Drywall construction involves installing gypsum wallboard – a popular wall construction material that comes in large panels – into primarily new residential and commercial construction projects. It is a fairly straightforward and non-technical sort of work. Individuals who enjoy working with their hands and doing physical labor are best suited to the position. Though the environments and time frames for the installation of drywall vary, this can be a high pressure position in which large amounts of work need to be accomplished at a high rate of efficiency.
This job type pays fairly well considering its primarily non technical nature. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics gives the current median hourly rate as $17.88. It gives the median 50% range as between $14.17 and $23.91, and the bottom and top 10% of workers making between $11.63 and $32.43. Expressed in terms of annual salary the median is $37,190, the median 50% range is from $29,470 to $49,740, and the bottom and top yearly wage figures are $24,180 and $67,440 respectively.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
As is evident, these wages compete with those of some far more technical careers that require more education. Thus, this is a career choice that one can enter fairly quickly and expect to make reasonable amounts of money in a relatively short time frame. The only drawback, as noted above, is that the positions tends to be fairly demanding physically as well as somewhat repetitive.
Job Description and Outlook
The job of drywall installation usually involves installing drywall panels onto the framing of new construction projects. These wallboards, when nailed or screwed onto the framing members of houses and buildings, comprise the interior walls of the structure. Virtually all new construction, particularly residential construction, uses drywall as the main wall medium. Drywall installers are contracted to go through newly built houses in which the framing is naked on the inside and install the panels that create the walls.
There are two main phases of drywall installation – hanging (also known as framing), and taping (also known as finishing). The hanger/framer secures the drywall to the framing members with the use of drywall screws or nails. Drywall sheets usually come in the standard 4 x 8 foot size. The sheets may be placed whole onto wall framing if space allows, but often must be cut to size. Sometimes these cuts are simple and sometimes fairly complex as the drywall panel may need to be fit around irregular obstacles such as pipes, electrical fixtures, and so on.
Once the panels have been hung, the taper/finisher covers the joints with special tape (often made of either fiberglass mesh or paper) and a thick substance known as drywall compound. This covers the joints between the drywall and, when dry and sanded, gives a finished appearance and a wall surface ready for painting. Often drywall installers perform both phases but sometimes they are divided between members of a drywall crew. Division of labor often allows for greater efficiency, which is often paramount since new construction projects must be finished by a certain deadline.
The job outlook for drywall installers is quite good. As new construction (especially residential construction) continues to expand there will be an increased need for drywall installers. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a 14% demand growth through the year 2018 for hangers and a 13% demand growth for tapers.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
Much of the training in the field of drywall installation is hands on and experiential. This may take the form of simple on-the-job training, more formal apprenticeships, or a combination of both. Many employers simply hire workers with high school diplomas and have them work as assistants to drywall professionals until they learn the trade. In more formalized cases the employer may require the worker to attend classes at vocational schools that give courses in construction which deal with drywall installation. As noted above this is not a highly technical field, so classroom preparation is relatively minimal compared with that required for other construction and engineering careers. It usually amounts to a minimum of 144 class hours yearly if it is required at all.
The majority of important skills in drywall construction are acquired through work related familiarity and experience. Skills such as accurate measurement and cutting skills, efficiency with nailing and screwing, ability to use a carpenter level, skill with a drywall palette and knife, and so on are practical in nature and improve through repetition. There is some more involved theory and technique involved in the most efficient use of materials, with knowledge of building codes, and with simple geometric calculations, but for the most part the job is simple and non technical in nature.
Though plastering, a related field, has various certifications, being a somewhat more difficult skill, drywall installation does not usually require certification as such. It is more common for a vocational or other school to offer more generalized courses in construction which include drywall and to issue more generalized certifications and degrees at their conclusion rather than offering degrees or certifications in drywall specifically.
As is the case with the certifications, professional and trade associations for the field tend take a generalized form, as drywall is only one phase of construction that is often combined with others such as plastering, general finishing, and residential and commercial building in general. Thus associations that deal with the industry tend to be ones that deal with residential and commercial construction overall, though there may be local associations that focus on drywall installation.