To create a floor that’s both beautiful and durable takes a strong back and a skillful eye. Flooring installers and tile and marble setters tackle the job—laying and finishing carpet, wood, vinyl, and tile. Work starts by removing old flooring then cleaning and leveling the surface. These workers measure the area to be covered, and cut flooring material or tile to fit. Relying on design plans—or their knowledge of attractive patterns and colors— they place tile and flooring and affix it in position. Each type of flooring requires its own skills and tools to install: Carpet installers use “knee kickers,” to position carpet, and power stretchers to pull it snugly against walls. Floor sanders and finishers power sand hardwood floors, then apply stains and sealants to preserve the wood. Floor layers install durable linoleum, vinyl and other materials. Tile and marble setters use special cutting devices to size ceramic and marble tile, then install it and finish the floor surface. The work of installing flooring comes with challenging physical demands; workers spend much of their time reaching, bending, and kneeling, and wear protective equipment when needed. Most schedules are full time, and self-employment is common. Most flooring installers and tile and marble setters learn on the job starting as helpers, though some enter the field through a 2-4 year apprenticeship.

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

What Do Tile and Marble Setters Do?

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.

Career Snapshot

Flooring installers lay and finish carpet, wood, vinyl, and tile.  A floor layer's career begins with on-the-job training from a more experienced carpet, vinyl, linoleum and rubber or laminate and wood flooring layer.   Floor layers work in a variety of building environments including offices, restaurants and homes.

Tile and marble setters install modular pieces of flooring made of ceramic, marble, or other material, such as glass.

(Similar job titles for this sub-sector include:  Floor Covering Contractor, Floor Coverings Installer, Floor Layer, Flooring Helper, Flooring Installer, Flooring Mechanic, Tile Installer, Tile Setter, Vinyl Installer)

The following are examples of job titles in this sub-sector:

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

Carpet tile installers lay modular pieces of carpet that may be glued into place. Installing carpet tiles may be an option where standard carpet is impractical, such as in designing a pattern over an area.

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 variety of resilient flooring materials. Linoleum installers lay washable flooring material of the same name, cutting the linoleum to size and gluing it into place. Vinyl installers lay 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 installers, sometimes called tile setters, cut tiles using wet saws, tile scribes, or handheld tile cutters. They then use trowels of different sizes to spread mortar or a sticky paste, called mastic, evenly on the work surface before placing the tiles.  Tile finishers apply grout between tiles after the tiles are set by using a rubber trowel, called a float, and then wipe the tiles clean after the grout dries.  Marble setters cut stone, such as marble, to a specified size with a wet saw.  Next, they use thinset, a substance that is less thick than mortar, to fasten the stone to the tiling surface; in remodeling projects, they may first need to smooth the underlying surface after removing old flooring materials. Finally, marble setters polish the stone, using hand or power sanders.
Job Details

Flooring installers 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
  • Cut covering and foundation materials, according to blueprints and sketches
  • Cut flooring material to fit around obstructions
  • Place flooring and secure with adhesives, nails, or staples
  • Fill joints with filler compound and remove excess compound
  • Trim excess carpet or linoleum
  • Apply finishes, such as sealants and stains

Education and Experience

A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required to enter the occupation. There are no formal education requirements and these trades workers don't need specific licenses or certifications.  Most workers in this construction sub-sector learn their trade on the job by helping more experienced workers and gradually being given more duties.  Certain high school courses, such as art and math, may be helpful for flooring installers.

Career Outlook

  • Annual pay: Floor layers earned an average base salary of $42,000 in May 2019
  • Employment growth forecast 2018-2028: 11%
  • Entry-level education: No formal educational credential required

Career Growth Opportunity

The construction of new housing units will be the primary source of flooring, tile and marble installation work over the next decade.  Floor Installer, Tile and Marble Setters generally begin their careers as helpers and advance to full journey level after several years of experience. From there, the installer may move up to foreman, carpentry supervisor, or general construction supervisor positions. In larger firms, an Installer may become an estimator. Some Floor Installer, Tile and Marble Setters become contractors and open their own businesses.

Professional Associations

  • Ceramic Tile Education Foundation - The CTEF is an educational institution that offers local, regional, and national training programs for consumers, installers, construction professionals, architects, designers, building inspectors and sales associates interested in the sale and installation of ceramic tile.
  • International Masonry Institute - Team IMI consists of architects, engineers, construction managers, skilled craftworkers and instructors, offering what no other group can: expertise in training, craftsmanship, design, installation and marketing.
  • International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association - CFI is about installers helping installers rise to a level of professional skills and integrity that will bring the maximum beneficial impact to the floor covering industry, the floor covering installation profession, and to customers who care about the quality of the investment in their floors.
  • Finishing Trades Institute International - This organization’s mission is to advise, assist and coordinate in the training and development of a skilled, educated, and productive workforce for the finishing trades industries.
  • International Standards and Training Alliance - INSTALL is an association of professionals from across the entire flooring industry. This organization is comprised of installers, contractors, manufacturers, associations and consultants that share one simple goal: to take pride in all the work that is delivered.
  • Professional Flooring Installers Association - PFIA is the trade organization for flooring contractors and specialists serving commercial customers. Our members are INSTALL certified. They employ skilled union installers and adhere to the highest standards for safety and quality.
  • Tile Contractors’ Association of America - TCAA members are experienced BAC-signatory ceramic tile contractors who save time and money for their customers through professional installations, supervision, efficient management and - most of all - unparalleled craftsmanship.
  • The Tile Council of North America, Inc. - TCNA is a trade association representing manufacturers of ceramic tile, tile installation materials, tile equipment, raw materials, and other tile-related products.
  • The Flooring Contractors Association - This organization functions as an educational outlet with a mission for flooring contractors of providing many educational opportunities and resources to support commercial flooring contractors.
  • Associated Builders and Contractors - ABC's mission is the advancement of the merit shop construction philosophy, which encourages open competition and a free enterprise approach that awards contracts based solely on merit, regardless of labor affiliation.
  • International Union of Painters and Allied Trades – IUPAT members work in the Finishing Trades as industrial and commercial painters, drywall finishers, wall coverers, glaziers, glass workers, floor covering installers, sign makers, display workers, convention and show decorators and in many more exciting occupations.
  • Home Builders Institute - This organization’s mission is to advance and provide education, career development, training and placement of men and women serving the building industry.
  • National Association of Home Builders - NAHB strives to protect the American Dream of housing opportunities for all, while working to achieve professional success for its members who build communities, create jobs and strengthen our economy.
  • The Associated General Contractors of America - The AGC of America works to ensure the continued success of the commercial construction industry by advocating for federal, state and local measures that support the industry; providing opportunities for firms to learn about ways to become more accomplished; and connecting them with the resources and individuals they need to be successful businesses and corporate citizens.
  • National Association of the Remodeling Industry - NARI connects homeowners with its professional members and provides tips and tricks so that consumers have a positive remodeling experience with a professional, qualified remodeler.
  • National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) - This mission of this organization is to build a safe, productive and sustainable workforce of craft professionals.  Their vision is to be universally recognized by industry and government as the training, assessment, certification and career development standard for construction and maintenance craft professionals.
  • The Associated General Contractors of America - The Associated General Contractors of America works to ensure the continued success of the commercial construction industry by advocating for federal, state and local measures that support the industry.
  • Fuse Commercial Flooring Alliance - This organization provides member owners and their businesses with educational and training programs, finance, sales and marketing services, and exciting sales incentive programs.

Publications

  • Floor Covering Installer – products, materials, tools, how-to, blog....
  • Carpenter Magazine - Official magazine of United Brotherhood of Carpenters
  • This is Carpentry - Feature articles, TIC authors, safety....
  • Constructor - online digital magazine
  • Floor Covering News - Floor Covering News is the Industry’s preferred publication serving retailers, distributors, installers, designers and manufacturers with the #1 editorial content, frequency and most loyal circulation.
    Floor Covering Weekly - Floor Covering Weekly, the undisputed industry leader, has a long and proud history of keeping our readership informed and up to date. That’s why more specialty retailers choose Floor Covering Weekly above all other industry magazines.
    National Floor Trends Magazine - Positioned as an upscale, fashion-oriented magazine above all other trade publications serving our field, with information retailers/contractors and specifiers/architects/designers need to lead, succeed and grow.