Eight regional champs have been determined and they are making plans to visit Las Vegas during the upcoming World of Masonry. The winners earned a free trip and entry into the January 24 national finals of the 5th annual SPEC MIX Bricklayer 500 competition, which will determine the world's best bricklayer.

The Bricklayer 500 competition will feature 20 mason/tender teams striving to place as many brick as possible in 60 minutes, while meeting the contest's quality parameters. The participants will compete for approximately $100,000 in cash and prizes.

Prior to the main event, each team's tender will match skills to prove who is the fastest in the “Toughest Tender” contest. They will lay out the masons' competition site with 1000 brick evenly staged, along with 5 mortarboards and stands, water pail, and shovels for tempering the mortar. The tender that sets the site the quickest will earn $2000 for 5 - 10 minutes of very hard work.

Then the masons move to center stage. Each mason will lay a starter wall consisting of two courses of 8-in. x 8-in. x 16-in. CMUs and one course of modular brick. The masons have 60 minutes to build a 26-ft double-wythe wall with a minimum of 500 brick. They must lift their own brick and work the trowels of mortar from the 5 mortarboards and stacks of product. Each bricklayer is responsible for every aspect of the wall's construction, including raising the line and pins, striking joints, and filling voids.

At the conclusion of the competition, the masons are given 5 minutes to rest and then have 5 minutes to tool the working side of the wall. A panel of veteran masons will judge the walls for production (number of brick) and workmanship.

The judges will check for a ¼-in. tolerance for 9 plumb points, ¼-in. tolerance for 3 height points, 20 maximum voids, ¼-in. tolerance for lipped brick, and zero tolerance for brick not laid face shell out. A new rule this year deals with the tolerance for head and bed joint thicknesses. The tolerance comes directly from ACI 530 which states that head joints must be between 1/8 in. and ¾ in., while bed joints must be between ¼ in. and ½ in. The implementation of this new rule will force competitors to maintain work that is in line with what is acceptable quality in the field.

Running concurrently with the “speed” competition is the Craftsmanship Award. This contest requires the masons to lay a minimum of 500 brick with the fewest quality deductions, and pass a visual inspection by the judging panel for workmanship.