Rebar workers are responsible for setting bars that reinforce concrete forms, known as rebar. They work from blueprints that detail the size, location, and amount of rebar to be installed. They hold the bars together with fastening wire secured with pliers. They often work to reinforce floors, placing spacers under the rebar to hold the bars off the deck. Most of the materials they use arrive on the job site already cut and ready for construction. However, sometimes they are required to cut these bars with metal shears or acetylene torches. They sometimes bend the rebar to shape and weld it with arc-welding tools.
Rebar workers work with welded wire fabric to reinforce some types of concrete. For this type of work, they use hooked rods to cut and fit the strips of fabric. They then position the fabric on the concrete while a concrete crew places the concrete. Another form of rebar work is called posttensioning in which rebar workers use cables to reinforce rebar. The ends of cables are left exposed and these ends are attached to jacking equipment and tightened. This allows for supports to be placed further apart, resulting in the option of larger open areas in buildings. Posttensioning is used often for parking garages and sports arenas.
Rebar work is an intensely physical occupation and those considering entering it should have a strong physical constitution. They sometimes work at great heights which requires them to have good eyesight, balance, depth perception, and agility. They also should not suffer from dizziness or have a fear of heights.
In 2002, rebar workers earned a median hourly wage of $17.66. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $10.07, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $31.40. Median hourly wages in foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors were $18.46.
Training and Education
Most rebar workers gain their skills through 3- or 4-year apprenticeship programs. These programs are comprehensive and include classroom training as well as on-the-job training. The programs are run by a mixture of local union representatives and local chapters of contractors’ associations. In order to qualify for apprenticeships, workers must be at least 18 years old and a high school diploma is usually required. Those who have completed high school courses in mathematics, mechanical drawing, and shop are typically given priority. Classroom training covers blueprint reading; mathematics relating to layout; structural engineering; ornamental erection; and assembly.
Apprentices learn how to safely handle tools, unload and store materials, rig materials to be moved by crane, and weld. A few learn their skills informally on the job and do not receive classroom training. They learn by assisting other experienced workers and gradually take on more responsibility. With experience, workers can be promoted to supervisory positions or open their own business. Visit this page about trade schools for more information on related careers.
In 2002, rebar workers held about 107,000 jobs. 4 out of 5 worked in the construction industry.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of rebar workers is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Industrial and commercial construction will experience continued growth, which in turn will create demand for these workers. Job prospects may fluctuate on a yearly basis because the industry is very sensitive to changes in the overall economy. During times of economic downturn, the occupation may experience high rates of unemployment. Job openings are usually best in spring and summer.