Beneath the surface of the rooms we inhabit are the materials that make up walls and ceilings. The exacting workers who construct these interior surfaces are drywall and ceiling tile installers, and tapers. Drywall installers attach wallboard to create walls in new construction, or to remodel existing spaces. They measure and cut wallboard with exacting precision, and hang the panels on wooden or metal framing. Tapers cover drywall seams with paper or fiberglass mesh tape so walls are ready for the final coating of plaster, paint, or wallpaper. They sand joints and holes as needed to create a seamless finish. Ceiling tile installers create the framework for suspended ceilings, cut ceiling tiles to size, and insert them in the frames. These workers spend hours each day standing, bending, climbing up and down ladders, and lifting materials. Skilled with both manual and power tools, they may use mechanical lifts for ceiling work, or stand on stilts or scaffolds to reach the work surface. They wear protective masks, goggles, and gloves as needed. Most drywall and ceiling tile installers and tapers work for drywall contractors, and learn their trade on the job. Knowledge of basic math is helpful, but there are no formal education requirements. In this field, when your back is up against the wall… the job is done.

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.

What Do Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers, and Tapers Do?

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.

Career Snapshot

Drywall installers and ceiling tile installers hang wallboards to walls and ceilings.  Drywall installer careers include reading design plans and determining how to cut the wallboard in order to minimize waste.  Drywall installers use tools such as utility knives, power saws, hammers, and screwdrivers.  Ceiling tile installer careers include reading blueprints and preparing measurement accordingly. They attach tiles or sheets of shock absorbing materials on ceilings using cement adhesive, nails, or screws.  Drywall and ceiling tile installers, and tapers don't need specific licenses or certifications.

For further distinction:

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.

Job Details

Drywall and ceiling tile installers, and tapers 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

Education and Experience

A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required to enter the occupation. There are no formal education requirements to become a drywall, ceiling tile installer or taper. Most workers in this construction sub-sector learn their trade on the job by helping more experienced workers and gradually being given more duties.  High school preparation courses in English, Spanish, Mathematics, Mechanical Drawing, blueprint reading, and wood and metal shop are helpful for students interested in Drywall and Ceiling Tile installation occupations.

Career Outlook

  • Annual pay: As of May 2019, drywall and ceiling tile installers typically earned an average base salary of $45,000.  The average annual wage for taper in May 2019 was approximately $59,000
  • Employment growth forecast 2018-2028: 2%
  • Entry-level education: No formal education credentials

Career Growth Opportunity

Drywall and ceiling tile installers, and tapers generally begin their careers as helpers and advance to full journey level after several years of experience. From there, the installer may move up to foreman, carpentry supervisor, or general construction supervisor positions. In larger firms, an Installer may become an estimator. Some Drywall Installers become contractors and open their own businesses.

Professional Associations

  • Association of Wall and Ceiling Industry – AWCI's mission is to provide services and undertake activities that enhance the members’ ability to operate a successful business.
  • Associated Builders and Contractors - ABC's mission is the advancement of the merit shop construction philosophy, which encourages open competition and a free enterprise approach that awards contracts based solely on merit, regardless of labor affiliation.
  • United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America - The UBC mission is to stand strong with our members and business partners to help them achieve success.
  • International Union of Painters and Allied Trades – IUPAT members work in the Finishing Trades as industrial and commercial painters, drywall finishers, wall coverers, glaziers, glass workers, floor covering installers, sign makers, display workers, convention and show decorators and in many more exciting occupations.
  • Home Builders Institute - This organization’s mission is to advance and provide education, career development, training and placement of men and women serving the building industry.
  • National Association of Home Builders - NAHB strives to protect the American Dream of housing opportunities for all, while working to achieve professional success for its members who build communities, create jobs and strengthen our economy.
  • The Associated General Contractors of America - The AGC of America works to ensure the continued success of the commercial construction industry by advocating for federal, state and local measures that support the industry; providing opportunities for firms to learn about ways to become more accomplished; and connecting them with the resources and individuals they need to be successful businesses and corporate citizens.
  • National Association of the Remodeling Industry - NARI connects homeowners with its professional members and provides tips and tricks so that consumers have a positive remodeling experience with a professional, qualified remodeler.
  • National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) - This mission of this organization is to build a safe, productive and sustainable workforce of craft professionals.  Their vision is to be universally recognized by industry and government as the training, assessment, certification and career development standard for construction and maintenance craft professionals.
  • The Associated General Contractors of America - The Associated General Contractors of America works to ensure the continued success of the commercial construction industry by advocating for federal, state and local measures that support the industry.

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