Floor Covering Installer
Floor Covering Installer
Education and Training: High school plus apprenticeship or training
Salary: Varies—see profile
Employment Outlook: Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Floor covering installers are people who put down carpet, linoleum, and tile, both in older buildings and those under construction. They also install materials made of cork, asphalt, rubber, and vinyl. In addition to floors, they sometimes cover walls and countertops. Floor covering installers work for retail installers and installing contractors. They install floor coverings in homes, offices, factories, stores, and other buildings.
Floor coverings fall into two basic categories: carpet-like materials and more resilient coverings, such as linoleum and asphalt tile. Some floor finishers are able to install both types, but they generally specialize in either carpet or resilient installation.
The first step in the installation of either type is the same: preparation of the subfloor. The subfloor is what lies beneath all floor coverings. It can be wood, concrete, stone, or other material. If it is rough or uneven, the installer must fill in the cracks and smooth it with a power sander. A smooth, clean, dry subfloor can mean the difference between a good floor covering and one that does not lie flat.
To install sheet goods (rolls of flooring) and tile, the floor installer carefully prepares the subfloor. Next the installer applies a strong glue or adhesive. The installer then carefully sets the floor covering in place, and finishes the job by going over the glued area with a rubber roller to create a smooth, even surface.
If wall-to-wall carpet is to be installed, an installer puts down special spiked strips called tackless strips near the walls. The spikes or tiny pins help to hold the carpet in place. Next the installer rolls out the padding and then the carpet. Carpet installers may sew large parts of carpeting together if necessary. Using a special tool, the carpet is then stretched tightly over the floor and hooked to the pins. The stretching prevents ripples and bulges. Sometimes carpet is glued to the subfloor in the same way as sheet goods.
When installing any kind of floor covering, the floor finishers must cut pieces to fit around pipes, radiators, support posts, and other obstacles. Matching patterns is also an important part of the job. To avoid wasting material, the floor installer must plan the job carefully before beginning work.
Education and Training Requirements
A high school education is good preparation for this field. Courses in geometry, algebra, business arithmetic, mechanical drawing, and shop provide a good start.
There are several ways to enter this trade. Formal apprenticeships usually teach trainees how to handle many different floor covering materials and tools. The more materials they can install, the easier it will be for them to find jobs. Apprenticeship classes teach layouts, architectural drawings, and other skills of the trade. Apprenticeship programs are supervised by various trade unions. Many vocational and trade schools also offer courses in floor covering installation. On-the-job training for a floor covering firm is another possibility. New employees begin as helpers and learn the trade by working under a skilled worker. Summer work as a helper or floor covering salesperson is also a good way for high school students to prepare for this career.
Getting the Job
Local union offices and floor covering contractors have information about apprenticeship programs. Prospective floor covering installers can apply directly to installation firms, which may have openings for helpers or trainees. Working for a floor covering manufacturer is another option. Knowing how coverings are made can be helpful in getting an installation job. State employment services, newspaper classified ads, and the Yellow Pages are other sources of employment information.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Fully qualified workers can become job or work crew supervisors. They can also become district service managers. Some installers become salespeople or estimators, and some open their own businesses.
The employment opportunities for floor covering installers are expected to grow about as fast as the average for all jobs through the year 2014. There will always be a need for floor covering installers because people frequently remodel their homes or businesses and worn-out floor coverings must be replaced. Carpet installers will also find plentiful job opportunities because of high turnover in the field. When the construction industry is active, the need for floor covering installers increases. The number of jobs in this field, as with almost every other industry, depends on the economy.
Most jobs are done indoors, so weather is not usually a factor, but some jobs do require working in new, unheated buildings. Installers do a lot of bending, kneeling, and lifting in the course of their work. They may also come into contact with dust and fumes from glues and other materials, so they may have to wear protective gear.
An eight-hour day and forty-hour week are common. Overtime work may be necessary on certain jobs. Evening and weekend work may also be necessary when a store or office floor is being covered and normal business hours cannot be interrupted.
Earnings and Benefits
The median wage of carpet installers in 2004 was $16.39 per hour. Installers of resilient flooring and tile earned a median wage of $15.68 per hour. Floor covering installers work either for a fixed salary for one company or as subcontractors for many companies and construction firms. Subcontractors often earn more than salaried employees; however, they do not have guaranteed income and must maintain their own trucks and equipment.
Floor installers may be paid by the number of square feet they install instead of on an hourly or weekly basis. Bonuses for speed and efficiency are common. In addition, some stores also pay commissions to workers for selling floor care products to customers.
Apprentices and trainees usually start out earning half of what experienced floor covering installers are paid. Their wages increase as they progress through the training period.
Where to Go for More Information
The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
101 Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001
International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Trades
1776 I St. NW
Washington, DC 20006
The Carpet and Rug Institute
P.O. Box 248
Dalton, GA 30722-2048
Installers who work for one company usually receive vacation pay, pension plans, insurance, and other benefits. Benefits vary among small subcontractors. Self-employed workers have to make their own arrangements.