Carpet Installers Career Information
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Significant Points· Almost half of all carpet, floor, and tile installers
and finishers are self-employed, compared with fewer than 1 in 5 of all construction
trades and related workers.
· Most workers learn on the job.
· Carpet installers, the largest specialty, should have the best job opportunities.
· Carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers are less sensitive to fluctuations in construction activity than are other construction trades workers.
Nature of the WorkCarpet, tile, and other
types of floor coverings not only serve an important basic function in buildings,
but their decorative qualities also contribute to the appeal of the buildings.
Carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers lay these floor coverings in
homes, offices, hospitals, stores, restaurants, and many other types of buildings.
Tile also is installed on walls and ceilings.
Before installing carpet, carpet installers first inspect the surface to be covered to determine its condition and, if necessary, correct any imperfections that could show through the carpet or cause the carpet to wear unevenly. They must measure the area to be carpeted and plan the layout, keeping in mind expected traffic patterns and placement of seams for best appearance and maximum wear.
When installing wall-to-wall carpet without tacks, installers first fasten a tackless strip to the floor, next to the wall. They then install the padded cushion or underlay. Next, they roll out, measure, mark, and cut the carpet, allowing for 2 to 3 inches of extra carpet for the final fitting. Using a device called a "knee kicker," they position the carpet, stretching it to fit evenly on the floor and snugly against each wall and door threshold. They then rough cut the excess carpet. Finally, using a power stretcher, they stretch the carpet, hooking it to the tackless strip to hold it in place. The installer then finishes the edges using a wall trimmer.
Because most carpet comes in 12-foot widths, wall-to-wall installations require installers to tape or sew sections together for large rooms. They join the seams by sewing them with a large needle and special thread or by using heat-taped seams—a special plastic tape made to join seams when activated by heat.
On special upholstery work, such as stairs, carpet may be held in place with staples. Also, in commercial installations, carpet often is glued directly to the floor or to padding that has been glued to the floor.
Carpet installers use handtools such as hammers, drills, staple guns, carpet knives, and rubber mallets. They also may use carpet-laying tools, such as carpet shears, knee kickers, wall trimmers, loop pile cutters, heat irons, and power stretchers.
Floor installers, or floor layers, apply blocks, strips, or sheets of shock-absorbing, sound-deadening, or decorative coverings to floors and cabinets using rollers, knives, trowels, sanding machines, and other tools. Some floor covering materials are designed to be purely decorative. Others have more-specialized purposes, such as to deaden sound, to absorb shocks, or to create air-tight environments. Before installing the floor, floor layers inspect the surface to be covered and, if necessary, correct any imperfections in order to start with a smooth, clean foundation. They measure and cut floor covering materials, such as rubber, vinyl, linoleum, or cork, and any foundation material, such as felt, according to designated blueprints. Next, they may nail or staple a wood underlayment to the surface or may use an adhesive to cement the foundation material to the floor; the foundation helps to deaden sound and prevents the top floor covering from wearing at board joints. Finally, floor layers install the top covering. They join sections of sheet covering by overlapping adjoining edges and cutting through both layers with a knife to form a tight joint.
Floor sanders and finishers scrape and sand wooden floors to smooth surfaces using floor-scrapers and floor-sanding machines. They then inspect the floor for smoothness and remove excess glue from joints using knife or scraper or wood chisel and may sand wood surfaces by hand, using sandpaper. Finally, they apply coats of finish.
Tile installers, tilesetters, and marble setters apply hard tile and marble to floors, walls, ceilings and roof decks. Tile is durable, impervious to water, and easy to clean, making it a popular building material in hospitals, tunnels, lobbies of buildings, bathrooms, and kitchens. To set tile, which generally ranges in size from 1 inch to 12 or more inches square, tilesetters use cement or "mastic," a very sticky paste. When using cement, tilesetters nail a support of metal mesh to the wall or ceiling to be tiled. They use a trowel to apply a cement mortar—called a "scratch coat"—onto the metal screen, and scratch the surface of the soft mortar with a small tool, similar to a rake. After the scratch coat has dried, tilesetters apply another coat of mortar to level the surface, and then apply mortar to the back of the tile and place it onto the surface.
To set tile in mastic or a cement adhesive, called "thin set," tilesetters need a flat, solid surface such as drywall, concrete, plaster, or wood. They use a tooth-edged trowel to spread mastic on the surface or apply cement adhesive, and then properly position the tile.
Because tile varies in color, shape, and size, workers sometimes prearrange tiles on a dry floor according to a specified design. This allows workers to examine the pattern and make changes. In order to cover all exposed areas, including corners, and around pipes, tubs, and wash basins, tilesetters cut tiles to fit with a machine saw or a special cutting tool. Once the tile is placed, they gently tap the surface with their trowel handle or a small block of wood to seat the tiles evenly.
When the cement or mastic has set, tilesetters fill the joints with "grout," which is very fine cement. They then scrape the surface with a rubber-edged device called a grout float or a grouting trowel to dress the joints and remove excess grout. Before the grout sets, they finish the joints with a damp sponge for a uniform appearance. Tile finishers help some tilesetters by supplying and mixing construction materials and doing other tasks such as applying grout and cleaning installed tile.
Marble setters cut and set marble slabs in floors and walls of buildings. They trim and cut marble to specified size using a power wet saw, other cutting equipment, or handtools. After setting the marble in place, they polish the marble to high luster using power tools or by hand.
Working ConditionsCarpet, floor, and tile
installers and finishers generally work indoors and have regular daytime hours.
However, when floor covering installers work in occupied stores or offices,
they may work evenings and weekends to avoid disturbing customers or employees.
Installers and finishers usually work under better conditions than most other
construction workers. By the time
workers install carpets, flooring, or tile in a new structure, most construction
has been completed and the work area is relatively clean and uncluttered. Installing
these materials is labor intensive; workers spend much of their time bending,
kneeling, and reaching—activities that require endurance. Carpet installers
frequently lift heavy rolls of carpet and may move heavy furniture. Safety regulations
may require that they wear kneepads or safety goggles when using certain tools.
Carpet and floor layers may be exposed to fumes from various kinds of glue and
to fibers of certain types of carpet.
Although workers are subject to cuts from tools or materials, falls from ladders, and strained muscles, the occupation is not as hazardous as some other construction occupations.
EmploymentCarpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers held about 207,000 jobs in 2009. Almost half of all carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers were self-employed, compared with fewer than 1 in 5 of all construction trades workers. The following tabulation shows 2009 employment by specialty.
Carpet installers 96,000
Tile and marble setters 64,000
Floor layers, except carpet, wood, and hard tiles 33,000
Floor sanders and finishers 18,000
Many carpet installers worked for flooring contractors or floor covering retailers. Most salaried tilesetters were employed by tilesetting contractors who work mainly on nonresidential construction projects, such as schools, hospitals, and office buildings. Most self-employed tilesetters work on residential projects.
Although carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers are employed throughout the Nation, they tend to be concentrated in populated areas where there are high levels of construction activity.
Training, Qualifications, Adv.The vast majority of carpet,
floor, and tile installers and finishers learn their trade informally, on the
job, as helpers to experienced workers. Others learn through formal apprenticeship
programs, which include on-the-job training as well as related classroom instruction.
Informal training for carpet installers often is sponsored by individual contractors, and generally lasts from about 1-1/2 to 2 years. Workers start as helpers, and begin with simple assignments, such as installing stripping and padding, or helping to stretch newly installed carpet. With experience, helpers take on more difficult assignments, such as measuring, cutting, and fitting.
Persons who wish to begin a career in carpet installation as a helper or apprentice should be at least 18 years old and have good manual dexterity. Many employers prefer applicants with a high school diploma; courses in general mathematics and shop are helpful. Some employers may require a driver's license and a criminal background check. Because carpet installers frequently deal directly with customers, they should be courteous and tactful.
Many tile and floor layers learn their job through on-the-job training and begin by learning about the tools of the trade. They next learn to prepare surfaces to receive flooring. As they progress, tilesetters, marble setters, and resilient floor layers learn to cut and install tile, marble, and floor coverings. Tile and marble setters also learn to apply grout and to do finishing work.
Apprenticeship programs and some contractor-sponsored programs provide comprehensive training in all phases of the tilesetting and floor layer trade. Most apprenticeship programs are union-sponsored and consist of weekly classes and on-the-job training usually lasting 3 to 4 years.
When hiring apprentices or helpers for floor layer and tilesetter jobs, employers usually prefer high school graduates who have had courses in general mathematics, mechanical drawing, and shop. Good physical condition, manual dexterity, and a good sense of color harmony also are important assets.
Carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers may advance to positions as supervisors or become salespersons or estimators. Some carpet installers may become managers for large installation firms. Many carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers who begin working for a large contractor eventually go into business for themselves as independent subcontractors.
of carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers is expected to grow about
as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2010. Employment growth stems primarily from
the continued need to renovate and refurbish existing structures. Carpet installers,
the largest specialty, should have the best job opportunities.
Carpet as a floor covering continues to be popular and its use is expected to grow in structures such as schools, offices, hospitals, and industrial plants. Demand for carpet also will be stimulated by new, more durable fibers that are stain and crush resistant, and come in a wider variety of colors. More resilient carpet needs to be replaced less often, but these attractive new products may induce more people to replace their old carpeting, contributing further to the demand for carpet installers. Employment also is expected to grow because wall-to-wall carpeting is a necessity in the many houses built with plywood, rather than hardwood floors. Similarly, offices, hotels, and stores often cover concrete floors with wall-to-wall carpet, which must be periodically replaced.
Demand for tile and marble setters will stem from population and business growth, which should result in more construction of shopping malls, hospitals, schools, restaurants, and other structures in which tile is used extensively. Tile is expected to continue to increase in popularity as a building material and to be used more extensively, particularly in more expensive homes, whose construction is expected to increase. In more modestly priced homes, however, the use of tile substitutes, such as plastic or fiberglass tub and shower enclosures, is expected to increase, slowing the growth in demand for tile and marble setters. Demand for floor layers and sanders and finishers will increase as a result of an increase in construction activity, particularly of residential homes and commercial buildings, and as some people decide to replace their plywood floors with hardwood floors. Job opportunities for tile and marble setters and floor layers and sanders, relatively small specialties, will not be as plentiful as those for carpet installers.
Carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers are less sensitive to changes in construction activity than are most other construction occupations because much of their work involves replacing carpet and other flooring in existing buildings. As a result these workers tend to be sheltered from the business fluctuations that often occur in new construction activity.
EarningsIn 2009, the median hourly earnings of carpet installers were $14.46. The middle 50 percent earned between $10.41 and $20.47. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $7.97, and the top 10 percent earned more than $26.22. Median hourly earnings of carpet installers in 2000 in carpentry and floor work were $15.25 and in furniture and home furnishings stores, $13.31.
Carpet installers are paid either on an hourly basis, or by the number of yards of carpet installed. The rates vary widely depending on the geographic location and whether the installer is affiliated with a union.
Median hourly earnings of floor layers were $14.81 in 2009. The middle 50 percent earned between $10.53 and $20.21. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.06, and the top 10 percent earned more than $26.01.
Median hourly earnings of floor sanders and finishers were $13.17 in 2009. The middle 50 percent earned between $10.51 and $17.80. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.75, and the top 10 percent earned more than $24.72.
Median hourly earnings of tile- and marble setters were $16.49 in 2009. The middle 50 percent earned between $12.54 and $21.93. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.58, and the top 10 percent earned more than $26.61. Earnings of tile- and marble setters also vary greatly by geographic location and by union membership.
Apprentices and other trainees usually start out earning about half of what an experienced worker earns, although their wage rate increases as they advance through the training program.
Some carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers belong to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. Some tilesetters also belong to the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen, while some carpet installers belong to the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades.
Related OccupationsCarpet, floor,
and tile installers and finishers measure, cut, and fit materials to cover a
space. Workers in other occupations involving similar skills, but using different
materials, include brickmasons,
blockmasons, and stonemasons; carpenters; cement masons, concrete finishers,
segmental pavers, and terrazzo workers; drywall installers, ceiling tile installers,
and tapers; painters and paperhangers; roofers; and sheet metal workers.
For details about apprenticeships or work opportunities, contact local flooring or tilesetting contractors or retailers, locals of the unions previously mentioned, or the nearest office of the State apprenticeship agency or employment service. For general information about the work of carpet installers and floor layers, contact: Additional information on training for carpet installers and floor layers is available from: For general information about the work of tile installers and finishers, contact: For more information about tile setting and tile training, contact: For information concerning training of carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers, contact:
Sources of Additional Information
For details about apprenticeships or work opportunities, contact local flooring or tilesetting contractors or retailers, locals of the unions previously mentioned, or the nearest office of the State apprenticeship agency or employment service.
For general information about the work of carpet installers and floor layers, contact:
Additional information on training for carpet installers and floor layers is available from:
For general information about the work of tile installers and finishers, contact:
For more information about tile setting and tile training, contact:
For information concerning training of carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers, contact: