Drywall and ceiling tile installers, tapers, plasterers, and stucco masons work both indoors and outdoors, applying wallboard, acoustical tiles, or plaster to interior walls and ceilings or cement and stucco to exterior walls.
Drywall or sheetrock, made of thin layers of gypsum between two layers of heavy paper, is the most popular material used today in residential and commercial buildings. Drywall and ceiling tile installers screw or nail drywall or plasterboard panels to the framing on the walls and ceilings inside the building, while the tapers apply tape to the seams between pieces of drywall, finish corners, and fill and smooth the imperfections with a joint compound called spackle or mud. They have to cut the drywall panels to the correct size and cut holes in the panels to allow access for plumbing, electrical outlets, and heating and cooling vents. They may also install acoustical tiles or sheets of shock-absorbing material on ceilings or walls.
Plasterers and stucco masons apply decorative and protective materials to building walls and ceilings. Plasterers generally work inside, while stucco masons typically work outside. Plaster, a mixture of dry gypsum powder and water, can be applied to the interior walls of a building to create smooth or textured surfaces that may be used to provide good insulation or interesting architectural effects. Plaster can be applied to solid surfaces such as concrete block or supportive wire mesh. Stucco, on the other hand, is a cement-based product that is applied to the exterior of a building. Before stucco is applied, the house must be wrapped with tarpaper or house wrap fabric. Stucco wire, which is what the stucco adheres to, must also be attached to the building exterior. Stucco is especially popular in the South and Southwestern regions of the United States.
Most workers receive their training on the job. Some attend vocational schools or take other courses, and others become apprentices. Those who begin with on-the-job training will usually start as a laborer or an assistant to an experienced worker, performing tasks such as edging, jointing, and using a straightedge on freshly-placed concrete. They will eventually progress to more complex tasks. In order to be accepted into an apprenticeship program sponsored by local contractors, trade associations, or local union-management committees, applicants should have a high school degree or GED, be at least 18 years old, possess a driver’s license, and be legally authorized to work in the United States. Apprenticeship programs last approximately three to four years. Drywall, ceiling tile installer, and taper apprentices must complete at least 144 hours of classroom instruction each year, while plasterer and stucco mason apprentices must complete at least 166 hours. Completion of apprenticeships registered with the federal or state government provides nationally recognized certification. There are also formal programs that provide certification in specialty areas.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook expects average overall employment growth of about 12 percent over the next 10 years. The greatest employment growth (14 percent) is predicted for drywall and ceiling tile installers, while the lowest employment growth is predicted for plasterers and stucco masons. While all jobs in the construction industry are sensitive to economic fluctuations, job prospects for workers in these fields are expected to be good overall. New construction and remodeling and renovation projects will drive the need for these workers.
Salaries vary depending upon experience and specialty. The median hourly wage for drywall and ceiling tile installers is $18.12. The middle 50 percent earn between $14.23 and $23.80 per hour. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $11.64 per hour and the highest 10 percent earn more than $31.72 an hour. The median hourly wage for tapers is $21.03. The middle 50 percent earn between $15.45 and $28.27 per hour. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $12.62 and the highest 10 percent earn more than $34.91 per hour. The median hourly wage for plasterers and stucco masons is $18.01. The middle 50 percent earn between $14.36 and $22.94 per hour. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $12.01 per hour and the highest 10 percent earn more than $29.59 an hour.