firms guarantee satisfaction. There may also be warranties for workmanship. Be sure you get any warranties for your new masonry work in writing.

Ask how to make a claim against a warranty, if it comes to that.

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Top 10 Requests
Top Masonry Services in Contra Costa County

Masons provide a number of services on a number of fronts. These can range from building an entire structure, either residential or commercial, to structures that enhance the home. Patios, pools, retaining walls, driveways, outdoor fireplaces, ponds, are just some of the features that masons can add to your house. Below are some of the common requests.

New Commercial Building Masonry
Masonry buildings tend to last over time, they can be very energy efficient and require little maintenance. Masonry can be effectively used for low-rise commercial buildings and for some high-rise commercial buildings. Look to your mason to demonstrate how materials and techniques meet the building codes for your location.

New Pavement Masonry
New pavements, especially interlocking concrete, are popular for use when pavement

is required in parking lots, on streets, or for other commercial uses. The interlocking concrete is designed to allow water to drain and avoid damaging the surface.

New House Masonry
Masonry can be used for both structural components in building a new house and also in creating a pleasing exterior, with stone and other veneers.

New Driveway Masonry
Consumers have begun using the driveway as a new way to incorporate design into the house. Whether you are repairing a driveway or laying down a new brick, stone, or concrete driveway, a mason can help.

Masonry for Pools
Masonry firms assist in the installation of pools and provide good-looking patios and paths around the pool.

Masonry Fireplaces
Many customers love the look and feel of a fireplace. Masons can repair fireplaces especially brick fireplaces and chimneys indoors. In California, where outdoor fireplaces are popular, masons can design and construct a beautiful outdoor fireplace for you.

Retaining Wall Masonry
If you live on one of the many hillsides of California, or if you simply want to build a terraced effect, you can call on a mason to help build a retaining wall.

Masonry Repairs
Masonry firms repair existing structures, replacing bricks, applying mortar, and cleaning bricks, among other tasks. The best masonry firms pride themselves on matching the color of existing materials, matching bricks where possible and using dyes and tints to match mortar colors.

Masonry Ponds
When you want to install a pond, turn to mason to build a basin and surrounding structure that will stand the test of time.

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Glossary Of Terms
Glossary of Terms Used By Local Masonry Contractors

Your level of interaction with your masonry firm will vary.

You may find yourself deeply involved in working with your mason and needing to know details. Or you may find yourself choosing patterns and colors for use in your house and surroundings.

Either way, you’ll feel more comfortable if you have an understanding of a few of the terms your mason may use. Below, you’ll find some terms that may help you have a better conversation with your mason.

Architect’s association for improving recognition of the value of architects and improving buildings and other structures.

Also known as: American Institute of Architects

Aggregate refers to the particles that are combined with some sort of cementing substance to form grout, mortar, or concrete masonry.

Anchors are usually made of steel or brass and they are used to tie a brick, block, or stone wall to another structure. Without tying, the structure is likely to collapse in the middle.

Also known as: wall ties

anchor bolt
Anchor bolts are used to attached a beam or similar structural support to the top of the wall. The threaded bolt is located in the masonry unit opening.

Someone training in the building trades.

Masonry that bridges an opening and supports the weight of the masonry above it along with its own weight.

backer rod
Used as part of a constant joint design, it is a flexible foam rod that forms two-sided adhesion as required for any sealant joint.

basket weave bond
A pattern achieved by laying bricks at right angles to each other.

A half-size or smaller brick.

Also known as: batt

Occurs when a material or surface has a bend that is not a right angle.

bond stone
A bond stone unites two walls by projecting from the facing wall into a backup wall.

boot rod
A tool that is employed to finish joints.

Also known as: sled runner

A rectangular piece of clay that has been molded into shape and hardened by drying in the sun or firing in a kiln.

brick set
A mechanism used to cut bricks.

Also known as: brick bolster

Using a trowel to put mortar on a masonry unit, such as a brick.

Also known as: spreading mortar

A substance used to seal masonry units and other material, such as cracks around window or doors.

Also known as: caulking

cavity wall
A wall built that consists of two sides of masonry material with a space between them. The masonry elements are tied together.

cell clip
Refers to a piece of brick that has been cut off.

A vertical structure used to provide support.

compressive strength
Refers to the vertical forces that a piece of masonry structure undergoes.

A material used in construction that is hard and strong. It is composed of a cement or mortar matrix and sand, pebbles, slag, broken stone, or gravel.

control joint
A control joint is a kind of expansion joint that is installed to allow shrinking and prevent cracking. The control joint is a vertical joint. Other expansion joints are horizontal.

corrugated wall ties
Strips of galvanized metal an inch wide used to keep walls up.

In an arch that curves, the crown is the highest point.

dead load
Refers to the vertical force that an empty building applies on a wall.

When salts are leached from masonry components, they appear on the surface as a white powder called efflorescence.

Material placed in air spaces or in mortar joints as part of masonry construction. The flashing prevents water from infiltrating. Proper designs allow the water to seep away from the structure.

glazed concrete brick
Mineral, ceramic, or porcelain coatings can be placed on the surface of masonry units to form pleasing colors and patterns.

A type of limestone. The metamorphic rock is made up of dolomite and calcite for the most part. It occurs worldwide.

Refers to adding a coat of mortar to some piece of masonry construction, especially walls. Parging may also refer to the layer of applied mortar.

Refers to a side of a wall in a cavity wall construction. The cavity wall consists of two rows or sides of masonry construction bound together with masonry ties with a gap between the rows or sides. The rows or sides are called wythes.

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Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ for Masonry Contractors

Q: Why choose a Diamond Certified Mason?
A: Diamond Certified helps you choose a mason with confidence by offering a list of top-rated local companies who have passed the country’s most in-depth rating process. Only masons rated Highest in Quality earn the prestigious Diamond Certified award. Most companies can’t pass the ratings. American Ratings Corporation also monitors every Diamond Certified company with ongoing research and ratings. And your purchase is backed by the Diamond Certified Performance Guarantee. So you’ll feel confident choosing a Diamond Certified mason.

Q: Do I always need a mason to do masonry work?
A: There are occasions when the masonry work is part of a larger project. For example, you may hire a landscaping firm to landscape your property. Part of the landscaping includes building a retaining wall using bricks. This wall would normally be built by someone holding a mason’s license. However, since the wall is part of the landscaping project, a person holding a landscaping license is allowed to build the wall.

Q: Why should I choose masonry construction?
A: Structures and buildings made from masonry construction units are safe and long-lasting. They require little maintenance over the long term. When built with a cavity wall, the construction itself offers a fire barrier. Water is also kept out because the protection of a properly built cavity wall diverts water from the inside of the building. Cavity walls offer better energy efficiency than other types of walls.

Q: Is masonry construction safe in California?

A: Modern masonry construction is safe, even in earthquakes. It’s true that unreinforced masonry buildings fare poorly in earthquakes. However, they have been against code since early in the twentieth century. It’s true that it took many, many years for existing buildings to be reinforced to code. However, modern techniques usually employ steel to reinforce masonry construction, and these buildings are safe against earthquakes. Your masonry firm should be able to help you understand how their plans and designs meet code requirements.

Q: Can masonry be repaired?
A: Masonry repairs are very, very common. Chimney repairs are very common, especially in places where brick chimneys still exist. A skilled mason can often match brick color and dye grout so that the repair is less apparent. A typical technique is to make the grout just a shade darker than the existing grout, since the grout will lighten as it dries.

Q: Can masonry be cleaned?
A: It is possible to clean masonry. Some firms specialize in removing old advertising, for example, from the side or front of masonry construction. You do have to be careful, though, since cleaning the masonry often entails spraying with high-powered hoses and chemicals. You should check that the chemicals being used are designed to be used for such cleaning. You should take reasonable precautions so that you, family members, and pets are not around when the chemicals are.

Q: What is interlocking concrete?
A: Interlocking concrete, also called interlocking pavers, refer to blocks that are used to create driveways, pathways, and the like. The blocks are designed so that they allow water to pass through, so that water does not build up on the surface but instead drains into the ground. Interlocking concrete can also be used for commercial and industrial applications – for example, parking lots and roads. Interlocking concrete is fairly simple to install. You need to create a flat base, which might include a weed barrier topped by sand. After making sure the base is compacted, you lay the pavers on top. You also need to install an edging so that the pavers do not move too far out of place. The pavers may have a small amount of movement – for example, if a car drives over them they may flex, but the edging should keep them in place.

The concrete pavers are unlikely to crack, but they can be replaced in part instead of all at once, if something does happen to a section of them. You can choose to seal concrete pavers, but it is not necessary. They come in a wide variety of colors and patterns.

Concrete pavers have a long lifespan, require very little maintenance, and they are better suited to applications where the underlying grade is not flat.

Q: Do masons always need to use mortar?
A: Probably the stereotypical image of the mason is the mortar being slapped on the brick, then the brick being slapped in the wall. In fact, applying mortar correctly so that the building is sound is an important part of the mason’s technique and training.

However, the mason will not always use mortar. In fact, a skillful mason can build one type of retaining wall that uses no mortar at all. In fact, the wall’s strength comes from its mass and the interlocking nature of the masonry construction units employed to build it.

Q: Do I need a permit to have masonry work done?
A: Whether or not you need a permit depends on the type of work you are having done and where you live. You can check with your local planning office. Your mason may be able to help with answering this question based on previous projects completed in your area. Some firms can help with the permitting process, while others expect you to obtain the permit before you call them.

Q: Is masonry work the same as tile work?
A: In fact, the state of California issues two different licenses for masonry and tiling. The masonry license (C29) specifically excludes tiling, while the tile license (C54) is for preparing surfaces and installing ceramic and/or mosaic tile on those surfaces.

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