Drywall Finishing, Taping & Floating of Gypsum Wallboard
Painters can finish drywall too — and they should. The rationale for painting contractors to do drywall finishing is simple — it is the painting trade’s work.
by Len Hijuelos
and try to promote a movement in which painting contractors start doing this work, that is, the taping and floating of gypsum wallboard.
My area of the country (I am based in Louisiana) is just about the only area left where painting contractors routinely perform this work and it is pretty well recognized as painting contractor’s work. This is true in both the commercial and residential markets here.
Adding this operation to our scope of work has provided several immediate advantages. First of all, it is a profitable adjunct in that it adds 30 percent to 40 percent to our contract prices. We are going to be on the job — why not pick up the additional work? Second, when the painting contractor does this work, job disputes are avoided; there are no hassles with the drywall contractor regarding the progress or the quality of work. The painting contractor, by doing the work, can control both the progress and the quality of work to his advantage.
Is there a reason for a painting contractor to not take on this work? I’ve discussed this with contractors around the country over the years, and quite honestly, I have not ever gotten a satisfactory answer. I’ve come to the conclusion that painting contractors just let it slip away to more aggressive drywall contractors who saw an opportunity to increase their volume of work.
The rationale for painting contractors to do drywall finishing is simple — it is the painting trade’s work. Admittedly, over the years, drywall finishing has developed into a specialized trade, just as wallcovering has, but it is still painter’s work. The IUPAT painters’ union has jurisdiction over drywall finishing, and Joint Apprenticeship Committees provide both apprentice and journeyman training for the work process.
To get into a little history, this was not always so. When gypsum board or drywall construction came on the market, the installation of the wallboard was carpenter’s work as it is today, but the finishing (taping and floating) was the plastering trade’s work. More years ago than I want to think about, my father’s company contracted for the painting of some 2,000 Navy housing units, which included the finishing of the drywall. He had something like 20 or 30 plasterers on the payroll, all using traditional plastering tools such as hawks and trowels. After the war, when the construction market was booming, the commercial market was basically still plaster, while the residential market was going drywall. It is somewhat ironic that the painting contractors got the finishing market from the plasterers by default, so to speak, because the plasterers were too busy in the commercial market and ignored the residential market. It is even more ironic that as the commercial market started going drywall and the plasterer’s work started to dwindle, the plasterers tried over and over to regain jurisdiction over drywall finishing without any success. The painting trade has retained jurisdiction. Given all this, it seems strange that so few painting contractors perform this work.
I would suggest that painting contractors make an assessment of their operations to see if drywall finishing might be a good fit, learn about the processes — believe me, this is not rocket science — and start making an effort to recapture this market. After all, you can add 30 percent to 40 percent to your contract.