Career Profile: Drywall Finisher
Before there was drywall, entire walls were finished with lathe and plaster; a labor and time intensive process. During WW2 when labour was hard to come by on the home front, they began manufacturing drywall. Drywall, or gypsum board , alleviated the need for using hand powered manual tools to create a smooth, fire resistant, acoustically sealed, and durable wall surface. So plasterers are out a job, right? Wrong. In today’s construction industry a plasterer usually refers to someone who does exterior coatings (stucco, etc.) but it could also refer to what is more commonly known as “tapers” or drywall finishers.
Being a drywall finisher is like being a magician to other trades within interior construction. Although it technically falls under the trade of ISM (interior System Mechanic) there is no formal training provided in the curriculum. Most people learn the trade by studying under someone who has many years of experience on the job, or through an unofficial apprenticeship. Because of this ambiguous learning and certification process, drywall finishers that produce a quality finished product at a consistently fast pace, are greatly valued.
The pros of working in this trade include: working inside and in a climate controlled environment (the materials you work with require it); not a tremendous amount of heavy exertion on your body, and because of the lack of quality people in your trade, you will always have work if you commit yourself. The cons are: potential repetitive motion strains, some days are dusty (especially when you are first learning), and it can be difficult to find resources to learn the trade.
There are many things to consider when entering into any trade. My suggestion is for you to roll up your sleeves and try the ones that interest you until you find the one that feels the best. Unlike many career paths, when you learn this trade you will be trained on the job. That means you can skip the high tuition costs and put some cash into your pocket. In western Canada, a 1st year drywall finisher should bring home no less than $40,000 per year. After 4 years of working, the same person could potentially earn $90,000, and that by no means is a ceiling; many drywall finishers start their own small businesses and can make much more than that.
Drywall finishing is a trade that requires a strong attention to detail and a determination for quality. It can be a messy job at times, but that’s part of the fun! If you’re interested in a career in drywall finishing, try reaching out to some local contractors and give it a go.