Drywall and ceiling tile installers hang wallboard and install ceiling tile inside buildings. Tapers prepare the wallboard for painting, using tape and other materials. Many workers both install and tape wallboard.

Duties

Drywall and ceiling tile installers, and tapers typically do the following:

  • Measure, mark, and cut panels according to design plans by using tape measures, straightedges, utility knives, and power saws  
  • Fasten panels and tiles by using glue, nails, or screws
  • Patch, trim, and smooth rough spots and edges
  • Apply tape and sealing compound to cover joints between wallboards
  • Add coats of sealing compound to create an even surface
  • Sand all joints and holes for a smooth, seamless finish

Drywall is a commonly used interior wall covering. In addition to covering insulation, electrical wires, and plumbing pipes, it also dampens sound and provides fire resistance.

Workers may use mechanical lifts or stand on stilts, ladders, or scaffolds to hang and prepare ceilings. Once wallboards are hung, workers use trowels to spread coats of sealing compound over cracks, indentations, and other 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.

Drywall installers are also called drywallers or hangers. They cut and hang the panels of wallboard.

Ceiling tile installers hang ceiling tiles and create suspended ceilings. Tiles may be applied directly to the ceiling, attached to furring strips, or suspended on runners that are connected by wire to the ceiling. Workers are sometimes called acoustical carpenters, because they also install tiles that block sound.

Tapers are also called finishers, because they prepare the drywall for covering by plaster, paint, and wallpaper. Tapers apply paper or fiberglass mesh tape to cover drywall seams.

In addition to performing new installations, many installers and tapers make repairs such as fixing damaged drywall and replacing ceiling tiles. The wall coverings applied to the finished drywall are installed by painters, plasterers, and paperhangers.

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Work Environment

Drywall and ceiling tile installers held about 122,000 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of drywall and ceiling tile installers were as follows:

Drywall and insulation contractors 67%
Self-employed workers 14
Nonresidential building construction                                 5

Tapers held about 22,000 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of tapers were as follows:

Drywall and insulation contractors 73%
Self-employed workers 14
Nonresidential building construction 7
Painting and wall covering contractors                              2

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 reaching, and they must often lift and maneuver heavy wallboard.

Work Schedules

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

Education and Training

Most drywall and ceiling tile installers, and tapers learn their trade on the job. A formal educational credential is typically not required to enter the occupation.

Education

There are no educational credential requirements for becoming a drywall and ceiling tile installer, or taper.

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. They may start out working on less visible areas like closets. The on-the-job training received typically lasts up to 12 months.

A few groups, including the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs for drywall and ceiling tile installers, and tapers. Apprenticeships combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction.

During their apprenticeship training, drywall and ceiling tile installers, and tapers learn a number of safety rules, many of which are standardized through the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).

Important Qualities

Balance. Drywall and ceiling tile installers, and tapers often wear stilts. They must be able to move around and use tools overhead without falling.

Dexterity. Drywall and ceiling tile installers, and tapers work with hand tools on every job. For example, they must be able to lift panels and use hammers and nails to secure the panels.

Math skills. Drywall and ceiling tile installers, and tapers must be able to estimate the quantity of materials needed and measure accurately when cutting panels.

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

Physical strength. Drywall and ceiling tile installers must often lift heavy panels over their heads to secure onto the ceiling.

Personality and Interests

Drywall and ceiling tile installers and tapers typically have an interest in the Building and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a drywall and ceiling tile installer and taper, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Drywall and ceiling tile installers and tapers should also possess the following specific 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 $45,700 in May 2019. 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 $28,490, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $85,090.

The median annual wage for tapers was $59,070 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,190, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $95,950.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for drywall and ceiling tile installers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Nonresidential building construction                           $49,480
Drywall and insulation contractors 46,190

In May 2019, the median annual wages for tapers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Nonresidential building construction $68,730
Drywall and insulation contractors 58,280
Painting and wall covering contractors                        57,140

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

Job Outlook

Employment of drywall and ceiling tile installers, and tapers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2018 to 2028, slower than the average for all occupations.

Drywall is the most common interior wall covering in buildings, so the demand for these workers will come from the construction of residential and commercial buildings. Home-remodeling projects are also expected to create jobs, because owners of existing homes and other buildings may plan to make improvements. However, overall employment in the drywall and insulation contractors industry, an industry employing about two-thirds of these workers, is projected to decline over the decade, offsetting employment growth in other industries.

Job Prospects

Job prospects for drywall and ceiling tile installers, and tapers should be good because of the need to replace workers who leave the occupation.

For More Information

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

Associated Builders and Contractors

Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry

Finishing Trades Institute

National Association of Home Builders

NCCER

United Brotherhood of Carpenters

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 Apprenticeship program online or by phone at 877-872-5627.

 

FAQ

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The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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