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Floor Covering Installer

Kaiwhakauru Uhi

Alternative titles for this job

Floor covering installers lay, replace and repair floor coverings such as carpet, linoleum, vinyl and timber.

Pay

New floor covering installers usually earn

$18-$20 per hour

Experienced floor covering installers usually earn

$25-$31 per hour

Source: Trade Me and Careers New Zealand research, 2016.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a floor covering installer are good due to a shortage of workers.

Pay

Pay for floor covering installers varies depending on experience.

Floor covering installers may receive an hourly rate, but are often paid a contract rate per metre of flooring installed.

  • New floor covering installers usually start on minimum wage or a little more.
  • Apprentice floor covering installers usually start on the training rate or minimum wage, but earn more as they gain experience and unit standards. 
  • Newly qualified floor covering installers usually earn between $18 and $20 an hour.
  • Experienced floor covering installers usually earn between $25 and $31 an hour.

More than half (55%) of floor covering installers are self-employed. Their income depends on the success of their business.

Source: Trade Me, 'Salary Guide', 2016; Careers New Zealand research, 2016.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Floor covering installers may do some or all of the following:

  • check customers' requirements
  • prepare quotes for jobs
  • measure and prepare areas to be covered
  • measure, cut, apply and secure floor coverings
  • mix and apply resin flooring
  • repair damaged floor coverings
  • install and/or sand timber floors.

Skills and knowledge

Floor covering installers need to have:

  • knowledge of how to prepare floors for covering
  • knowledge of different types of flooring materials and how to cut and fit or apply them
  • technical skills such as knowing how to measure a floor's moisture content
  • skill in using specialised equipment such as floor sanders
  • knowledge of health and safety equipment and processes.

Floor covering installers who are self-employed also need business skills.

Working conditions

Floor covering installers:

  • usually work regular business hours, but may have to work long or irregular hours 
  • work in homes, and other buildings that are being refurbished or built. Some may work outdoors on surfaces such as tennis courts
  • work in conditions that may be dusty or contain adhesive fumes, and involve heating equipment that can be dangerous
  • travel locally and occasionally between towns.

What's the job really like?

Murray Hartley

Murray Hartley

Floor Covering Installer

Murray quickly built up his skills so he could start his own business

Murray Hartley was a carpenter for four years before he discovered vinyl laying. Six months later he was running his own business.

Though not formally trained, he took any opportunity to learn. "I'd lay vinyl in a kitchen and when the carpet layer turned up to lay carpet in the living room, I'd give him a hand for free."

Job satisfaction from transforming rooms

After 35 years in the trade, he has built up his business and now employs two apprentices. It's a job he's always enjoyed doing because you get to transform rooms. "You go to a job and the floor's looking terrible and you finish the job off and it changes the whole look of the place."

Maitua finds out about becoming a floor covering installer – 6.42 mins. (Video courtesy of FloorNZ)

Maitua: Hi my name is Maitua and I’m 17 years of age. I’m very physical, very strong and tough and I’m looking for a physical job.

Clinton: Well carpet and vinyl installation might be the job for you then, Maitua. Stewart Steel has been a carpet and vinyl layer for 38 years and he’s going to give Maitua the lay of the land when it comes to an apprenticeship in carpet and vinyl installation.

Stewart: Well the main quality you need, besides communication skills, is a good attitude.

Clinton: An apprentice learns a range of skills, from planning and cutting in the workshop, to on-site installation. This is so they can learn to read floor plans and identify different types of vinyl, carpet and underlay.

Stewart: Good man, grab it. Let’s go!

Stewart: Right, we’re now on-site. This is the house we’re going to lay carpet in today. Because it is someone else’s house, you respect that house and you respect the other people who are working in it. Be safe on the site at all times.

Stewart: The advantages of doing an apprenticeship is that you’re learning a skill, learning lots of skills, and it’s something that you will have forever and a day.

Stewart: Because we’ve got the smoothies around the outside, the smoothies and the gripper, which I’ll show you in a minute, we’ve got to sweep the floor clean so there's no foreign matter underneath the smoothie. Because if it’s sitting high, then you’ll get a hump in your carpet.

Stewart: Well, this is our smoothies, this is what the carpet hooks on to. So you feel the little spikes on it? This is what the carpet hooks on to. And these are concrete nails, so we get the grip in the floor. Here’s the hammer – do you think you can do it?

Maitua: Yep.

Stewart: Do it.

Clinton: Once all the smooth edge is prepped, it’s time to lay out the underlay. Which turns out to be harder than Maitua expected...

Stewart: Maitua, here’s our underlay. It only goes one way. Give it a kick out with your foot, get our trusty Stanley knife, get all the underlay and put air under it. Look I can still see more stuff on the floor! Are you sure you swept the floor?! And there’s a bit under the door there... I’m gonna fire you!

Stewart: Roll it out. Now do you know how to use a knife? Just through one layer...

Stewart: You’re supposed to cut it, not chew it!

Stewart: Throughout the apprenticeship, you get fast at the tasks that you’re given to do. After you’ve done your time and you become a contractor, then you choose your own speed.

Stewart: If I can see your face, you’re not working. Head down and bum up!

Stewart: Before we have to go into that corner, we've got to take all the joins.

Clinton: In the bathroom, work is underway preparing the floor for a vinyl covering. Stewart takes Maitua to have a look.

Stewart: He’s now sanding it to take off all the dirt, all the old paint, plaster – everything off the floor so the adhesives will stick to it.

Stewart: The sander he's using is an edging sander, that is usually used in conjunction with a drum sander, but in a small area it can be used on its own. He’s got the equipment on, he's got good-fitting clothing, he’s got earmuffs, he’s got eye protection and he’s got a mask.

Stewart: He’s now putting the sealer on. He’s just using a standard paint roller – it just gives an even finish all over. It seals the floor, any liquid that goes on the floor at a later date doesn’t go past, because it’s working as a moisture barrier. Because on the floor of course, if it gets wet, it goes to biscuits!

Stewart: It doesn’t matter whether you’re laying sheet vinyl, hard sheet vinyl or soft sheet vinyl or tiles or even a wood-grain tile. All the floor prep is the same. He’s now streamlining the floor and marking it. Not necessarily marking the centre of the area, but just giving a straight line, length and width and the centre is square.

Stewart: When you’re laying these areas, you never start on a wall, because the wall may not be square or straight, so you make your own central area where you start from.

Most tiles, not all of them, but most of the tiles have a direction indicator on the back – that way you put all the tiles the sam

e way so that it looks uniform. But you can alternate them to give you a light/dark pattern. You put them all into place, keep them as square as you can, cutting any small tiles, and once you’ve done that area then you can glue it out and fit it, and then the rest of the area will come off that.

Then we clean it all up, then stand back and look it and think, "Yes! A job well done!" This is job satisfaction. Maitua, this is how the vinyl tiles are laid, now let's get back to the carpet.

Maitua: Choice.

Stewart: All right, we'll start down here.

Clinton: One of the most important parts of the job is called profiling, where the site is measured and the carpet cut to size.

Stewart: Now what we’re doing here is, Phillip is marking out the carpet with chalk. Now he’s measured it, as you saw him do on the plan, now he’s transferring those measurements onto the carpet. We mark it, and then we cut it. And then basically the bit we take from here will fit straight into the room. There are probably half a dozen specialised tools that we'd use.

Stewart: You learn knife skills, you learn safety skills, you learn mathematical skills so you can do your own plans. You learn to measure…

Stewart: Now if you rub your fingers along, quite hard, you feel the smooth edge underneath. You’re not pushing hard. I want to see blood on your fingers! Then I’ll know you’re doing it...

Stewart: Come on! I can’t it hear it going along there! No don’t tap it, push it hard! That’s it, now I can hear the pins. That’ll do, you can stop there. All right, now we’ve fitted the carpet, and we’ve stretched it, now we’re going to trim it. And that’s what this tool is. It goes in there, and you just slide it along. Do you want to have a turn?

Maitua: Yes.

Maitua: Now I’m starting to get the hang of it, and I’m starting to enjoy it.

Stewart: To have the ability to ask, and good work ethics with it, and a good attitude, you can’t go wrong. He has all three. Personally I’d take him on as an apprentice.

Maitua: I’d definitely see myself as being a carpet layer. I got to meet new people and my mentor was really great and he taught me a lot.

Clinton: The National Certificate in Flooring is made up of six strands, and each is a qualification in its own right. Course fees vary depending on the strands and the training you undertake, and they are one of the cheapest training options available. A good floor layer can earn between $45,000 and $55,000 a year. And contractors can earn $100,000 a year or more.

Clinton: Well, Maitua certainly seems to have done quite well in a job that could lead on to a great career.

Entry requirements

There are no specific entry requirements to become a floor covering installer. However, having a qualification will improve your job prospects and pay.

To become a qualified floor covering installer you need to complete an apprenticeship and gain one of these qualifications: 

  • National Certificate in Flooring: Trade Supply (Level 3) – for working in manufacturing and wholesale sales
  • National Certificate in Flooring (Level 4) – for installing floor coverings
  • National Certificate in Flooring: Resin Flooring Application (Level 4) – for installing resin flooring 
  • National Certificate in Flooring: Flooring Planning & Design (Level 4) – for working in retail flooring sales.

The Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) oversees floor covering apprenticeships.

Secondary education

No specific secondary education is required for this job, but NCEA Level 1 English, maths and technology are useful.

Year 11 and 12 students can learn more about the construction industry, and gain relevant skills, by doing a National Certificate in Building, Construction and Allied Trades (Level 1 and 2) through the BConstructive programme.

For Year 11 to 13 students, the Gateway programme run by the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) is a good way to gain industry experience.

These programmes may help you gain an apprenticeship, but do not reduce the amount of time it takes to complete it.

Personal requirements

Floor covering installers need to be:

  • careful and accurate, with an eye for detail 
  • able to follow instructions 
  • able to work well under pressure
  • able to work well with others 
  • good at basic maths
  • safety-conscious.

Useful experience

Useful experience for floor covering installers includes:

  • work as a flooring salesperson
  • work as a storeperson in a flooring warehouse
  • work in a carpet factory
  • building work.

Experience in joinery or woodworking is useful for floor covering installers who work with timber floors.

Physical requirements

Floor covering installers need to be physically fit as there may be a lot of heavy lifting, depending on the type of flooring. A lot of time is spent kneeling and bending, which can be hard on the knees and back.

It is important that floor covering installers do not suffer from respiratory diseases, as they may work with solvents and in dusty conditions.

Find out more about training

Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO)
0800 422 486 - info@bcito.org.nz - www.bcito.org.nz
FloorNZ
(03) 352 1409 - info@floornz.co.nz - www.floornz.org.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Opportunities for floor covering installers are good because:

  • a shortage of new trainees in floor covering installation. FloorNZ estimates 400 extra installers are needed per year until 2026, but fewer than 100 new apprentices enter training each year
  • experienced floor covering installers often progress into sales or business ownership 
  • a construction boom that is predicted to last until 2021, meaning more building work
  • the extra 22,000 houses that are needed over the next 10 years in Auckland
  • building work needed to upgrade leaky homes and earthquake-prone buildings
  • the Christchurch rebuild.

Floor finisher (floor covering installer) appears on Immigration New Zealand's immediate skill shortage list and Immigration New Zealand's construction and infrastructure skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled floor covering installers from overseas to work in New Zealand.

However, like many building jobs, this role can be affected by economic conditions. A downturn in the economy can lower demand for floor covering installers.

Most floor covering installers run their own business

More than half (55%) of floor covering installers are self-employed.

Most other floor covering installers work for small businesses that employ only a few staff.

Sources

  • BRANZ and Pacifecon, 'National Construction Pipeline Report 4', July 2016, (www.branz.co.nz).
  • Henry, J, training school manager, FloorNZ, Careers New Zealand interview, September 2016.
  • Immigration New Zealand, 'Construction and Infrastructure Skill Shortage List', 17 December 2018, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
  • Immigration New Zealand, 'Immediate Skill Shortage List', 25 June 2018, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
  • McClintock, J, operations manager, Certified Builders Association, Careers New Zealand interview, July 2016.
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
  • Pearcey, K, chief executive officer, Floor NZ, Careers New Zealand interview, September 2016. 

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Floor covering installers may progress to set up their own floor covering installation business, or become flooring sales representatives.

Floor covering installers may specialise in:

  • installing certain products such as vinyl, carpet or timber overlay
  • applying resin
  • processes such as preparing floors or sanding.
A floor covering installer kneeling and spreading glue on the floor with a trowel

A floor covering installer preparing to lay vinyl

Last updated 1 April 2019