Center for Asbestos Safety

Plasterers and Drywall Workers/Finishers

Plasterers and drywall workers are important tradesmen for the construction industry. They are often employed by contractors, construction companies, remodelers and other businesses that deal with the fabrication of homes and other buildings. Though plasterers and drywallers require similar sets of skills, both jobs are unique.

Drywall Workers and Finishers

Drywall is a product that is used to make walls and ceilings in a building. The product consists of a slate of gypsum that is pressed between two sheets of thick paper. Drywall comes in panels that must be cut, framed, hung and fastened to the framework of the wall. It is the job of a drywall worker to accomplish this goal.

Additional job requirements for a drywaller may include drilling or cutting holes for electrical outlets or plumbing and assisting other drywall workers with the placement of heavy panels.

Once the drywall has been installed, it is the job of drywall finishers (sometimes called tapers) to spackle the gaps between panels and get the wall ready for painting or wallpaper. The process generally consists of using a trowel to create smooth applications of spackle, followed by the application of paper tape. The tape improves wall integrity and helps hide any imperfections.

Spackle and tape may also be used on exposed screws and other areas of the wall. In some cases, three or more coats of spackle may need to be applied and sanded to achieve a smooth finish.


Plastering has long been an important construction trade. Plaster is often used along interior walls and ceilings to improve soundproofing and fire-resistance. Plaster may also be used for ornamental or textural wall applications. Though plaster may be placed over drywall, it is often used separately for other building purposes.

There are many types of plaster coatings and application techniques used in the plastering trade. A skilled plasterer understands the benefits of each technique and is capable of performing each technique with precision.

For example, plaster can be placed over concrete blocks or supportive wire mesh. Additionally, a 1-coat technique or multiple-coat technique may be applied depending on the base material and desired level of heat resistance, texture, etc.

Career Demands for Drywall Workers and Plasterers

Neither drywalling or plastering typically requires the completion of a school program. Rather, on-the-job training is the most common way of learning the trade. For both drywalling and plastering, individuals may start out by assisting more experienced tradesmen. Though both trades can often be picked up quickly, a skilled plasterer may require as many as three or four years of training.

Drywalling and plastering can be demanding work. Lifting heavy drywall panels and standing all day can take a toll on the individual. Long hours may also be expected depending on the circumstances of the job. Additionally, drywall workers and plasterers routinely work around hazardous fumes and products, such as asbestos. As such, safety measures must be taken to ensure the physical and mental health of the individuals employed in these trades.

Plasterer and Drywall Worker Unions

To help ensure that fair treatment, wages and safety practices are followed by employers, many plasterers and drywallers join a trade union. Depending on the location, both local and international union chapters may be available.

Most union plasterers and drywallers are members of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT). The Union presently consists of more than 140,000 tradesmen and women who are employed in the construction industry as painters, drywallerers, plasterers, glaziers, glass workers, etc.

The main benefit of joining the IUPAT is the promise of fair wages. Unions such as the IUPAT often serve as a negotiator on behalf of workers to convince employers to increase pay rates and other benefits. Though all drywall installers/finishers and plasterers have a potential to benefit from unions, those who are at a higher risk for discrimination (such as minorities and women) may see more pronounced advantages.

Center for Asbestos
Safety in the Workplace