Flooring finishers and installers lay floor coverings in homes, offices, stores, restaurants, and other types of buildings. Some specialize in carpet installation, while others lay floor coverings such as laminate, linoleum, vinyl, cork, and rubber for decorative purposes or to deaden sound. Tile installers, sometimes called tile setters or marble setters, apply tile or marble to floors, walls, countertops, patios, and roof decks. Finishers smooth imperfections in hardwood floors to beautify their appearance.
- All flooring installers start by inspecting the surface to be covered so they can determine its condition and correct imperfections. Carpet installers measure the area to be covered and plan a layout.
- They lay padding on the floor to provide a cushion for the carpet before laying out cut carpet sections on floors and joining the sections together with heat-activated tape.
- Carpet is then attached directly to the floor using glue or to tackless strips nailed to the floor next to the wall.
- Using a special device called a knee-kicker, installers can stretch the carpet before hooking it onto the strips.
- Finally, installers finish the edges with a wall trimmer for a neat appearance.
Like carpet installers, floor installers measure and cut flooring materials. Materials such as linoleum or vinyl may be glued to the floor with adhesives. Sometimes, padding and/or a vapor barrier are added.
Tile and marble installers begin by planning the placement of the tiles or marble on the surface to be covered. They will sometimes prearrange tiles on a dry floor in their desired design to ensure all needed tile pieces are available and determine which tiles have to be cut. Patterns can vary from simple to complex. Tile and marble installers use a tooth-edge trowel to spread a thick, sticky paste of adhesive or mastic before setting the tiles in place. Spacers are used to maintain exact distances between tiles. Once the adhesive has hardened, the space between the tiles is filled with fine cement called grout and the excess is wiped away. Marble is then polished to a high luster.
Floor finishers may install new hardwood floors or refinish old ones. They use floor-sanding machines to remove old coatings and smooth imperfections in the floor. They may also have to scrape and sand the floor by hand before cleaning all sanding dust and debris from the surface and applying multiple coats of sealant, such as varnish or polyurethane.
While there are some three-year apprenticeship programs that include on-the-job training and classroom instruction, most installers and finishers learn their trade on the job. Carpet, tile, and floor installers need manual dexterity, eye-hand coordination, and a good sense of balance and color. Most begin by completing simple assignments as helpers. As they gain experience, they can assume more difficult assignments, such as accurately estimating the time it will take to complete a job, the quantity of materials needed, and the cost. With experience, carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers may take on supervisory roles, become estimators, or even work as salespersons for commercial outlets.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook expects average employment growth of about 7 percent for carpet, floor, and tile installers over the next 10 years. Tile and marble laying is the area that should experience the greatest growth due to the increased construction of shopping malls, hospitals, schools, restaurants, and other structures.
Employment opportunities for carpet installers are expected to decrease by one percent as consumers move toward hardwood and tile. While all jobs in the construction industry are sensitive to economic fluctuations, carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers are less impacted by changes in construction activity since work includes not only new construction, but also the replacement of existing floor coverings.
- Approximately 35 percent of carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers are self-employed. Many others are employed by contractors or flooring retailers. Their earnings can vary greatly according to their geographic location and the specific job performed.
- The median hourly wage for carpet installers is $17.80. The middle 50 percent earn between $12.82 and $25.35. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $10.23 and the top 10 percent earn more than $34.10.
- The median hourly wage for floor installers is $17.50. The middle 50 percent earn between $13.34 and $23.33. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $10.55 and the top 10 percent earn more than $30.84.
- The median hourly wage for tile installers is $18.85. The middle 50 percent earn between $13.71 and $25.19. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $10.65 and the top 10 percent earn more than $32.40.
- The median hourly wage for floor finishers is $15.41. The middle 50 percent earn between $12.79 and $20.16. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $10.54 and the top 10 percent earn more than $25.96.