Considering getting into the flooring trade (long post!)

Discussion in 'Flooring Potpourri' started by DownInGeorgia, Nov 2, 2017.

  1. DownInGeorgia

    DownInGeorgia Considering the Business

    Hey all,

    I've read some posts on here for the past few days looking for some answers so I figured I'd make an account to ask the Pros myself.

    I'm 26 with no flooring background and looking for a trade to get into. I did electrical work for a year in the local IBEW union and loved it but left to try my hand at something else office related .

    I've gotten an offer from a well know flooring company that does hard and soft flooring to come on as an apprentice. This is a family ran shop with retail,install, and cleaning. The starting pay for someone completely green is not bad at all and they have a decent bonus system and benefits to boot. Seems like a sweet deal and I'm strongly considering taking it.

    My other option is to get back into electrical work which I know for a fact I enjoy. It's union so I'll have yearly raises and great benefits as well.

    As folks that have been in the profession for years, is getting into flooring something I can make a decent living in? Or should I just go back to running conduit and pulling wire? I'm ignorant to how much money can be made and what damage to your body laying flooring can do so I guess I'm looking for some unfiltered opinions.

    Thanks in advance!!!
  2. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Owner/Founder Administrator

    I spent 35 years in sales & installations and the last 11 years as the admin and founder of this site, for a total of 45 years involved in floor covering. I have loved it very much. The only thing I would change is being a smarter businessperson. I had to retire because of health and didn't plan for it. I live below the poverty level now, but when I was active, I made a pretty nice living.

    You can fall back on electrical, but give flooring a decent chance. Be business smart, health & safety smart and try to pass on every price shopper you encounter.

    That's my opinion. I gave you Pro Access just in case you take my advice. ;)
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  3. Mark Brown

    Mark Brown On The Surface Flooring I Support TFP

    I started laying floors 16 years ago as a drug fueled alcoholic 17 year old who wanted a job and was offered one. I think I made 7.75 at the time and was content. Fast forward to today and last year I netted just over 100K free and clear after taxes.The money is there if you work for it....

    On top of that I can honestly say most of the best times i have had came from floor covering. It is a challenge on the good days and has its ups and downs for sure but I wouldn't trade it for the world.

    My 28 year old apprentice just left his cozy office job to come slag it out in the trenches with me and I know he wouldn't go back!

    Come aboard man, it's one hell of a wild ride but it is a career that is rewarding, a challenge and something to feel proud about :)
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  4. DownInGeorgia

    DownInGeorgia Considering the Business

    Thanks Jim, I really appreciate the feedback. Like everyone else, I just want to do something that will give me a good living that I can fully commit to. I've done alot of jumping around job wise to just find that thing I can jump in whole heartedly.

    Thanks again
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  5. DownInGeorgia

    DownInGeorgia Considering the Business

    Just what I like to hear. Are you a contractor or an employee?

    Did your apprentice tell you why he was unsatisfied with his office job?

    Thanks bte
  6. Commercial Floor Rep

    Commercial Floor Rep I Support TFP Published

    I have spent the last 22 years in the business and I wouldn't do anything else. Prior to that I was an RN - way, way too much stress for this old dog!

    When people ask me about getting into this industry I often tell them that floor covering is much like the old time mafia - once you get in you never get out. There's something almost addictive about the challenges you're asked to deal with. It's hard work, but it is a good trade and something you'll always have if you need it. Come on in, the water's great!!!
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  7. DownInGeorgia

    DownInGeorgia Considering the Business

    Wow you used to be an RN? I'd imagine the $ you're making now is comparable to what you made as an RN? Are you a contractor as well?
  8. epoxyman

    epoxyman Pro Member

    Been at it for 33 years I’ve made a lot and spent a lot lol
    I love my trade and that’s a lot to me
    It’s long hours at times but to me very rewarding to
    Good luck if you decide to go this way in work

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  9. Commercial Floor Rep

    Commercial Floor Rep I Support TFP Published

    No, I'm in the wholesale distribution side of the business. At first I took a pretty significant pay cut when I left that profession, but the stress was literally killing me. Money's not really worth much if you're dead. :) I started working for the company I work for now at the lowest position in our warehouse, became a driver, started meeting a lot of the guys who install and learning from them. If there was something I wanted to learn, I'd ask some of the guys I trusted and they'd let me work with them in my off hours to learn. I would even do it for free just to learn. I did that for several years and at the same time started being promoted within our company into a front office position. After five years I was given the chance to take charge of the commercial side of our business and I've been doing that ever since. I still go out and install with my customers from time to time to keep up with things and help train them on our products. It also helps me be a resource for them if they have problems.

    I work with a wide variety of customers, from my direct customers - the flooring contractors and their sales / project managers and installation teams, to indirect customers like architects and designers to get products specified, to large commercial end-users who have our products installed - I work with their facilities and maintenance staff to make sure they keep using our products. I'm also our companies IT guy so I maintain our computer systems when I'm not busy with other things. :) My goal is to own this company someday and I've been working towards that for the last several years.

    I truly do love this business, and I'm thankful that I just happened across it because it literally saved my life.
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  10. DownInGeorgia

    DownInGeorgia Considering the Business

    Awesome story! Classic hard work pays off scenario. I hope you do end up owning it one day. Being passionate about something is key and what I'm working towards.
    • Appreciation Appreciation x 1
  11. Commercial Floor Rep

    Commercial Floor Rep I Support TFP Published

    The biggest pieces of advice I can give you if you do decide to come into the trade are to ask questions, figure out who the guys are that really know what they are talking about and soak it up like a sponge. It's easy to say and hard to do, but try and learn from their errors as well as your own and you'll learn fast and you'll learn right. If you think you see a better or easier way of doing something ask them first. Chances are they've thought of it too and there's a reason they aren't doing it that way because it caused a problem down the road. There's a ton of things to learn and it changes everyday. Read instructions for the products and adhesives BEFORE the job starts so you have an idea of what you're doing and get a plan before you start.

    Here's a little secret on how to see if a guy really is a pretty good mechanic or not. Look at his work vehicle or his tool box. If his tools are clean and worn and kept reasonably organized chances are he's a good mechanic. If he's a slob and his tools are broken, trowels are hanging in a bucket full of glue, thinset, patch then avoid that guy! If he treats the tools he makes his living with that way, chances are he doesn't really care how the floor is being installed. Not always the case, but it's more true than not.

    We need passionate young folks to come into the business. Too many of us are getting to the age that our bodies are willing but unable. Always, always, always protect your knees. Keep your back in good shape with stretching. Use proper safety equipment, especially when it comes to preventing breathing dust and you'll last a good long time!

    I wish you well no matter your choice.
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  12. Mark Brown

    Mark Brown On The Surface Flooring I Support TFP

    ....I resent that statement! :)
  13. Commercial Floor Rep

    Commercial Floor Rep I Support TFP Published

    I knew when I hit "Post Reply" who I was going to hear from!!!!

  14. Incognito

    Incognito No more Mr. Nice Guy! I Support TFP Senior Member

    A union electrician working full time pretty much anywhere in the US will be making ALL IN more than 95% of flooring installers (in that same region). Generally speaking they have to work pretty hard. But it's cleaner and easier than what flooring guys have to do. Few men in our trade work into their late 40s as their knees, back or both give in from the stooping and lifting. There are nearly no women who last, despite the mandates employers and unions have to hire them------they don't want to do it.

    Likewise, what I see in our union with the apprentices is that while there are plenty of decent ones coming up the majority are not the "cream of the crop" as far as what an ideal employee brings to the table.

    It's not a trade I would recommend to my sons. They both worked with me installing briefly-------summers, so they know what it's all about. In my opinion nearly every other trade on the jobsite (commercial only) has a better racket that the flooring guys. As far as going independent you CAN make really good money if you work exceptionally hard, are exceptionally talented and dedicated to the work. The money simply isn't there on the low end work, meaning simple carpet/vinyl/tile in average homes, apartments, hotels and such. There's way too much competition and very low stadard of quality that don't allow for superior workmanship. There are some elite installers who can name their price and get it in the higher end market. That's what you'd want to be aiming at. Custom/specialty installations. You have something special to offer.

    Good luck.
    • Appreciation Appreciation x 1
  15. DownInGeorgia

    DownInGeorgia Considering the Business

    Thanks for the reply, this was also what I was looking for. You're saying that to compete with what a union electrician makes you'll have to be exceptional or go out on your own?

    A thought I had was if someone were to be decent at flooring and leave the town their in, their only worth as much as someone is willing to pay whereas an electrician that is decent will make a living anywhere in the us, echoing somewhat of what you said earlier.

    I really appreciate the insight. The company that made me an offer is a good one, a small family owned shop, they are never low on work,my city is growing substantially due to two major power plants and an army base nearby. They offer benefits and it's not unheard-of for green apprentices make 800 a week from bonuses. I guess I'm still in a pickle but only I can make up my mind!
  16. Daris Mulkin

    Daris Mulkin The One and Only Charter Member I Support TFP Senior Member

    Well young person after being in this trade for 52 years I can say I truthfully love it. But the thing is it don't love you back. It is killer on the body, low pay in most cases. I've manage to eek out a good living but didn't get rich and didn't work anywhere that had retirement except for when I was union [4 years]and they bellied up in my area. So it is SS for me and I had to marry my benefits. If I had to do it over again would be a tough question, but probably not. I'm now 73 and the body is killing me. But just came from doing a job for the fun of it. $60 per hour fun.


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  17. Mike Antonetti

    Mike Antonetti I Support TFP Senior Member

    I’d say no way in hell to take on flooring work. If I did it over it would be the electrical/electronic world. Signed up for that in navy but my color perception is off. So many ways to branch out of electrical specialties. Work in electrical field as you expand your knowledge for how go demand whether it be electronic, solar, on and on, Spacex! Limitless.
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  18. Commercial Floor Rep

    Commercial Floor Rep I Support TFP Published

    Yeah, but you don't get shocked to death by sticking your hand in glue! :D
  19. DownInGeorgia

    DownInGeorgia Considering the Business

    This is very true. The way electrical theory is used in so many fields it really is limitless as far as opportunities with the right schooling.
  20. Incognito

    Incognito No more Mr. Nice Guy! I Support TFP Senior Member

    Flooring guys can travel to anywhere there is a decent economy and find work at local market prices--------same as all the other trades.

    On average,flooring is a lower pay and harder, dirtier work than electricians do. Our job hazards are less immediate catastrophe like electrocution. We just break or wear out from overwork or unhealthy conditions (dust, mold, asbestos, solvents,'s often NASTY)

    You may get lucky with this family business in a growing local economy. What a lot of guys fail to understand and prepare for is the..........tenuous nature of our economy. Flying high in April, shot down in May is a line from an old Frank Sinatra song. It describes what can happen to pretty much any installer when the family business, the local economy, the national financial markets or even global pressures collapse that pipe dream of unlimited income potential.

    So regardless whether you choose electrical or flooring work------it's CONSTRUCTION. So plan a lifestyle and saving regimen with the assumption that work can stop or slow down on a dime.
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