Drywall Installer and Taper

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Drywall Installer and Taper

Education and Training: On-the-job training

Salary: Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook: Fair

Definition and Nature of the Work

Since World War II, the installation of drywall, or sheetrock, has been the most popular method of constructing the inner walls of buildings. Drywall was developed as a substitute for wet plaster. It consists of a thin layer of gypsum sandwiched between two pieces of heavy paper made in standard-size panels of four feet by eight or twelve feet. Installers cut the panels to fit, then nail or screw them to the frames.

Drywall installation requires careful measuring and cutting to fit pieces into small spaces above doors or below windows. Installers also saw holes in the panels for electrical outlets and plumbing. Because drywall is heavy, an assistant works with the installer to position and secure the panels. A lift may be used to install ceiling panels.

After the drywall has been installed, tapers use a compound to fill joints between panels. Using the tip of a wide trowel, they spread the compound along each side of the joint. They then press a perforated paper tape into the wet compound and scrape away excess material. Tapers, who are also known as finishers, may use automatic taping tools to apply the joint compound and tape in one step. Additional coats may be added to make a smooth surface. Finally, the wall is sanded to ensure uniformity between patched and unpatched areas.

Some finishers create textured surfaces on walls and ceilings with trowels or spray guns. They also repair imperfections caused by installation of heating and other fixtures. Drywall installers and tapers use keyhole saws, tape measures, straightedges, spatulas, hammers, and brushes.

Education and Training Requirements

Most drywall installers and tapers learn their trade on the job, although they may have learned some of the tool skills in wood or metal shop in high school. Some installers learn their trade in a union or trade association apprenticeship, although the number of such programs is limited. Apprentices must be at least eighteen years old and have an aptitude and the agility for the job. The programs usually require up to three years of on-the-job training plus classroom work. Some vocational and technical schools offer courses in drywall installation and finishing.

Getting the Job

Local contractors are often looking for new drywall assistants. State employment services and newspaper ads also list building jobs requiring drywall workers. Regional union offices will provide information about apprenticeships and job listings.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Drywall workers with experience may become supervisors of small crews of workers. As they learn to estimate costs of installation and finishing, they become a valuable asset to a construction team. Some workers may start their own drywall contracting businesses.

About 196,000 drywall installers and finishers have jobs in the United States. They work for contractors specializing in drywall installation or for general building contractors. Employment of drywall workers and finishers is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. However, the number of jobs will be affected by the general economy. It will also rise and fall according to the number of people who leave the workforce or grow dissatisfied with the occupation and transfer to another.

Working Conditions

Most drywall installation and finishing are completed indoors, so these workers rarely lose time because of inclement weather. However, they may be unemployed between construction projects and during downturns in construction activity.

The work is sometimes strenuous. It requires lifting and maneuvering heavy panels. Flying dust and exposure to fumes are constant hazards.

Where to Go for More Information

Associated Builders and Contractors
4250 N. Fairfax Dr., 9th Fl.
Arlington, VA 22203-1607
(703) 812-2000

International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades
1750 New York Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 637-0700

Associated General Contractors of America
2300 Wilson Blvd., Ste. 400
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 548-3118

United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
101 Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 546-6206

National Association of the Remodeling Industry
780 Lee St., Ste. 200
Des Plaines, IL 60016
(800) 611-6274

National Association of Home Builders
1201 Fifteenth St. NW
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 266-8200

Earnings and Benefits

The median income of drywall installers in 2004 was $16.36 an hour. The median income of tapers was $18.78 an hour. Trainees start at about half the rate of experienced workers. Some contractors pay installers and finishers by the amount of work they do. Those who work for hourly wages receive overtime pay. Benefits may be provided to those who have worked with the same contractor for a long time, but many workers must make their own provisions for health insurance and pensions.