Becoming a Flooring Installer: Salary Information & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a flooring installer? Get actual job descriptions, career prospects and salary information to help you determine if becoming a flooring installer is the right choice for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Flooring Installation

Flooring installers work with carpet, wood and tile, commonly serving as independent contractors in residential or commercial buildings. Read on to learn the pros and cons of becoming a flooring installer to see if it's right for you.

Pros of Being a Flooring Installer
No formal education requirements beyond high school*
Faster-than-average job growth for tile setters (15% from 2012-2022)*
In 2012, 31% of tile and marble setters were self-employed*
Variety of specialization options (tile, floor sanding, wood and carpet)*

Cons of Being a Flooring Installer
Below-average wages (median of about $35,000-$38,000 for carpet installers and tile setters in 2014)*
Risk of injury from equipment (saws, hammers, shears, knives and sanders)*
Heavy lifting is commonly required*
Working on evenings, nights and weekends can be common*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Duties and Description

Flooring installers evaluate, measure, position and install flooring in homes and commercial establishments like hospitals, office buildings, homes and schools. Given the different types of floors available, you may choose to work in several specialties, including carpet, tile and wood floor installation. Taking into account both practical and aesthetic considerations, floor installers engage in physical labor and utilize a variety of tools to get the job done.

As an installer, you would use a variety of tools to measure, cut and lay multiple kinds of flooring. As a carpet installer you might remove old carpet and lay new padding before using glue, staples, tacks and heat-activated tape to secure the carpet in place. As a tile setter, you would cut, measure and arrange tile floors. Floor installation is a very physical occupation. You'll be required to lift, kneel, stretch, lift heavy objects and perform other physical duties in an everyday capacity.

Salary and Job Prospects

The floor installation trade may experience work availability fluctuations according to the demand for building. However, because flooring services are not only needed for new buildings but also in cases of floor replacement or repair, flooring work is less contingent on this factor than many other construction fields. From 2012-2022, the BLS predicted that tile installers would see an above average employment growth of fifteen percent.

In 2014, the BLS reported that carpet installers and tile setters earned a median annual salary of about $35,000-$38,000. Additionally, that same year the BLS reported that floor sanders and finishers earned a median annual salary of about $35,000, while all floor installers besides those working with carpet, wood and hard tiles earned a median annual salary of about $35,000.

Training and Requirements

Almost all training in the flooring trade is acquired on the job. Some companies may require a high school diploma, but no other formal education is usually required. In some cases, technical, vocational or community colleges could offer related courses as part of apprenticeship options with local unions or businesses. These courses could also be used as part of an associate degree program.

Important Skills and Considerations

To work in this field, you'll need basic mathematical abilities, hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity. Communication skills are important as well, as you will communicate with clients about what they want, what a job will require and how much it will cost.

If you go into business for yourself, you'll need to invest in your own tools and equipment as well as your own vehicle. You may also want to acquire general liability insurance, both for your own purposes and also because some companies seeking subcontractors require this insurance.

What Employers Are Looking For

Advertisements for flooring installers are often looking for subcontractors, though full-time positions with floor services companies are also available. Work experience is commonly preferred. Following are a few examples of real flooring installer job postings in March 2012:

  • A provider of flooring services in Washington looked for a part-time carpet installation subcontractor to cover jobs in part of their geographical service area. Job duties included measuring, inspecting, cutting and installing carpet, along with organizing and transporting tools and equipment. Some high school education was required.
  • A Florida-based flooring company sought subcontractors with at least two years of experience to install carpet, hardwood, tile and laminate flooring. Provision of one's own tools, transportation and general liability insurance were required.
  • A floor installation company in New Jersey posted an advertisement for a sander or installer of hardwood floors to work under the company owner. Previous experience was preferred.
  • A construction company in Tennessee called for a tile installer to complete all phases of tile setting, from measuring to grout application. The job required references and five years of experience working with tile.

How to Stand out in the Field

While training can commonly be acquired on-the-job, formal apprenticeships in flooring installation are also sometimes available. These can provide you with hands-on work experience, which is commonly requested by employers. In addition, some professional organizations offer specialized flooring certification and educational classes that can help you hone your skills and demonstrate your expertise.

Other Career Options

Brickmason

If a career as a flooring installer doesn't seem right for you but you're still interested in a physical job and want to earn a higher salary, you may want to consider working as a brickmason. Brickmasons, or bricklayers, produce structures such as walls, sidewalks and fireplaces with natural stone or brick. This job is more often performed outdoors and involves considerable physical exertion, but the BLS reported that the median annual salary for these professionals was $47,000 in 2011.

Cost Estimator

A cost estimator in the construction business evaluates planned jobs and estimates what they will cost by taking into account factors such as labor, project duration and materials required. This job requires site visitations and sometimes includes analyses of bids from separate subcontractors. Though this career may require a bachelor's degree in a subject like engineering or mathematics, it demands far less physical labor than flooring installation. According to the BLS, employment of estimators is set to increase 36% from 2010-2020. In 2011, the BLS reported that these professionals earned an annual median salary of about $58,000.

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