Wall/Floor Tiler

The Job and What's Involved

Wall and floor tilers tile walls and floors inside all types of buildings. Bathrooms, kitchens, supermarkets, swimming pools and hospitals all need heavy-duty, clean surfaces. Tilers may work in a bathroom one week and in a large factory or office block the following week. Tiles can be made from a range of materials, including stone, ceramic, granite or marble.

Tilers work from diagrams and written or verbal instructions. First, they measure the area to be tiled and calculate the minimum number of tiles required, taking into account any pattern or design. Next, they remove any existing covering and level the surface. Levelling is done using sand and cement for floors and plaster for walls. A level surface is essential before tiling can begin.

Cement or adhesive is applied with a trowel and tiles are lain in the desired pattern. Tiles can be cut to fit around walls and obstacles, such as pipe work, using hand-held or bench-mounted cutters. After the adhesive has dried, the joints between the tiles are filled with grouting cement.

A wide variety of tiling arrangements are possible and tiles are usually placed according to a client's preferred design. Tilers can achieve spectacular results by using coloured and textured tiles in plain or patterned arrangements. They may use mosaic tiles to create a mural or decorative effect.

On large projects, tilers may work in teams. On smaller jobs, they may work alone or with a trainee or assistant. All tilers carry out the full range of basic tiling tasks, but more experienced tilers may also specialise in one area of work, such as mosaics.

Tilers usually work between 37 and 39 hours, Monday to Friday. They may work outside normal office hours in order to make the most of daylight hours, or to avoid disrupting businesses. Self-employed tilers are likely to work additional hours. Overtime at weekends or in the evenings is common.

Tilers usually work indoors in homes, offices, shops, hospitals and other buildings. Buildings may be under construction or already occupied. Tilers spend a great deal of time bending, kneeling or crouching. They may use personal protective equipment, particularly when applying adhesives and grouts.

The work can involve travelling locally or further afield. Wall and floor tilers may have to work away from home for short or long periods.

A full UK driving licence is useful.

Newly qualified wall and floor tilers may earn around £18,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Wall and floor tilers may work for specialist tiling firms, firms that specialise in artistic work and for some building contractors. Employment opportunities vary, depending on the strength of the economy

Most tilers are self-employed subcontractors, who work on their own or run their own labour supply company.

Vacancies may be advertised in local Jobcentre Plus offices, Connexions centres and the local press. It is also advisable to approach local companies direct to ask about jobs, and whether they are taking on trainees or apprentices. The Tile Association lists member companies on its website.

Education and Training

There are no specific entry requirements, although GCSE's (A*-D) in maths, technology and English may be helpful for dealing with calculations, measurements and theory.

The Foundation Certificate in building craft operations, run by the Construction Awards Alliance (CAA), is available in some schools for 14-16-year olds. It is designed to prepare students for work in construction craft occupations.

The Diploma in construction and the built environment may be relevant for this area of work.

It is possible to gain employment as a trainee wall and floor tiler straight from school and train on the job. Apprenticeships may be available. Candidates are usually required to take a skills learning exercise.

Information and advice about careers in construction and applying for Apprenticeships is available on the ConstructionSkills website at www.bconstructive.co.uk.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A number of private companies offer introductory and short courses. Building colleges may also run courses in wall and floor tiling.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Apprentice wall and floor tilers spend some time at college or a training centre on day or block release. The remainder of the time is spent gaining work experience with an employer. Apprenticeships lead to an NVQ Level 2 in wall and floor tiling, key skills certificates at Level 1, and a Level 2 Diploma in wall and floor tiling. The programme normally takes between 18 and 30 months.

There are 16 training centres in England, all of which are all listed on the Tile Association website. Trainees may have to live away from home during periods of block release. Alternatively, some colleges offer day release programme's.

It may be possible to progress on to an Advanced Apprenticeship programme in wall and floor tiling. This leads to an NVQ Level 3 in wall and floor tiling, key skills certificates at Level 2, and a Level 3 Diploma in wall and floor tiling.

Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) cards are increasingly required within the construction industry as proof of occupational competence. Wall and floor tilers may apply for the appropriate CSCS card, depending on their qualifications and experience. For further information visit the CSCS website: www.cscs.uk.com.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Tilers should:

  • Have good practical and hand skills.
  • Be careful and methodical.
  • Have normal colour vision.
  • Have an appreciation of design and the ability to match patterns.
  • Be able to carry out tasks in the correct order.
  • Have an aptitude for maths - important for measuring and calculating quantities of materials.
  • Be able to work alone or as part of a team.
  • Be presentable and have a pleasant manner.
  • Be physically fit.

Your Long Term Prospects

With further qualifications and experience, tilers can progress to technical, supervisory and managerial roles.

They can also move into specialised areas of work or, as the majority do, become self-employed. Some go on to set up their own successful companies.

There may be opportunities to work abroad.

Get Further Information

Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB),
Englemere, Kings Ride, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7TB
Tel: 01344 630700
Website: www.ciob.org.uk

ConstructionSkills, Head Office,
Bircham Newton, King's Lynn,
Norfolk PE31 6RH
Tel: 0300 456 7577
Websites: www.cskills.org
and www.bconstructive.co.uk

The Tile Association, Forum Court,
83 Copers Cope Road, Beckenham, Kent BR3 1NRT
el: 020 8663 0946
Website: www.tiles.org.uk

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