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Tile Marble and Terrazzo Worker Job Description, Career as a Tile Marble and Terrazzo Worker, Salary, Employment

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

Education and Training: Apprenticeship or on-the-job training

Salary: Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Within the field of construction there are many specialized workers. Marble setters install marble, terrazzo panels, and structural glass in large buildings. Tile setters apply tile to walls, floors, and ceilings in homes and businesses. Terrazzo workers install a decorative concrete mixture used mostly for flooring in schools, office buildings, and hospitals. These workers use a variety of tools including hammers, chisels, trowels, putty knives, power grinders, and polishers. They generally work with at least one helper.

To set marble, marble setters first drill holes in the corners of a marble sheet. They place fasteners, such as bolts or screws, through these holes. Then they press the marble against a plaster mixture that they have applied to the wall. Once the marble is in place, marble setters pack a special mixture between the slabs and smooth and finish this mixture with a trowel. A trowel is a flat, pointed tool made of metal.

Tile setters apply a special cement to the walls, floors, and ceilings they are covering. Sometimes they put cement on the backs of the tiles, as well. Then they set each tile in place and tap it to make sure the cement will hold. To fit tiles in corners and around plumbing and electrical outlets, setters use chisels and other tools to crack the tiles to the proper shape and size. This requires skill and patience.

Terrazzo is an ornamental mixture of tinted concrete and marble chips. Terrazzo workers first lay a base of mortar, which is a mixture of cement or plaster. They level the mortar with a straightedge. They put metal strips in the mortar wherever there is to be a joint or a change of color between the panels. Then they mix colored cement and marble chips to make the terrazzo. They put this mixture over the mortar base, and they roll and level it. In a few days, when it is dry, the terrazzo workers smooth and polish the surface with a grinding machine.

Education and Training Requirements

A high school diploma is preferred but not required. While many marble and tile setters and terrazzo workers learn their trade while working as helpers to skilled workers, the best way to learn these trades is through formal apprenticeship programs. These are three-year programs that combine on-the-job training with 144 hours of classroom instruction each year. To join an apprenticeship program, an applicant should be in good health and have a certain degree of manual dexterity. A sense of color harmony is very helpful. On the job, apprentices learn how to use materials and perform the various operations of the trade. In the classroom, they are taught blueprint reading, basic mathematics, and layout work.

Tile setters apply tile to walls, floors, and ceilings in homes and businesses. (© Karl Weatherly/Corbis.)

Getting the Job

The best method of entering these trades is to apply to the apprenticeship programs, which are available through local union offices and contractors. Applicants with experience may find job openings listed in the Yellow Pages or newspaper classified ads.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Marble and tile setters and terrazzo workers are already at the top of their craft. However, skilled and experienced workers in these crafts can become supervisors. Some start their own contracting businesses.

Employment for marble and tile setters and terrazzo workers in the United States is expected to increase as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2014. However, employment opportunities in these trades depend on the overall state of the economy.

Working Conditions

The materials used in these trades are heavy and in some cases bulky. Helpers are responsible for moving materials and for cleanup duties. The work requires extended periods of standing, squatting, and kneeling. The work area can get dusty and may require protective gear, such as safety goggles and dust masks. Terrazzo workers and marble setters work both indoors and out. Their work can be affected by bad weather. Tile setters work mostly indoors, so their work is unaffected by weather. Marble, tile, and terrazzo workers generally work forty hours a week. They earn extra wages for overtime hours. A large number of tile and marble setters are union members.

Where to Go for More Information

Mason Contractors Association of America
33 S. Roselle Rd.
Schaumburg, IL 60193
(800) 536-2225

National Terrazzo and Mosaic Association
201 N. Maple St., Ste. 208
Purcellville, VA 20132
(540) 751-0930

Operative Plasterers' and Cement Masons' International Association of the United States and Canada
14405 Laurel Pl., Ste. 300
Laurel, MD 20707
(301) 470-4200

International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers
1776 I St. NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 783-3788

Tile, Marble, Terrazzo, Finishers, Shopworkers and Granite Cutters International Union
101 Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 546-6206

Earnings and Benefits

In 2004 the median wage for marble and tile setters was $17.39 per hour. The median wage for terrazzo workers was $13.89 per hour. Experienced marble, tile, and terrazzo workers who are skilled in their craft often earn $40,000 or more per year. Apprentices earn fifty to sixty percent of the experienced worker's wage. Wages are increased periodically until the apprentice becomes a qualified craft worker and earns a full salary. Nonunion workers usually earn considerably less than union workers. Benefits for union workers usually include paid holidays, life insurance, and hospitalization and pension plans. The number of vacation days they receive depends on the number of days they work each year. Other benefits are negotiated separately for each union contract.

Additional topics

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