Flooring installers and tile and marble setters lay and finish carpet, wood, vinyl, and tile.

Duties

Flooring installers and tile and marble setters typically do the following:

  • Remove existing flooring or wall covering
  • Clean and level the surface to be covered
  • Measure the area and cut flooring material to fit
  • Arrange flooring according to design plans
  • Place flooring, using adhesives, nails, or staples
  • Fill joints with filler compound and remove excess compound
  • Trim excess carpet or linoleum
  • Apply necessary finishes, such as sealants and stains

Nearly every building has a finished floor, and flooring installers and tile and marble setters lay the materials that improve the look and feel of homes, offices, restaurants, and other buildings. Although most of the materials installed by these workers cover only floors, some materials are also installed on walls and countertops or in showers.

A smooth, even base of mortar or plywood is required for floors and tile to be installed. The base may be installed by flooring installers and tile and marble setters or by other construction craftworkers. When remodeling, workers may need to remove the old flooring and smooth the surface.

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

Carpet installers lay lengths of carpet on new floors or over older flooring. They use special tools, including “knee kickers” to position the carpet and power stretchers to pull the carpet snugly against walls. Installers also join edges of carpet and seam edges where necessary, by sewing or by using tape with glue and a heated carpet iron.

Carpet tile installers lay small, modular pieces of carpet that may be glued into place. Carpet tiles allow for easy replacement and design patterns that are not possible with standard carpet.

Floor sanders and finishers perform the final steps in hardwood floor installation. After carpenters install the hardwood floor, workers use power sanders to smooth it. They apply stains and sealants to preserve the wood.

Floor layers, except carpet, wood, and hard tiles, install a wide variety of resilient flooring materials. Linoleum installers lay the hard, washable floor material of the same name. The linoleum is cut to size and glued into place. Vinyl installers install plastic-based flooring that includes vinyl ester, vinyl sheeting, and vinyl tile. Installers of laminate, manufactured wood, and wood tile floors are included in this category.

Tile and marble setters install ceramic and marble tile. Tile installers, sometimes called tile setters, cut and place tile. To cut tiles, workers use wet saws, tile scribes, or handheld 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. Spacers keep tiles the same distance from each other until the mortar is dry. 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. Marble setters cut marble to a specified size with a wet saw. After fastening the stone, marble setters polish the marble to a high luster, using hand or power sanders.

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Work Environment

Flooring installers and tile and marble setters held about 119,600 jobs in 2018. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up flooring installers and tile and marble setters was distributed as follows:

Tile and marble setters 56,000
Carpet installers 37,200
Floor layers, except carpet, wood, and hard tiles              20,100
Floor sanders and finishers 6,400

The largest employers of flooring installers and tile and marble setters were as follows:

Self-employed workers 28%
Home furnishings stores                                                    9
Manufacturing 3
Construction of buildings 3

Although flooring and tile are usually installed after most of the construction for a project has been completed and the work area is mostly clean and uncluttered, some materials and tasks may be messy.

Installing flooring, tile, and marble is physically demanding, with workers spending much of their time reaching, bending, and kneeling. As a result, workers typically wear kneepads for protection. Workers also wear safety goggles when using grinders, saws, and sanders. In enclosed areas with poor access to ventilation, workers often use dust masks or respirator systems to prevent the inhalation of dust. Dust is generated from cutting tiles and from sanding adhesives and mortars.

Work Schedules

Most flooring installers and tile and marble setters work full time. In commercial settings, installers may work evenings and weekends to avoid disturbing regular business operations.

Education and Training

Flooring installers and tile and marble setters typically learn their trade on the job, sometimes starting as a helper. Some learn through an apprenticeship.

Education

There are no specific education requirements for someone to become a flooring installer or tile and marble setter. A high school diploma or equivalent is preferred for those entering an apprenticeship program.

High school art, math, and vocational courses are considered helpful for flooring installers and tile and marble setters.

Training

Flooring installers and tile and marble setters typically learn their duties through on-the-job training, working with experienced installers. Although workers may enter training directly, many start out as helpers.

New workers usually start by performing simple tasks, such as moving materials. As they gain experience, they are given more complex tasks, such as cutting carpet. Some tile installer helpers become tile finishers before becoming tile installers.

Some flooring installers and tile and marble setters learn their trade through a 2- to 4-year apprenticeship. This instruction may include mathematics, building code requirements, safety and first-aid practices, and blueprint reading. After completing an apprenticeship program, flooring installers and tile and marble setters are considered to be journey workers and may perform duties on their own.

Certification

Several organizations and groups offer certifications for floor and tile installers. Although certification is not required, it demonstrates that a flooring installer and tile and marble setter has a specific mastery skills to do a job.

The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) offers the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) certification for workers with 2 or more years of experience as a tile installer. Applicants are required to complete a written test and a hands-on performance evaluation.

Several groups, including the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation, the International Masonry Institute (IMI), the International Union of Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers (IUBAC), the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), the Tile Contractors’ Association of America (TCAA), and the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) have created the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) program. Certification requirements include passing both an exam and a field test. Workers must also have either completed a qualified apprenticeship program or earned the CTI certification to qualify for testing. The program offers certifications in seven specific areas of tile installation:

  • Grouts
  • Large-format tile and substrate preparation
  • Membranes
  • Mortar (mud) floors
  • Mortar (mud) walls
  • Shower receptors
  • Thin porcelain tile

The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) has a voluntary certification for floor sanders and finishers. Sanders and finishers must have 2 years of experience and must have completed NWFA-approved training. Applicants are also required to complete written and performance tests.

The International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association (CFI) offers certification for flooring and tile installers. Installers need 2 years of experience before they can take the written test and a hands-on performance evaluation.

The International Standards & Training Alliance (INSTALL) offers a comprehensive flooring certification program for flooring and tile installers. INSTALL certification requires both classroom and hands-on training, and covers all major types of flooring.

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.

Pay

The median annual wage for flooring installers and tile and marble setters was $42,050 in May 2019. 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 $25,780, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $74,630.

Median annual wages for flooring installers and tile and marble setters in May 2019 were as follows:

Floor layers, except carpet, wood, and hard tiles                     $44,240
Tile and marble setters 43,050
Carpet installers 40,090
Floor sanders and finishers 39,610

In May 2019, the median annual wages for flooring installers and tile and marble setters in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Construction of buildings                                                         $44,240
Home furnishings stores 41,050
Manufacturing 36,390

Most flooring installers and tile and marble setters work full time. In commercial settings, installers may work evenings and weekends to avoid disturbing regular business operations.

Job Outlook

Employment of flooring installers and tile and marble setters is projected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.

The construction of new housing units will be the primary source of flooring and tile and marble installation work over the next decade. As the housing industry continues to recover, more flooring installers will be hired to work on these units. In addition, more flooring installers and tile and marble setters will be needed for remodeling and replacement projects in existing homes. Although carpet is still the dominant flooring, other products, including hard flooring such as linoleum and vinyl, are growing in popularity. Tile and marble will continue to be commonly installed in bathrooms, shopping malls, and restaurants, as well as in other commercial and government buildings.

Job Prospects

Overall job prospects should be good over the coming decade as new building construction will create job opportunities for flooring installers and tile and marble setters.

As with many other types of construction occupations, employment of these workers 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, additional workers may be needed in some areas during peak periods of building activity.

For More Information

For details about apprenticeships, training, 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 flooring installers and tile and marble setters, or local union–management apprenticeship committees. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor's Apprenticeship program online or by phone at 877-872-5627.

For more information about flooring installers and tile and marble setters, visit

Ceramic Tile Education Foundation

International Masonry Institute

International Union of Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers

Tile Contractors’ Association of America

The Tile Council of North America, Inc.

Home Builders Institute

For more information about training and certification of flooring installers and tile and marble setters, visit

International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association

Finishing Trades Institute International

International Standards & Training Alliance (INSTALL)

National Tile Contractors Association

National Wood Flooring Association

FAQ

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