Tile Setters

Tile, Marble, and Terrazzo Setters

The work of these skilled professionals is seen everywhere: the grand marble lobbies of high-end hotels and office buildings…the ceramic tile-lined Lincoln and Holland tunnels…the expansive floors of shopping malls…your own kitchen or bathroom.

Tile, marble and terrazzo surfaces are aesthetic and highly durable. They are impervious to water and easy to clean — characteristics that have made them popular building materials in a wide array of commercial and industrial settings including hospitals, lobbies of buildings, bathrooms, and kitchens.

The men and women practicing this craft must have an artistic flair and an eye for precision. Tiles, such as those covering walls and floors in kitchens and bathrooms, or the large slabs of marble that cover the walls in hotel lobbies and office buildings, must be perfectly aligned. Designs crafted from tile and terrazzo require careful setting. These skills and others that make up the tile, marble and terrazzo trade are engrained by years of training and experience.

In the northern part of New Jersey (considered everything above Route 33, which dissects the state through Mercer, Middlesex and Monmouth counties) a craftsman chooses to master one of the three materials and works with only that material. In the southern part of New Jersey, craftsmen work with all three materials.

Tile, marble and terrazzo all have different qualities and purposes. Each is installed using moderately different methods. On surfaces that are very uneven, «mud» (a compilation of sand and cement) is used to fill gaps and cavities so the material is applied to a level surface. Regardless of the material being set, there is always a two-person team working in tandem. However, the setting process varies for each of the three materials.

A tile setter is assisted by a tile finisher. The finisher prepares the work site, setting up the material for the setter. The tile setter — often referred to as a mechanic — then lays and sets the tile on the wall, using glue or a cement adhesive called «thin set.»

Because tile varies in color, shape, and size, setters sometimes prearrange tiles on a dry floor according to a specified design. This allows mechanics to examine the pattern and make changes. In order to cover all exposed areas, including corners, and around pipes, tubs, and wash basins, tile setters cut tiles to fit with a machine saw or a special cutting tool.

After the tiles are laid out perfectly in place, the finisher applies the grout between the tiles.

For marble installation, the marble setter — also known as a mechanic — first cuts the marble to the right dimensions and then drills holes where high strength anchors will be inserted. When covering walls the marble finisher holds the heavy stone in place while the setter fastens the stone to the wall with the anchors, ensuring that it is even with the adjacent marble. For floors, the finisher helps lay the marble in place before it is aligned and anchored by the mechanic. Marble setters and finishers must learn rigging skills because of the size and weight of some marble pieces.

To maintain its lustrous appearance, marble requires attention from experienced marble polishers. Marble must be polished about every two weeks; however, in high traffic areas, it is done with more frequency. For example, the marble in casinos is polished almost every other day. Polishers also fix chips in the marble and restore marble that has fallen into disrepair due to lack of maintenance.

Terrazzo is a decorative flooring material that is made up of stone chips set in a hard mortar mix. When setting terrazzo, the terrazzo setter first pours the cement mixture and in this cement sets metal strips that form the shapes in which the terrazzo will be set. This can be in squares or decorative designs. After the cement and strips are in place, the stone chips are poured. Once dried, a terrazzo grinder uses a machine to grind down the surface to a smooth polish. The grinder also assists the setter in other tasks, such as mixing the cement and preparing the worksite.

Completing the job requires final touches such as stripping between the edge of a floor and the wall, and sealing and waterproofing.

Salary and Benefits

One of the primary — if not the primary — factors in choosing a career is the compensation — salary and benefits. Tile, marble and terrazzo setters make a very attractive wage, and the trade provides ample opportunities for advancement to supervisory positions that increase the base wage.

The range of hourly wages is:

Tile, Marble, and Terrazzo Setters

The work of these skilled professionals is seen everywhere: the grand marble lobbies of high-end hotels and office buildings…the ceramic tile-lined Lincoln and Holland tunnels…the expansive floors of shopping malls…your own kitchen or bathroom.

Tile, marble and terrazzo surfaces are aesthetic and highly durable. They are impervious to water and easy to clean — characteristics that have made them popular building materials in a wide array of commercial and industrial settings including hospitals, lobbies of buildings, bathrooms, and kitchens.

The men and women practicing this craft must have an artistic flair and an eye for precision. Tiles, such as those covering walls and floors in kitchens and bathrooms, or the large slabs of marble that cover the walls in hotel lobbies and office buildings, must be perfectly aligned. Designs crafted from tile and terrazzo require careful setting. These skills and others that make up the tile, marble and terrazzo trade are engrained by years of training and experience.

In the northern part of New Jersey (considered everything above Route 33, which dissects the state through Mercer, Middlesex and Monmouth counties) a craftsman chooses to master one of the three materials and works with only that material. In the southern part of New Jersey, craftsmen work with all three materials.

Tile Setters

Tile, marble and terrazzo all have different qualities and purposes. Each is installed using moderately different methods. On surfaces that are very uneven, «mud» (a compilation of sand and cement) is used to fill gaps and cavities so the material is applied to a level surface. Regardless of the material being set, there is always a two-person team working in tandem. However, the setting process varies for each of the three materials.

A tile setter is assisted by a tile finisher. The finisher prepares the work site, setting up the material for the setter. The tile setter — often referred to as a mechanic — then lays and sets the tile on the wall, using glue or a cement adhesive called «thin set.»

Because tile varies in color, shape, and size, setters sometimes prearrange tiles on a dry floor according to a specified design. This allows mechanics to examine the pattern and make changes. In order to cover all exposed areas, including corners, and around pipes, tubs, and wash basins, tile setters cut tiles to fit with a machine saw or a special cutting tool.

After the tiles are laid out perfectly in place, the finisher applies the grout between the tiles.

For marble installation, the marble setter — also known as a mechanic — first cuts the marble to the right dimensions and then drills holes where high strength anchors will be inserted. When covering walls the marble finisher holds the heavy stone in place while the setter fastens the stone to the wall with the anchors, ensuring that it is even with the adjacent marble. For floors, the finisher helps lay the marble in place before it is aligned and anchored by the mechanic. Marble setters and finishers must learn rigging skills because of the size and weight of some marble pieces.

To maintain its lustrous appearance, marble requires attention from experienced marble polishers. Marble must be polished about every two weeks; however, in high traffic areas, it is done with more frequency. For example, the marble in casinos is polished almost every other day. Polishers also fix chips in the marble and restore marble that has fallen into disrepair due to lack of maintenance.

Terrazzo is a decorative flooring material that is made up of stone chips set in a hard mortar mix. When setting terrazzo, the terrazzo setter first pours the cement mixture and in this cement sets metal strips that form the shapes in which the terrazzo will be set. This can be in squares or decorative designs. After the cement and strips are in place, the stone chips are poured. Once dried, a terrazzo grinder uses a machine to grind down the surface to a smooth polish. The grinder also assists the setter in other tasks, such as mixing the cement and preparing the worksite.

Completing the job requires final touches such as stripping between the edge of a floor and the wall, and sealing and waterproofing.

Salary and Benefits

One of the primary — if not the primary — factors in choosing a career is the compensation — salary and benefits. Tile, marble and terrazzo setters make a very attractive wage, and the trade provides ample opportunities for advancement to supervisory positions that increase the base wage.

The range of hourly wages is:


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