Tile and marble setters apply hard tile, marble, and wood tiles to walls, floors, and other surfaces. Installing tile and marble is labour intensive, and workers spend much of their time bending, kneeling, and reaching. Although the occupation is not as dangerous as some other construction trades, workers still experience a high rate of injuries and illnesses.
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Tile and marble setters typically do the following:
Tile installers, tilesetters, and marble setters install materials on a variety of surfaces, such as floors, walls, ceilings, countertops, patios, and roof decks. Because tile and marble must be set on smooth, even surfaces, installers often must level the surface to be tiled with a layer of mortar or plywood. If the area to be tiled is unstable, workers must nail a support of metal mesh or tile backer board to create a stable surface.
To cut tiles, workers use power wet saws, tile scribes, or hand-held tile cutters to create even edges. They use trowels of different sizes to spread mortar or a sticky paste, called mastic, evenly on the surface to be tiled. To minimize imperfections and keep rows straight and even, they put spacers between tiles. The spacers keep tiles the same distance from each other until the mortar is dry. After the mortar dries and the tiles are set, they apply grout between tiles using a rubber trowel (called a float).
Marble setters may cut marble to a specified size with a power wet saw. After putting the marble in place, marble setters polish the marble to a high luster, using power or hand sanders.
Some tile and marble setters learn their trade through a two- to four-year apprenticeship.. Some may begin with 12-week pre-apprenticeship training at a training center to learn construction basics. Construction basics include mathematics, building code requirements, safety and first-aid practices, and reading blueprints.
After completing an apprenticeship program, tile and marble setters are considered to be journey workers and may perform duties on their own. Some contractors have their own training programs for tile and marble setters. Although workers may enter apprenticeships directly, many first start out as helpers.
Some two-year technical schools offer courses that are affiliated with unions and contractor organizations. The credits earned as part of an apprenticeship program usually count toward an associate’s degree.
Tile and marble are usually installed after most of the construction has been completed, so the work area for installers is typically clean and uncluttered. Still, mortar, adhesives, or grout may be sticky and messy. Installing tile and marble is labour intensive, with workers spending much of their time reaching, bending, and kneeling. As a result, workers must wear kneepads for protection. They must also wear safety goggles when using grinders, saws, and sanders.
Most tile and marble setters work full time. In commercial settings, tilesetters may work evenings and weekends, often for higher wages, to avoid disturbing regular business operations.
The median annual wage of tile and marble setters was $38,110 in May 2010. (The median wage is the wage at which half of the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) The lowest 10% earned less than $21,730, and the top 10% earned more than $68,980.