Tilers, or tile installers and finishers, specialize in preparing floors for carpeting or in creating tile surfaces on floors, walls and countertops. In some cases, tilers can work on ceilings, as well. They generally work in construction and remodeling firms. The work environment can be punishing, with long hours spent kneeling, and with significant heavy lifting of tile and other supplies.
Entry Level Wages
Tile installers generally start out as apprentices, and work their way up the ranks. Nationwide, the lowest-earning 10 percent of tile installers earned about $10.45 per hour as of May 2010. Those working in unions or on federal contracts are able to earn somewhat more. These wages also vary by locale.
Overall Wage Range
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage of tile installers of all levels was $20.11, as of 2008. The bulk of these workers earned between $13.34 and $23.33. The highest-paid 10 percent of tile installers earned $33.16 per hour or more.
The Davis-Bacon Act is a federal law that standardizes the hourly wages contractors pay laborers and tradesmen on federal construction projects. These wages also vary by locality and by the type of construction. However, these wages tend to be higher than wages paid in private work. Workers who routinely work on federal projects can earn better money than those who don't. For example, the standard Davis-Bacon Act wage for a tile or floor installer in Kansas for residential work is $29.95 per hour, with $10.15 per hour allocated to fringe benefits.
Tilers can expect to work up to four years as an apprentice tiler, under the supervision of a more experienced tiler, before qualifying as a journeyman. During this time, the apprentice will do a lot of "grunt" work and learn the basics of grouting, tiling, flooring and estimating. After about two to four years, the apprentice then becomes a journeyman, and able to work unsupervised.
Many times, local trade unions will sponsor apprenticeship programs, taking in entry level workers who are able-bodied, at least 18 years of age and who have a high school diploma or equivalent. Check with your local Tile, Marble, & Terrazzo Union, if you have a chapter nearby. Alternatively, you can contact the Western Apprenticeship Coordinators Association. Individual situations vary, but as an apprentice, you should expect to earn about 60 percent of what journeyman tilers make per hour. If you are in a union, you will have access to a group health insurance plan, as well. You may or may not have access to a group insurance plan as a nonunion worker.