Tile and marble setters apply hard tile and marble to walls, floors, and other surfaces.


Tile and marble setters typically do the following:

  • Clean and level the surface to be tiled
  • Measure and cut tile and marble
  • Arrange tiles according to design plans
  • Prepare and apply mortar or other adhesives
  • Install tile and marble in a planned area
  • Apply grout with a rubber trowel
  • Wipe off excess grout and apply necessary finishes, such as sealants

Tile and marble setters install materials on a variety of surfaces, such as floors, walls, ceilings, countertops, patios, and roof decks. Because tile and marble must be set on smooth, even surfaces, installers often must level the surface to be tiled with a layer of mortar or plywood. If the area to be tiled is unstable, workers must nail a support of metal mesh or tile backer board to create a stable surface.

The following are examples of types of tile and marble setters:

Marble setters cut marble to a specified size with a power wet saw. They then drill holes in the marble for the anchors that will hold it in place. After fastening the stone, marble setters polish the marble to a high luster, using power or hand sanders.

Tile finishers apply grout between tiles after the tiles are set, using a rubber trowel (called a float). When the grout dries, they must wipe the tiles for a clean, finished look.

Tile installers, sometimes called tile setters, cut and place tile. To cut tiles, workers use power wet saws, tile scribes, or hand-held tile cutters to create even edges. They use trowels of different sizes to spread mortar or a sticky paste, called mastic, evenly on the surface to be tiled. To minimize imperfections and keep rows even, they put spacers between tiles. The spacers keep tiles the same distance from each other until the mortar is dry.

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Work Environment

Tile and marble setters held about 39,200 jobs in 2012, of which 52 percent were employed in the building finishing contractors industry. About 31 percent were self-employed.

Tile and marble are usually installed after most of the construction has been completed, so the work area is typically clean and uncluttered. Still, mortar, adhesives, or grout may be sticky and messy.  

Installing tile and marble is physically demanding, with workers spending much of their time bending and kneeling. As a result, workers typically wear kneepads for protection. Workers also wear safety goggles when using grinders, saws, and sanders.

Work Schedules

Most tile and marble setters work full time. In commercial settings, tile setters may work evenings and weekends, often for higher wages, to avoid disturbing regular business operations.

About 31 percent of tile and marble setters were self-employed in 2012. Self-employed workers may have the ability to set their own schedule.

Education and Training

Although some tile and marble setters learn their trade through an apprenticeship, most learn on the job, starting as a helper.


There are no specific education requirements to become a tile and marble setter.

Some 2-year technical schools offer courses that are affiliated with unions and contractor organizations. The credits earned as part of an apprenticeship program usually count toward an associate’s degree.


Some contractors have their own training programs for tile and marble setters. New workers typically learn by working with experienced installers. Although workers may enter training directly, many first start out as helpers. 

Helpers usually start by performing simple tasks, such as moving materials. As they gain experience, they are given more complex tasks, such as cutting tile. Some helpers become tile finishers.

Some tile and marble setters learn their trade through a 2- to 4-year apprenticeship. For each year of the program, apprentices must complete at least 144 hours of related technical training and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. Tile and marble setters begin with 12 weeks of pre-apprenticeship instruction at a training center to learn construction basics. This may include mathematics, building code requirements, safety and first-aid practices, and blueprint reading.

After completing an apprenticeship program, tile and marble setters are considered to be journey workers and may perform duties on their own. 

Several groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. The basic qualifications for entering an apprenticeship program are as follows:

  • Minimum age of 18
  • High school education or equivalent
  • Physically able to perform the work

Other Experience

Some manufacturers offer product-specific training for tile and marble setters. In addition, some installers attend conferences that offer training sessions.

Personality and Interests

Tile and marble setters typically have an interest in the Building, Creating and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Creating interest area indicates a focus on being original and imaginative, and working with artistic media. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Creating or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a tile and marble setter, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Tile and marble setters should also possess the following specific qualities:

Color vision. Setting tile often involves determining small color variations. Because tile patterns may include many different colors, tile setters must be able to distinguish between colors and patterns for the best-looking finish. 

Customer-service skills. Working in customers’ homes is common. Therefore, tile and marble setters must be courteous and considerate of a customer’s property while completing tasks.

Detail oriented. Some tile arrangements can be highly detailed and artistic, so workers must ensure that the patterns are properly and accurately arranged.

Math skills. Basic math skills are used on every job. Besides measuring the area to be tiled, installers must calculate the number of tiles needed to cover an area.

Physical stamina. Tile and marble setters must have the endurance to spend many hours on their feet. When setting tile or marble, installers also may be on their knees for hours at a time.

Physical strength. Some marble setters must be strong enough to carry and lift heavy marble countertops into position.


The median annual wage for tile and marble setters was $37,040 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,450, and the top 10 percent earned more than $70,970.

The starting pay for apprentices usually is about 50 percent of what fully trained tile and marble setters make. As they gain more skill, they receive pay increases.

Most tile and marble setters work full time. In commercial settings, tile setters may work evenings and weekends, often for higher wages, to avoid disturbing regular business operations.

About 31 percent of tile and marble setters were self-employed in 2012. Self-employed workers may have the ability to set their own schedule.

Job Outlook

Employment of tile and marble setters is projected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.

Population growth and business growth, coupled with the continuing popularity of tile and marble, will be the major source of demand for workers. Tile and natural stone are used in many shopping malls, hospitals, schools, and restaurants, as well as other commercial and government buildings, and this trend is expected to continue. Tiles, including those made of glass, mosaic, and other high-end tiles and marble, are also becoming more popular, particularly in new and remodeled homes. 

However, demand may be somewhat offset by the growing use and popularity of resilient flooring, such as vinyl or rubber, which can be installed by other construction workers. 

Job Prospects

Overall job prospects should improve over the coming decade as construction activity continues to rebound. As with many other types of construction occupations, employment of tile and marble setters is sensitive to the fluctuations of the economy. On the one hand, workers may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, shortages of workers may occur in some areas during peak periods of building activity. 

Experienced workers with a good job history and overall knowledge of construction will have the best employment opportunities.

For More Information

For details about apprenticeships or other work opportunities in this trade, contact the offices of the state employment service, the state apprenticeship agency, local contractors or firms that employ tile and marble setters, or local union-management tile- and marble-setting apprenticeship committees. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor’s toll-free help line, 1 (877) 872-5627, and Employment and Training Administration.

For more information about tile installers and finishers, visit  

International Masonry Institute National Training Center

Tile Contractors’ Association of America

National Association of Home Builders, Home Builders Institute

For more information about tile setting and tile training, visit  

International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association

National Tile Contractors Association

Finishing Trades Institute International 


Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. We recommend the Career Personality Profiler assessment ($29), the Holland Code assessment ($19), or the Photo Career Quiz (free).