If you’re looking to branch out from general contracting into a specialty, drywall may be the way to go. Since drywall is fairly ubiquitous in modern buildings, there’s rarely a lack of work, barring slumps in the economy. With a background in general contracting and a specialization in drywall, you’re nearly guaranteed to always have work available.
What Do Drywallers Do?
As a drywaller, you’ll need a specific set of skills to get the job done. You already have most of these skills thanks to your construction experience: measuring and marking, using tape measures, straightedges, utility knives and power saws. You’ll be working with glue, nails, tape and screws, as well as sealing compounds and sandpaper or mechanical sanders.
The biggest skill set you’ll need to learn is working with the materials themselves: drywall board and compounds behave a certain way and knowing how to work with them is a vital part of the job.
As a drywaller, you’ll be responsible for measuring, marking and cutting wallboard according to plans, fastening the panels together and to the interior wall fixtures themselves, patching, trimming and smoothing rough spots and edges, taping and sealing joints between boards and sealing and sanding it all to ensure a uniform, smooth surface.
How to Become a Drywall Specialist
Becoming a drywall installation specialist carries no additional educational requirements. You can learn on the job from an experienced drywall installer or seek an apprenticeship through a program such as the one offered by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. You’ll need no extra licensing or registration other than what you need to work as a general contractor in your area. Often being bonded and insured is sufficient, but check your local regulations to be sure.
What’s the Pay Like?
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for drywall installers was $41,090 as of May 2016. The lowest 10 percent of installers earned less than $26,830, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $79,660. Compensation depends on demand for the skills and experience: if you work in a relatively small, rural area you can expect to earn less because there’s less work available and it’s of less value to those in the area. Those living in areas experiencing a construction or remodeling boom with a high volume of work available can expect to earn more, even as a beginner.
Is There a Market for Drywall Specialists?
While the market outlook varies by region, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts no change in the demand for drywall specialists between 2016 and 2026. Since drywall is the go-to wall covering, the demand will remain. As older members of the workforce retire, there is a projected steady need of new drywall installers to replace those leaving. Since drywall is a physically intense job, even just learning how to install drywall as a backup or secondary career to your contracting is a valuable skill. If you’re wondering if you should specialize in drywall as a change from general contracting, the answer – judging by the numbers – is generally an enthusiastic “yes!”