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Ceiling Tile Installer Job Description, Career as a Ceiling Tile Installer, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: High school

Salary: Median—$16.67 per hour

Employment Outlook: Fair

Definition and Nature of the Work

Ceiling tile installers mount sound- and shock-absorbing materials and decorative tiles to the ceilings and walls of buildings. The tiles, strips, and panels are manufactured in standard sizes but can be cut to fit almost any installation. While most ceiling tile is installed in commercial structures, such as office buildings and movie theaters, it is also installed in homes with uneven, cracked ceilings and in basements that do not have finished ceilings. The installers are also called acoustical carpenters.

To install the tile, installers must first build a framework. Following blueprints or drawings, they nail or screw metal moldings to the walls of a room. The moldings form an edge, or seal, for the tile. The tiles are then attached to the ceiling with adhesives. Another method is to attach strips of metal or wood to the existing ceiling. The tiles and panels are then attached to the strips with adhesives or clips.

If the existing ceiling is uneven, or if the client wants to drop the ceiling to hide air-conditioning ductwork or sprinkler pipes, the installers first create a grid that is suspended on wire from the floor above. The grid is made of pieces of metal manufactured in standard sizes, but they can be cut to fit as necessary. The ceiling tiles or panels are manufactured with a flange so they can be neatly laid into the grid.

While most ceiling tile is chosen for its sound-absorbing qualities, installers also put up metal tiles embossed with decorative designs, which are popular in the restoration of historic homes and in bars and restaurants. Some tiles and panels are covered in fabric or wood. They may have the same acoustical qualities, but they are often installed simply as decoration.

Education and Training Requirements

Most ceiling tile installers learn their trade on the job, although they may have learned some of the tool skills in wood or metal shop in high school. A small number of installers learn their trade in a union or trade association apprenticeship. Apprentices must be at least eighteen years old and have an aptitude and the agility for the job. The programs usually require up to three years of on-the-job training plus classroom work. Some vocational and technical schools offer courses in ceiling tile installation.

Besides shop, high school classes that are good preparation for this trade are English, mathematics, mechanical drawing, and blueprint reading. Installers must be able to solve arithmetic problems quickly.

Getting the Job

Local contractors are often looking for installation assistants. Regional union offices can provide information about apprenticeships and job listings. State employment services, newspaper classified ads, and job banks on the Internet are other sources of job information.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Ceiling tile installers with experience may become supervisors of small crews of workers. As they learn to estimate costs of installation, they become a valuable asset to a construction team. Some workers may start their own contracting businesses.

About 135,000 ceiling tile installers are employed in the United States. They work for contractors specializing in ceiling tile installation or for general building contractors. Employment of ceiling tile installers is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through 2014. Most opportunities will arise as people leave the workforce or grow dissatisfied with the occupation and transfer to another.

Working Conditions

Almost all ceiling tile installation is completed indoors, so workers rarely lose time because of inclement weather. However, they may be unemployed between construction projects and during downturns in construction activity.

The work is sometimes strenuous. It requires lifting and maneuvering panels overhead. Installers have to climb ladders and often work on scaffolding several feet above the floor. Flying dust and exposure to cut metal are constant hazards.

Where to Go for More Information

Associated Builders and Contractors
4250 N. Fairfax Dr., Ninth Fl.
Arlington, VA 22203-1607
(703) 812-2000

International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades
1750 New York Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 637-0700

Associated General Contractors of America
2300 Wilson Blvd., Ste. 400
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 548-3118

United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
101 Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 546-6206

National Association of the Remodeling Industry
780 Lee St., Ste. 200
Des Plaines, IL 60016
(800) 611-6274

National Association of Home Builders
1201 Fifteenth St. NW
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 266-8200

Earnings and Benefits

In 2004 the median wage for ceiling tile installers was $16.67 per hour. Trainees start at about half the rate of experienced workers. Some contractors pay installers by the amount of work they do. Those who work for hourly wages receive overtime pay. Benefits may be provided to those who have worked with the same contractor for a long time, but many workers must make their own provisions for health insurance and pensions.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesConstruction & Skilled Trades