Creativity leads to a Rock-Solid Career as a Tile Layer

By: Amanda Pedersen

Jesse Stonehouse, 29, enjoys working with his hands. Excelling in art in high school, he was even offered a scholarship for graphic design. Along with being artistically gifted, he is also fluent in American Sign Language.

He credits his father, a woodworker, for his passion for hands-on learning.

“Through growing up and watching him work with his hands, I’ve always valued the idea of working hard, getting your hands dirty, and making clean money at the end of the day,” said Stonehouse.

Although he was offered a scholarship to college, he always felt drawn to the trades and hands-on learning, so he decided to go into the automotive trades right after high school.

Stonehouse has worked in a variety of building and creative trades including the automotive trades and as a stonemason for a number of years. His previous experience and determination helped him finish his 4-year tile setting apprenticeship in two years.(PhotoCredit: Emily Sweeney)

After a couple of years, he realized that repairing and maintaining cars and trucks was more of a hobby rather than a career. So, he eventually found himself working as a stonemason, for a non-union company.

Apprenticeship in a Union
After working as a stonemason for some time, he realized he would rather be working for a union for the benefits and the brotherhood offered by working with other union members.

“I inquired about becoming a stonemason apprentice through a union at the company I was working for,” Stonehouse said. “They didn’t have room to take on a stonemason apprentice, but they had room for a tile setter, so I decided to try it out.”

Stonehouse has now completed his apprenticeship as a tile-setter through the BAC Local 1 Minnesota/North Dakota/South Dakota and can now say he loves his chosen career. While completing his apprenticeship, he was able to receive a paycheck while learning and being held to a certain standard.

Being a union apprentice, the same standards are taught and passed through many generations of tile setters. Through the union, apprentices can climb up the pay scale through experience and education.

“I was pushed to attend college, but I knew that the demand for workers in the trades was larger,” said Stonehouse. “I get paid even better than some of my friends who went to college.”

“I enjoy being a part of a union for the consistency,” Stonehouse said. “Although I have to pay my dues, they manage everything for me–from health insurance and retirement funds to even just the workload.”


No college debt. No regrets. Listen to Jesse Stonehouse’s construction career experience.


Introduction to Tile Setting
Tile setters lay out and install various types of tile, including ceramic, marble and porcelain.

When Stonehouse approaches a new job, he usually walks into a room that has already been prepped and installs the tile that has been preselected by the client.

“It’s very satisfying to be able to walk away from a job site at the end of the day and know it looks good because of you and your crew,” said Stonehouse. “You are proud when your client is happy.”

Stonehouse also enjoys the variety in job sites–from shopping malls to stadiums to office buildings. Stonehouse said that after working in the trade long enough, it’s almost hard to think of places he hasn’t worked on.

“We are mostly contracted to work on commercial work,” said Stonehouse. “I’ve worked on U.S. Bank Stadium, the Mall of America, and other facilities all over the Twin Cities metro.”

The average time to complete a tile setting apprenticeship is three to four years. During that time, apprentices work a full (40 hour) week while taking class instruction once a week at night for the first two years.

However, due to Stonehouse’s previous experience as a stonemason and his hard work ethic, he was able to complete his tile laying apprenticeship in just two years.

Life After Apprenticeship
After completing his apprenticeship through Local 1, Stonehouse now enjoys the benefits and respect that comes with being a foreman at a small construction company.

“I now run crews and can delegate work to other apprentices and journey people,” Stonehouse said. “I now feel like I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing. My training as an apprentice has definitely paid off.”

Interested in starting a career in the construction trades as an apprentice? Visit https://constructioncareers.org/apprenticeship/.