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How Contestants Are Judged

Please read the following rules carefully prior to competition. Failure to comply with these rules and procedures will result in compromised scores or disqualification.

Purpose of Contest

The MCAA’s Fastest Trowel on the Block contest is a competition of both speed and skilled craftsmanship. This contest promotes quality training and pride in workmanship among journeymen and contractors, as well as promoting the craftsmanship, speed, and versatility of masonry systems and the masonry workforce. The competition also rewards and highlights the country’s best mason journeymen for their hard work and dedication to the trade.


Any mason is eligible for the Fastest Trowel contest; this includes both MCAA members and non-members. Contestants must be registered, paid in full and confirmed December 1. A limited number of contestants will be accepted on a first come, first served basis. No contestant will be allowed to compete if registering on the day of the contest. Each contestant must be present at all meetings for the contest, or they will not be allowed to compete. No refunds or exceptions will be made.

Audience Guests

No audience members will be allowed in the contest area, as designated by ropes, poles, or flags. Only contestants, tenders, judges, and contest staff are allowed in this area.


In the competition, contestants will use the official weight block and mortar supplied by the MCAA. Contestants may temper their mortar with water. Concrete masonry units will be 8"x8"x16" cmu and 8"x8"x8". Each contestant will be provided 180 full size and 12 halves. No additional block will be provided under any conditions.

Each contestant must furnish his own tools. The only allowable tools to be used during the competition are: Levels (must provide a 4' level for judging), Trowels, String Line, Jointers, Trigs, Line Pins, Blocks/ Dogs, Sled Runners. No other tools will be allowed on the competition floor.

No tools will be provided or available from the MCAA.

Scaffolding is not allowed. Jump boards/hop boards will not be allowed.

Five mortar boards will be provided for each contestant by the MCAA.

Levels are to be provided by the contestant and left on the wall upon completion for use in judging. Either one or two levels can be used. Four-foot levels are mandatory for use in judging. If a contestant wishes, another length level may be used during the actual competition, but a four-foot level must be provided for use by the judges. Laser levels may be used for the base course ONLY.

Contest Procedures

Contestants will have 30 to 45 minutes before the start of the contest period to work with the mortar, locate and determine the height of the mortar boards, and finalize the locations of the block piles. During this time contestants will also lay a 22.5 block long base (30 feet) course and check the alignment. The block in the base course will not be counted in the contest.

The contest begins. Contestants are responsible for raising the leads at each end of the wall, securing the line and pins/corner blocks, and for running each course of block. All contestants must use a string line. The use of metal, timber, or other end profile posts or prepared block is prohibited. A course of block must be completed before beginning the next course, with the exception of lead building. Racking back at the jambs is not allowed and any additional block laid above a course that has not been completed will not be counted. At the completion of the contest and before leaving the competition area, contestants must place four trigs, one at each end of the wall at the top of the base course and at the top of the third course, to be used in judging story (see CADD drawing). Trigs will be placed on the side of the wall facing the mortar boards at the end of the 20 minute competition.

The mason must lift each block from no more than five piles of block and all trowels of mortar from no more than four spot boards. These piles and boards must be set out along the length of the wall in usual working fashion by the contestant and helper, and in accordance with the stall map provided.

No more than one tender will be allowed per contestant. Any assistance from the tender in placing block in the contestant's wall, transferring mortar from the spot boards to the wall, applying mortar to the blocks or handling the blocks from the piles to the mason will result in disqualification for this team. The tender or helper can keep the piles of block replenished and can place the block on the pile any way the mason wants. Once the mason has touched a block the helper cannot touch the block again. The helper can keep the mortar boards full but cannot touch any of the mason's tools such as levels, lines, pins, etc.

The wall must be cut flush on both sides prior to laying the next course. Points will be deducted for true and workmanship for any completed courses not cut. There will be judges constantly monitoring this.

Points will be deducted from the contestant's score for any rule violations. A blatant disregard for the rules may result in the disqualification of the contestant.

At the end of 20 minutes of the final round, the mason must stop laying block.

There will be a two-minute break. All contestants will be allowed four minutes to strike the wall prior to judging voids and workmanship. The purpose of this four-minute period is the improvement of voids, using only the jointer (hand jointer, sled runner or both, but only one at a time). Mortar can be used, and trowels may be held and used as a pallet for the mortar. No tools other than the jointer or sled runner may be used on the wall. No contestant will be allowed to use his trowel to point in voids.

Other than striking and tooling of joints, no additional corrections to the wall will be permitted. Brushing and/or sponging the wall is not allowed. These faces will be used to judge voids and workmanship.

A coin will be tossed to determine which side of the walls will be judged for voids and workmanship, the sides facing the mortar boards or the sides not facing the mortar boards. All contestants will be judged for voids and workmanship on that side of the wall and the jambs. Plumb will be judged on the side facing the mortar boards.


The contest will be judged by volunteer judges. Judges are not eligible to judge if they have a contestant competing from their company. Contestants are scored out of 100 points, broken down as follows:

  • Production (30 points)
  • True and Workmanship (10 points)
  • Plumb (15 points)
  • Level (15 points)
  • Story (15 points)
  • Voids (15 points)

A complete list of judging criteria has been supplied to each contestant. Additional copies are available upon request.

True and Workmanship (10 points)
This category is subjectively rated by one team of judges. Walls will be rated by assessing bond accuracy or alignment, coursing appearance, out of plane or tipped block and bows, dips, and lumps, along with joints that are not cut flush, mortar stains and smears, etc. Only the working face will be judged. Each judge will award the best wall in the competition 10 points and all other walls a portion of 10 points (ranging from 0-9) depending on the appearance of each wall compared to the best wall.

Plumb (15 points)
Contestant's level will be used for judging. Vertical plumb will be measured on both ends, jambs, and in the center only. The number of 1/8" deviations in excess of 1/8" (1/8" at each location is allowed) will be deducted.

Level (15 points)
Contestant's 4' level will be used for judging. The top course of the wall at three locations, both ends and in the middle will be judged. The single point of greatest deviation in each of the three sections will be recorded. The number of 1/8" deviations in excess of 1/8" (1/8" at each location is allowed) will be deducted.

Story (15 points)
The contestant's tape measure will be used for judging. Contestants are to place trig at top block on the base course and top of block on the third competition course. Story height at both ends of the wall will be measured. Four measurements will be taken: third course trig to the top of the top course block and base trig to third course trig at each end of the wall. The number of 1/8" deviations in excess of 1/8" (1/8" at each location is allowed) will be deducted.

Voids (15 points)
Only one side of the wall will be judged - determined by a coin toss following the block-laying portion of the competition. Voids will be measured and rounded up to whole inch. Points for each 1" will be deducted. A void is defined by any opening in a head or bed joint. Also, mortar that did not squeeze to the plane of the face shell is also considered a void. A void breaks the visual continuity of the mortar joint.

Voids Points

0 15
2 14
4 13
6 12
8 11
10 10
12 9
14 8
16 7
18 6
20 5
22 4
24 3
26 2
28 1

Production (30 points)
The number of block laid by each contestant will be counted. The contestant that lays the most block will receive 30 points. The other contestants will have 1 point deducted from the 30 points for block less they lay than contestant that lays the most block.

Judging could take up to 50 minutes.

All judging decisions are final. Any requests to review or adjust results will be denied.

Upon the return of MCAA staff to headquarters, contestants will be mailed a copy of their scorecard.

Contestants will NOT be provided copies of other competitors’ scorecards under any circumstances.

Tear Down

Prior to the announcement of scores, the MCAA reserves the right to ask and hold each team responsible for dismantling their wall and re-stacking their block.

Sportsmanlike Conduct

All contestants are expected to be courteous to their fellow competitors and competition judges. At no time is a competitor, instructor, family member, or associate allowed to place their tools on another contestant’s wall, including, but not limited to, levels, tape measures, and gauges. Doing so prior to the conclusion of the awards ceremony could result in immediate disqualification at the judges’ discretion.

“Being a member of MCAA says that you care about the future of the industry.”

Gary Arkin
Premier Stoneworks, LLC
MCAA member since 2015

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