California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Tile and Marble Setters in San Diego County

May also be called: Ceramic Tile Installers; Marble Finishers; Tile and Marble Installers; Tile Finishers; Tile Mechanics

What Would I Do?

Tile and Marble Setters install tile and marble on floors, walls, ceilings, countertops, patios, and roof decks. Tile and marble can be found in bathrooms, kitchens, hospitals, commercial buildings, and around swimming pools. In fact, tile has been used in homes and buildings for more than 4,000 years. Tile and marble are water resistant, strong, resistant to the occasional bump or ding, and cannot be damaged by insects. Being fireproof, tile and marble can even be used to enhance the beauty of a fireplace or stove.

Tile Setters use measuring devices and levels to ensure the tile is placed in a consistent manner. Tile varies in color, shape, and size, ranging in size from 1 to 24 or more inches. Tile Setters sometimes prearrange tiles on a dry floor according to the intended design. This allows them to examine the pattern, check that they have enough of each type of tile, and determine where they will have to cut tiles to fit the design in the available space. Using a machine saw or a special cutting tool, Tile Setters cut tiles to fit in corners and around pipes, tubs, and wash basins. To set tile on a flat, solid surface such as drywall, concrete, plaster, or wood, Tile Setters first use a tooth-edged trowel to spread a “thin set,” or thin layer of cement adhesive or “mastic,” a very sticky paste. They then properly position the tile and gently tap the surface with their trowel handle, rubber mallet, or a small block of wood to set the tile evenly and firmly. Spacers are used to maintain exact distance between tiles. Any excess thin set or mastic is wiped off the tile immediately after placement.

If an area lacks a solid surface, Tile Setters nail a support of metal mesh or tile backer board to the wall or ceiling to be tiled. They use a trowel to apply a cement mortar, called a “scratch coat,” onto the metal screen and scratch the surface of the soft mortar with a small tool similar to a rake. After the scratch coat has dried, Tile Setters apply a brown coat of mortar to level the surface, then apply mortar to the brown coat, and place tile onto the surface. Hard backer board also is used in areas where there is excess moisture, such as a shower stall.

When the cement or mastic has set, Tile Setters fill the joints with grout using a rubber-edged device called a grout float or a grouting trowel to fill the joints and remove excess grout. Before the grout sets, they wipe the tiles and finish the joints with a damp sponge for a uniform appearance.

Marble Setters cut and set marble slabs on floors and walls of buildings. They cut and trim marble to specified sizes using a power wet saw, other cutting equipment, or hand tools. After setting the marble in place, they polish the marble to high luster using power tools or by hand.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Prepare cost and labor estimates based on calculations of time and materials needed for project.Mathematics
Measure and mark surfaces to be tiled, following blueprints.Near Vision
Build underbeds and install anchor bolts, wires and brackets.Manual Dexterity
Prepare surfaces for tiling by attaching lath or waterproof paper, or by applying a cement mortar coat onto a metal screen.Building and Construction
Level concrete and allow to dry.Arm-Hand Steadiness
Determine and implement the best layout to achieve a desired pattern.Judgment and Decision Making
Mix, apply, and spread plaster, concrete, mortar, cement, mastic, glue or other adhesives to form a bed for the tiles, using brush, trowel and screed.Trunk Strength
Align and straighten tile using levels, squares and straightedges.Visualization
Cut and shape tile to fit around obstacles and into odd spaces and corners, using hand and power cutting tools.Equipment Selection
Apply mortar to tile back, position the tile and press or tap with trowel handle to affix tile to base.Multilimb Coordination
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Tile and Marble Setters usually work indoors in buildings that are under construction or are being remodeled. By the time workers install tile in a new structure, most construction has been completed and the work area is relatively clean and uncluttered. Most Tile and Marble Setters work about 40 hours a week.

The work is strenuous and involves a great deal of prolonged standing, reaching, bending, kneeling, and heavy lifting. Setters lift boxes of tiles, cement bags, and mortar buckets which may weigh 100 pounds or more. Although workers are subject to cuts from tools or materials, falls from ladders, and strained muscles, the occupation is not as hazardous as some other construction occupations. Risks are reduced when proper safety procedures are followed, such as proper lifting techniques.

Tile and Marble Setters may be represented by various unions including the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, the Ceramic Tile Layers Union, and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. However, most Tile and Marble Setters in California are not members of unions.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Tile and Marble Setter may appeal to those who enjoy working independently while performing physical activities. Tile Setter occupations involve practical, hands-on problems and solutions, working with details, and activities that involve little to no paperwork or working closely with others.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Earnings of Tile and Marble Setters vary greatly by geographic location and by union membership status. 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.

Wages

The median wage in 2016 for Tile and Marble Setters in California is $45,555 annually, or $21.90 hourly. The median wage for Tile and Marble Setters in San Diego County is $41,540 annually, or $19.97 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2016Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$34,161$45,555$58,514
San Diego County$31,986$41,540$61,675
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Benefits may be provided by either company or trade union arrangements and generally include medical, dental, life, and vision insurance as well as vacation, sick leave, and retirement plans. Those who are self-employed are responsible for purchasing their own insurance and retirement plans.

What is the Job Outlook?

Employment of Tile Setters is slightly less sensitive to changes in construction activity than most other construction occupations because much of the work involves replacing materials 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.

Tile is used in both residential and commercial buildings. Marble has had a long history of use in construction as well. New materials have both changed the demand for Tile and Marble Setters and affected what they do on the job. Stone, such as granite and granite composites, has become more popular in homes and businesses. Sometimes, Tile and Marble Setters will install solid composites.

Tile may be more widely used as those made of glass, slate, mosaic, marble, and less traditional materials become more popular in expensive homes. It may replace inexpensive material such as plastic laminate material on countertops and bathtub or shower walls.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Tile and Marble Setters is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Tile and Marble Setters are expected to increase by 37.6 percent, or 3,200 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

In San Diego County, the number of Tile and Marble Setters is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Tile and Marble Setters are expected to increase by 46.8 percent, or 360 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Tile and Marble Setters
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2012-2022)
8,50011,7003,20037.61,500
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
7701,13036046.8140
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 320 new job openings per year is expected for Tile and Marble Setters, plus an additional 150 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 480 job openings.

In San Diego County, an average of 36 new job openings per year is expected for Tile and Marble Setters, plus an additional 14 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 50 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Tile and Marble Setters
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2012-2022)
320150480
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
361450
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Tile and Marble Setters usually pursue one of the following training paths: formal apprenticeships, vocational schools, community college programs, certificate programs, or extensive on-the-job training. Though there are no formal educational requirements, employers usually prefer to hire high school graduates. Job applicants should know basic mathematics and be able to read and write.

Tile and Marble Setters who learn their craft mostly through on-the-job training start by carrying materials and learning about the tools of the trade. They then learn to prepare the subsurface for tile or marble. As they progress, they learn to cut the tile and marble to fit the job. They also learn to apply grout and sealants used in finishing the materials to give it its final appearance. Apprenticeship programs and some contractor-sponsored programs provide comprehensive training in all phases of the tile setting.

Early Career Planning

High school students interested in this type of work should take courses in basic mathematics, shop, mechanical drawing, and blueprint reading. Workers who want to advance to supervisor jobs or become contractors also need good English skills to communicate with clients and subcontractors.

Apprenticeship

To be an apprentice, candidates must be at least 17 years old and be physically able to perform the work of the trade. After completing a two- to five-year program that includes both practical and classroom education, the apprentice can advance to full journey-level status. An apprenticeship program usually consists of on-the-job training and related classroom instruction in blueprint reading, layout, and basic mathematics.  For more information on apprenticeship programs currently available, visit the State of California's Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards Web site.

Licensing and Certification

Self-employed Tile Setters must have a contractor’s license. The California Contractors State License Board issues a specialty contractor’s license for ceramic and mosaic tile to those who pass an exam and fingerprint background check. Specialty licenses are active for two years. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

While California has no certification requirement for Tile and Marble Setters, the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation offers the Certified Tile Installer program, which provides proof of the holder's abilities. Those with at least two years of tile setting experience may apply to take the two-day written and hands-on test. Testing dates, fees, and locations are listed on their Web site. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Tile and Marble Setters are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Building Finishing Contractors 57.3%
Residential Building Construction 3.6%
Other Specialty Trade Contractors 2.8%
Nonmetallic Mineral Product Mfg 2.6%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Construction job sites, housing developments, and commercial building projects are places to look. Those working within the industry may recommend an interested candidate for jobs. Newspaper classified ads and the Internet provide additional sources for job listings. Union members search for work by registering with their local hiring hall. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Tile and Marble Setters.

  • Building Materials
  • Concrete Products
  • Counter Tops
  • Floor Materials
  • Marble, Natural
  • Tile Ceramic Contractors
  • Tile Ceramic Dealers

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Tile and marble setting is a highly skilled occupation. Many journey-level workers obtain a contractor’s license that allows them to be self-employed, which has the potential to offer greater pay and more freedom to choose jobs. Tile and Marble Setters sometimes advance to become supervisors, salespersons, or estimators. For all these positions, they must be able to estimate the time, money, and quantity of materials needed to complete a job.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Tile and Marble Setters with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Brickmasons and BlockmasonsGuide
CarpentersGuide
Drywall and Ceiling Tile InstallersGuide
Helpers--Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble SettersProfile
Reinforcing Iron and Rebar WorkersProfile
StonemasonsGuide
TapersProfile

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification47-2044
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Tile and Marble Setters47-2044.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)RCA
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Mason/Masonry 460101
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Masonry, Tile, Cement, Lath and Plaster095260