How to Become a Tile Installer

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated 56,700 tile installers were working in the US in 2021. This industry is easy to enter, unregulated, and has no formal licensing requirements. However, when researching how to become a tile installer, you must follow many steps to succeed. This article will examine the steps and requirements to becoming a tile installer, like certification, buying tools, and tile contractor insurance. We will also look at tile installer statistics for the occupation’s economic outlook.

What is a Tile Installer?

A tile installer cuts tiles using saws and installs them to walls or floors with a sticky paste. As a tile installer, you will use trowels to spread mortar on tiles to create an even work surface so tiles will stay stuck for a long time. As shown in the table below, you will be working with several types of tiles as a tile installer

Type of Tile Advantages Disadvantages
Ceramic Durable, Affordable, Fire resistant, Low maintenance, allergen reducing, easy to install Susceptible to repeated wear, extremely hard, uncomfortable to stand on.
Porcelain Low maintenance, durable, slate design effects, wear-resistant It can chip around the edges and is more expensive than ceramic
Marble Gorgeous, resists shattering, is an excellent insulator, and is affordable Porous, slippery, easily damaged, high maintenance, difficult to replace
Granite Exceptional durability, heat resistant, scratch resistant, moisture resistant Heavy material, difficult to install, slippery
Natural stone Adds warmth, hygienic, underfloor heating compatible, easy to maintain, naturally beautiful Prone to water damage, it can stay and scratch, and less cushioning makes falls hurt more.
Glass Transparent, endless color variations, brightens a room, easy to clean Scatches easily, more challenging to install, pricy

What Are Common Projects Tile Installers Work On?

Clients will contract tile installers for rooms like kitchens and bathrooms. These rooms need tile because it is the best water-resistant wall and flooring option. Tile is easy to maintain and clean. You can scrub tile and easily remove stains and smudges. A tile floor is also durable and can last long when appropriately installed. Other common projects that use tile include:

  • Showers

  • Parking lots

  • Rooftops

  • Tabletops in dining rooms

  • Garages

  • Swimming pools

  • Workshops

  • Dancefloors

  • Gyms

What Are the Steps to Becoming a Tile Installer?

You must research several steps when learning how to become a tile setter. These steps include:

  • Earning a high school diploma

  • Buying proper tools

  • Job experience

  • Getting certified

  • Registering your business

  • Establishing working relationships

  • Getting proper insurance protection

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Earning a Highschool Diploma

An essential part of how to become a tile contractor is earning a high school diploma or GED. You will need the skills you learn in math classes to help you measure your tiles and install them with precision. Many tile installer certifiers and apprenticeship programs also require high-school-level education.

Buying Tools

Tile installers utilize various tools to assist them in their tile-laying business. The tools you will need include:

  • Levels: Tile installers would be lost without level devices. Installing tiles correctly requires an ability to find and draw straight lines. Improperly lined tiles are easy to identify, even to a layman. These cost between $20 and $100 per package

  • Rubber mallets: You use rubber mallets to secure tiles in place. It must be rubber because standard hammers can crack or shatter a tile. Rubber mallets cost $20-$50.

  • Tile cutters: These lightweight tools help you make precise and quick tile cuts to match your measurements. These cost $30 to $400.

  • Wet tile saws: These are required for many tiling jobs where the tile needs to fit together perfectly. This tool cuts many materials like ceramic, porcelain, glass, and stone. These cost $1,000 to $3,000.

  • Diamond drill bits: A drill bit kit is essential to solve pipes and drainers you encounter when tile setting. Diamond drill bits drill better and can feature wet cutting. Wet cutting reduces the noise of your installation process and removes residue. These will cost between $10 and $150.

  • Mortar mixer: You need a mortar mixer to get your mortar to the right consistency. Good mortar is crucial to the longevity of your tile installation. Mortar mixers cost $100 or more.

  • Buckets: Tile installers should use rubber buckets because they are durable and versatile. You use them to mix and transport mortar. Rubber buckets are also easier to clean than plastic buckets. Plastic buckets and rubber buckets cost $20-$40

  • Grout sponges: These are used when finished the grouting process. They are designed so they won’t stain a tile or disrupt the tile grout. This costs between $10 and $100.

  • Grout floats: Grout floats help you with the grouting process. This process fills the tiny spaces between tiles, allowing them to stick together. Grout floats cost between $10 and $40.

  • Tile trowels: A tile trowel is one of the essential tools you need as a tile installer. It helps you level the tiles you install and ensures they stick to the wall and floor. Tile trowels make the final product polished and professional looking. Tile trowels cost between $5 and $20.

  • Knee pads: Tile installers need knee pads because of their time on the floor. A tiling installing job is physically demanding because of constant squatting and knee balance. You must have a set of knee pads to protect your knees and keep you comfortable during the process. These can cost between $20 and $100.

Job Experience

Gaining work experience is critical for developing the skills necessary for becoming successful. You can start as a helper on other tile installer projects. By helping on projects, you get hands-on experience under the direction of someone more experienced. You will get familiar with the tools and techniques of tile installation.

Many prospective tile installers will opt for an apprenticeship program. These programs often require a school diploma or GED. This exists because you must be familiar with high school-level math and art concepts. Apprenticeship programs teach basic technical skills to prepare you for the workforce. You receive supervised on-the-job training where you can make mistakes and learn to overcome them.

Getting Certifications: How to Become a Certified Tile Installer

Are you wondering how to become a licensed tile installer? You must seek out a tile installation certification program.  These programs are third-party assessments of your tile installing skill and knowledge. You must take certified tile installer (CTI) tests from organizations like the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF). You must take a written test for 25% of your grade. Then there will be a hands-on test for 75% of your grade. 

The CTEF grades tile installers on their ability to install 25 square feet of tile. You must install floor and wall tile on a wood frame while being graded for your attention to detail on fitting tiles with different designs together. Each tile will have a pattern and a border that you must match up. The size and design of the tile change between tests, but the test format is always the same. Test takers remark it is the most challenging 25 square feet of tile you will ever have to lay.

With a certification, you will be highly sought after by customers. There are many tile installers without certification who install tiles improperly and lack attention to detail. Customers are frustrated with a bad tile job because they must pay someone else to redo it.

Registering Your Business

If you plan to create your own tile installer business, register it first. Here are the steps to registering your business:

  • Choose a business structure: Options include sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability cooperation, S-corp, and C-corp.

  • Determine your location: You must decide where to register your business, choose an address for tax filings, and receive government documents

  • Register with a state: For some business structures, you must pay a fee to register your business with a state. Many states require you to collect sales tax on goods and services you sell.

  • Register with a city: Some cities require businesses to apply for local licenses to operate in their area. Check your local government’s website to see if you need to apply for a license.

Establishing Relationships

A crucial step in how to become a tile setter is making connections within the industry. Being friendly with other tile setters can help you learn from their experience and apply it to your own trade. Relationships with others in your industry with other tile setters will lead to job opportunities and hiring opportunities. 

Consider joining a professional association like the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association or the Tile Craftsman Global Network. Here you will find other passionate members of the tile installer industries who can give helpful tips for running your business.

How Much Do Tile Installers Make a Year?

Tile installers have a median pay of $41,110 per year. Below is a comparison of the range of tile installer salaries.

Percentile Salary
10th $26,000
20th $30,750
30th $35,500
40th (median) $41,100
50th $45,000
60th $49,750
70th $54,500
80th $59,250
90th $64,000

How Much Do Tile Installers Make Per Hour?

A tile installer will make around $19 per hour on average. Tile installer hourly rates range between $12 and $30 per hour. Factors that influence your rate include the location of your business, education level, and how much on-the-job experience you have. A tile-installing certification will allow you to charge more for your services.

Tile Installer Job Outlook

The tile installer occupation has a projected job growth rate of 4% between 2021 and 2031 There are about 10,700 job openings for tile installers each year on average. Men dominate the industry. 94.8% of tile installers are men, while only 5.2% of tile installers are women. 55% of tile installers are white, 30% are Hispanic, 8% are black, and 4% are unknown.

What Industries Do Tile Installers Work In?

Tile installers work in many different industries. Below are the most common sectors a tile installer will work in.

Industry Percent of Tile Installers
Construction 59%
Manufacturing 9%
Retail trade 2%
Wholesale trade 1%

How Many Tile Installers are Self-Employed?

According to 2021 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 26.7% of tiler installers are self-employed. This means 73.3% of tile installers get paid through wages and salaries. To be self-employed, you can be an independent contractor, freelance tile installer, or sole proprietor business. Self-employed tile installers have to pay their payroll taxes.

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Insurance Requirements for Boosting Income

Your tile contractor insurance will protect your business from the devastating costs of legal lawsuits and other financial losses. Below are some essential insurance policies to boost your income without worrying about heavy loss exposure.

General Liability Insurance

General liability insurance protects your tile installing business from third-party liability claims. You will be protected from bodily injury, property damage, and personal injury claims.

Our recommended insurance choice for general liability is Thimble. Thimble has a streamlined buying process. The company has experience in covering over 300 professions. They offer excellent short-term general liability policies to cover the duration of your tile installer projects. 75% of their customers are first-time buyers, which indicates the ease of buying insurance with Thimble. Thimble has an A+ from the Better Business Bureau.

Professional Liability Insurance

Professional liability insurance is essential to protecting you from mistakes you make in your business. If you fail to meet contract obligations or cause your client’s loss through negligence, this policy can protect you from the cost of a lawsuit.

Hiscox is an excellent provider of professional liability insurance. The company offers specialized insurance policies that an agent will help tailor specifically to your business needs. They offer a 14-day refund policy, and professional liability coverage can extend outside the United States. Hiscox has an A rating from AM Best.

Commercial Property Insurance

A commercial property insurance policy protects your business from damage from fire, theft, vandalism, wind, and explosions. Any property on your business premises will enjoy this coverage also.

We recommend CoverWallet for commercial property insurance. The company is an online digital platform with several top-rated insurance carriers to pick from. They offer various options to protect your business properties, and you can manage multiple policies with a convenient insurance dashboard. CoverWallet has an A+ score from the Better Business Bureau.

Commercial Auto Insurance

Commercial auto insurance protects business vehicles from damage and your business from vehicle accident liability. A commercial auto policy is necessary for most work activities like transporting materials, visiting job sites, and meeting with clients.

Tivly offers over 200 insurance partners to pick insurance policies from. They offer commercial auto insurance options like uninsured motorists, gap insurance, and rental reimbursement coverage. The company uses flexible targeting to match your business’s needs with an insurer best equipped to address them. The Better Business Bureau gave Tivly an A rating.

Workers’ Comp Insurance

Once you start your business, you need workers’ compensation insurance to protect sick and injured employees. Most states require businesses with a certain amount of employees to purchase this insurance policy. Workers’ compensation insurance helps employees with medical costs like prescriptions and tests. It also pays disability benefits for worker injuries that leave them temporarily or permanently impaired.

The Hartford is our recommended choice for a workers’ compensation policy. They offer policies backed by over 200 years of underwriting experience. The company gives employees access to more than 65,000 pharmacies to write prescriptions for illnesses and injuries. The Hartford has a 100% rating on the Corporate Equality Index. They have an A- rating from AM Best.

Business Owner’s Policy Insurance

A business owner’s policy is one of the most comprehensive insurance protections you can get. It combines many types of insurance coverage into one cohesive policy. It will typically include general liability and commercial property coverage.

NEXT is our recommended pick for a business owner’s policy. They are an online and ai-based insurer that 4.7 out of 5 of their customers recommend. You can access online quotes and buy policies from the convenience of their mobile app. They offer policy discounts when bundling multiple policies. NEXT has an A- from AM Best and a B+ from the Better Business Bureau.

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