Drywall and ceiling tile installers hang wallboards to walls and ceilings and install ceiling tile inside buildings. Tapers prepare the wallboards for painting, using tape and other materials. Many workers do both installing and taping.

Duties

Drywall installers typically do the following:

  • Review design plans to minimize the number of cuts and waste of wallboard
  • Measure the locations of electrical outlets, plumbing, and windows
  • Cut drywall to the right size, using utility knives and power saws
  • Fasten drywall panels to interior wall studs, using nails or screws
  • Trim and smooth rough edges so that boards join evenly

Ceiling tile installers typically do the following:

  • Measure ceiling tile to match blueprints or drawings
  • Nail, screw, or clip in supports
  • Put tiles or sheets of shock-absorbing materials on and into ceilings  
  • Keep the tile in place with cement adhesive, nails, screws, or clips

Tapers typically do the following:

  • Prepare wall surfaces (wallboard) by patching nail holes
  • Apply tape and use sealing compound to cover joints between wallboards
  • Apply additional coats of sealing compound to create an even surface
  • Sand all joints and holes to a smooth, seamless finish

Installers also are called framers or hangers. Tapers also are called finishers. Ceiling tile installers sometimes are called acoustical carpenters because they work with tiles that block sound. In addition to performing new installation, many installers and tapers do repair work by fixing damaged drywall and replacing ceiling tile.

Once wallboards are hung, workers use increasingly wider trowels to spread multiple coats of spackle over cracks, indentations, and any remaining imperfections. Some workers may use a mechanical applicator, a tool that spreads sealing compound on the wall joint while dispensing and setting tape at the same time.

To work on ceilings, installers and tapers may use mechanical lifts or stand on stilts, ladders, or scaffolds.

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Work Environment

Drywall and ceiling tile installers and tapers held about 114,100 jobs in 2012, of which 63 percent worked in the drywall and insulation contractors industry. About 19 percent were self-employed.

Drywall and ceiling tile installers and tapers work indoors. As in many other construction trades, the work is physically demanding. Workers spend most of the day standing, bending, or stretching, and they often must lift and maneuver heavy, oversized wallboards. To work on ceilings, installers and tapers must stand on stilts, ladders, or scaffolds.

Because the work is dusty, irritating the skin, eyes, and lungs, workers must wear protective masks, goggles, and gloves. Common injuries include falls from ladders or stilts, cuts from sharp tools, and muscle strains from lifting heavy materials.

Work Schedules

Most drywall and ceiling tile installers and tapers work full time. 

About 19 percent were self-employed. Self-employed installers and tapers may be able to set their own schedule.

Education and Training

Although most drywall and ceiling tile installers and tapers learn their trade on the job, some learn through an apprenticeship.

Education

Although there are no education requirements to become a drywaller, high school math and general shop courses are considered useful.

Training

Most drywall and ceiling tile installers and tapers learn their trade on the job by helping more experienced workers and gradually being given more duties. They start by carrying materials and cleaning up, and then learn to use the tools of the trade. They also learn to measure, cut, and install or apply materials. Employers usually provide some on-the-job training, lasting up to 12 months. 

A few drywall and ceiling tile installers and tapers learn their trade through a 3- or 4-year apprenticeship. For each year of the program, apprentices must have at least 144 hours of related technical work and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. During training, apprentices learn construction basics related to blueprint reading, mathematics, building code requirements, and safety and first-aid practices.

After completing an apprenticeship program, installers and tapers are considered journey workers and may perform duties on their own. 

A few groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. The basic qualifications for entering such a program are as follows:

  • Minimum age of 18
  • High school education or equivalent
  • Physically able to perform the work

Important Qualities

Math skills. Drywall and ceiling tile installers and tapers use basic math skills on every job. For example, they must be able to estimate the quantity of materials needed and measure accurately when cutting panels. 

Physical stamina. Because installers and tapers constantly lift and move heavy materials into place, workers should be in good physical shape.

Physical strength. Standard drywall sheets can weigh 50 to 100 pounds. Drywall and ceiling tile installers often must lift heavy panels over their heads to secure onto the ceiling.

Pay

The median annual wage for drywall and ceiling tile installers was $37,210 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,720, and the top 10 percent earned more than $72,500.

The median annual wage for tapers was $45,290 in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,340, and the top 10 percent earned more than $83,700.

The starting wage for apprentices is usually between 30 percent and 50 percent of what fully trained drywall and ceiling tile installers and tapers make. As apprentices learn to do more, they receive pay increases.

Most drywall and ceiling tile installers and tapers work full time.

About 19 percent were self-employed. Self-employed installers and tapers may be able to set their own schedule.

Job Outlook

Employment of drywall and ceiling tile installers and tapers is projected to grow 16 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.

Drywall is, and will continue to be, the most common interior wall covering in nearly every building. As a result, new residential and commercial building construction will drive demand for workers. Home improvement and remodeling projects also are expected to create jobs, because existing homes and other buildings will require updating.

Job Prospects

Job prospects for drywall and ceiling tile installers and tapers may improve over the coming decade as construction activity rebounds from the recent recession. As with many other construction workers, employment is sensitive to fluctuations of the economy. On the one hand, they may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, shortages of workers may occur in some areas during peak periods of building activity. 

Drywall and ceiling tile installers and tapers with a good work history and experience in the construction industry should have the best job opportunities.

For More Information

For details about apprenticeships or other work opportunities in this trade, contact the offices of the state employment service; the state apprenticeship agency; local contractors or firms that employ drywall installers, ceiling tile installers, and tapers; or local union–management finishing trade apprenticeship committees. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor's toll-free help line, 1 (877) 872-5627, or Employment and Training Administration.

For more information about drywall and ceiling tile installers and tapers, visit  

Associated Builders and Contractors

Association of Wall and Ceiling Industries International

Finishing Trades Institute

National Association of Home Builders

NCCER

United Brotherhood of Carpenters

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