Mastic Asphalter

The Job and What's Involved

Mastic asphalters lay mastic asphalt on to a range of surfaces and structures to waterproof, protect and strengthen them.

Mastic asphalt (a mix of limestone and bitumen) becomes liquid when heated up, enabling it to be poured and spread, but forms a hard waterproof coating when it cools. It can be modified by manufacturers for different kinds of work by adding polymers and/or colouring pigments. Mastic asphalt is seamless and is used for all sorts of applications where waterproofing and durability are vital. These include:

  • Roofing.
  • Tanking - lining of tanks or underground spaces.
  • Surfaces such as floors, bus stops, railway platforms and petrol forecourts.
  • Structures such as bridges and multi-storey car parks.
  • Riverbank protection, sea defence and the prevention of erosion.
  • The lining of landfill sites.
  • Dams.

Mastic asphalters usually work with contractors. They visit the site of the proposed work to make sure it is suitable for asphalting. After inspecting and measuring the area, they calculate what is needed to do the job, and arrange for the materials and equipment to be delivered to the site. On small jobs, the mastic asphalt is usually supplied in solid block form to be melted on site. On large jobs, mastic asphalt may be supplied at the right temperature by the manufacturer using a 'hot charge' transporter.

Mastic asphalters:

  • Clean and prepare the site.
  • Lay membranes.
  • Fix wooden guide battens.
  • Pour and spread the hot asphalt.
  • Have their work inspected on a regular basis (as asphalt has to be laid to the correct thickness and all joints have to be sealed).

Mastic asphalters use a variety of hand tools for laying, together with mobile boilers, mixers, buckets, LPG cylinders and application units for hot sealants. They often work at heights, in enclosed spaces, and in other specialist environments, and need to be aware of various health and safety factors associated with their work. Once a job is finished, they have to remove and dispose of all waste in an appropriate manner and await a final inspection.

Mastic asphalters usually work from 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. Overtime may sometimes be required on particular projects, including evenings and weekends.

The work is usually outdoors, sometimes in areas that are difficult to access. There is some risk of fumes and accidental burns. The work may be unsuitable for people who suffer from claustrophobia, vertigo or breathing problems.

When working with asphalt, protective clothing such as face masks, overalls, gloves, eye protection and knee pads are worn.

Asphalters are likely to travel quite extensively between different worksites and projects, and may occasionally have to work away from home for periods of time.

Apprentice mastic asphalters may start on around £10,000 a year. Mastic asphalters are paid travelling expenses and overtime. Bonuses may also be paid.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Most of the work is carried out by specialist mastic asphalt contractors. The mastic asphalt industry has a well-established craft trade, with employment opportunities throughout the UK.

Self-employment is common, and asphalters may also work on a labour-only basis for a contractor, with all tools and materials supplied.

A list of approved contractors is available on the Mastic Asphalt Council website at www.masticasphaltcouncil.co.uk. Vacancies may also be advertised in Jobcentre Plus offices, Connexions centres and local newspapers.

Education and Training

There are no specific entry requirements for a career as a mastic asphalter, although GCSE's/S grades in English, maths, and design and technology, or equivalent vocational qualifications, may be helpful.

Vocational qualifications in construction are available in some schools and colleges. They provide an introduction to the construction sector and a foundation for further training. They include:

  • GCSE in Construction and the Built Environment.
  • Scottish Progression Award/Skills for Work Award in Building Crafts.
  • BTEC Introductory or First Diploma or Certificate in Construction.
  • Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced level Construction Awards.

Young people generally enter the mastic asphalt industry as apprentices and may need to take an aptitude test before entry. In England and Wales, there is a three-year Construction Apprenticeship scheme run by ConstructionSkills in association with the Mastic Asphalt Council.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training involves a combination of block-release training at an approved college or training centre, alongside on-the-job experience. This leads to NVQ's/SVQ's Levels 2 and 3 in Mastic Asphalting.

Mastic asphalters working on construction sites need to have a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card. This is used in the construction industry to show that the card holder has been trained in health and safety, and is competent in a particular occupation (usually requiring an appropriate NVQ/SVQ, or the equivalent) or is working towards becoming competent.

The Institute of Roofing offers its own qualifications, as well as help and advice on developing skills within the industry.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Mastic asphalters need to be:

  • Fit and agile.
  • Prepared to work on a project from beginning to end.
  • Able to solve practical problems.
  • Good with their hands, to use measuring, cutting, shaping and fitting tools.
  • Able to work in a team.
  • Keen to observe the strict health and safety rules on site.
  • Able to work in confined areas, dusty conditions and at heights.
  • Able to work quickly to deadlines, but also carefully and accurately.
  • Prepared to work outside, and to travel to different projects.
  • Able to follow written or spoken instructions.

Your Long Term Prospects

There are prospects for promotion to supervisory and managerial roles. With higher-level qualifications it may be possible to become a trainer or instructor.

Mastic asphalters may have to move employers to gain experience in different areas of work, or to obtain promotion.

Many mastic asphalters become self-employed. It may also be possible to find contract work abroad.

Get Further Information

Construction Apprenticeship Scheme Helpline
Tel: 0870 417 7274

ConstructionSkills, Bircham Newton,
King's Lynn, Norfolk PE31 6RH
Tel: 01485 577577
Websites: www.cskills.org
and www.bconstructive.co.uk

ConstructionSkills Certification Scheme (CSCS),
PO Box 114, Bircham Newton,
King's Lynn PE31 6XD
Tel: 0870 417 8777
Website: www.cscs.uk.com

Institute of Roofing,
24 Weymouth Street, London W1G 7BW
Tel: 020 7436 0103
Website: www.instituteofroofing.org.uk

Mastic Asphalt Council,
PO Box 77, Hastings TN35 4WL
Tel: 01424 814400
Website: www.masticasphaltcouncil.co.uk

Scottish Building Apprenticeship
and Training Council (SBATC),
Carron Grange, Carrongrange Avenue,
Stenhousemuir FK5 3BQ
Tel: 01324 555550
Website: www.sbatc.co.uk

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