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Carpet, Floor, and Tile Installers and Finishers - What They Do


How to Advance (Advancement)
Carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers sometimes advance to become supervisors, salespersons, or estimators. In these positions, they must be able to estimate the time, money, and quantity of materials needed to complete a job.

Some carpet installers may become managers for large installation firms. For those interested in advancement, it is increasingly important to be able to communicate in both English and Spanish because Spanish-speaking workers make up a large part of the construction workforce in many areas. Workers who want to advance to supervisor jobs or become independent contractors also need good English skills to deal with clients and subcontractors.

Many carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers who begin working for someone else eventually go into business for themselves as independent contractors.

Employment
Carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers held about 160,500 jobs in 2008. About 35 percent of all carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers were self-employed.

Many carpet installers work for flooring contractors or floor covering retailers. Most salaried tilesetters are 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.

Job Outlook
Employment of carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers is expected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations. Job growth and opportunities, however, will differ among the individual occupations in this category.

Job Growth
Overall employment is expected to grow by 7 percent between 2008 and 2018, about as fast as the average. Tile and marble setting, the largest specialty, will experience faster than average employment growth because population and business growth will result in more construction of shopping malls, hospitals, schools, restaurants, and other structures in which tile is used extensively. Tiles, including those made of glass, slate, and mosaic, and other less traditional materials, are also becoming more popular, particularly in the growing number of more expensive homes.

Employment of carpet installers, the second-largest specialty, will experience little or no change, declining by 1 percent, as residential investors and homeowners increasingly choose hardwood and tile floors because of their durability, neutral colors, and low maintenance, and because owners feel these floors will add to the value of their homes. Carpets, on the other hand, stain and wear out faster than wood or tile, which contributes to the decreased demand for carpet installation. Nevertheless, carpet will continue to be used in nonresidential structures such as schools, offices, and hospitals. Also, many multifamily structures will require or recommend carpet because it provides sound dampening.

Workers who install other types of flooring, including laminate, cork, bamboo, rubber, and vinyl, should have little or no job growth because these materials are used less frequently and are often laid by other types of construction workers. Employment of floor sanders and finishers—a small specialty—is projected to grow by 11 percent, which is about as fast as average, because of the increasing use of prefinished hardwood flooring and because their work is heavily concentrated in the relatively small niche market of residential remodeling. There should also be some employment growth resulting from restoration of damaged hardwood floors, a procedure that is typically more cost effective than installing new floors.

In addition to employment growth, numerous job openings are expected for carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers because of the need to replace workers who leave the occupation. The strenuous nature of the work leads to high replacement needs; many of these workers do not stay in the occupation long.

Few openings will arise for vinyl and linoleum floor installers because the number of these jobs is comparatively small and because homeowners can increasingly take advantage of easy application products, such as self-adhesive vinyl tiles.

Employment of carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers is less sensitive to changes in construction activity than most other construction occupations because much of the work involves replacing worn carpet and other flooring in existing buildings. However, workers in these trades may still experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, shortages of these workers may occur in some areas during peak periods of building activity.

Earnings
In May 2008, median hourly wages of carpet installers were $17.80. The middle 50 percent earned between $12.82 and $25.35. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.23, and the top 10 percent earned more than $34.10. Median hourly wages of carpet installers working for building finishing contractors were $18.25, and $16.92 for those working in home furnishings stores. Carpet installers are paid either on an hourly basis or by the number of yards of carpet installed.

Median hourly wages of wage and salary floor layers except carpet, wood, and hard tiles were $17.50 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $13.34 and $23.33. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.55, and the top 10 percent earned more than $30.84.

Median hourly wages of floor sanders and finishers were $15.41 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $12.79 and $20.16. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.54, and the top 10 percent earned more than $25.96.

Median hourly wages of tile and marble setters were $18.85 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $13.71 and $25.19. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.65, and the top 10 percent earned more than $32.40.

Earnings of carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers vary greatly by geographic location and by union membership status. Some carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers belong to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. Some tilesetters belong to the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen, and some carpet installers belong to the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades.

Apprentices and other trainees usually start out earning about half of what an experienced worker earns; their wage rates increase as they advance through the training program.

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