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Drywall Taping/Union and Non Union Career Paths

Drywall Taping

Many people do not realize how much work is involved in being a drywall taper. There is so much more than just slapping on some tape with mud and you’re done. If you want to choose this trade as a career I must warn you that it is a very intense and demanding job that is very hard on the body.

Becoming proficient in this trade takes many years as well as talent. You will need to be organized, committed and be able to handle the stress of great income fluctuation. When the building industry is down, work is hard to find. Tapers do work year round due to it being an inside job which is beneficial as it is not a seasonal job.

Top Left: My son pre filling Top Right: : My twins taping a basement Bottom Left: Waffle Ceiling Bottom Right: A Restaurant

Top Left: My son pre filling Top Right: : My twins taping a basement Bottom Left: Waffle Ceiling Bottom Right: A Restaurant

Union or Non-Union Drywall Taper

First you will need to decide whether you want to be part of a union, work for a non-union company, and whether you want to work by the hour or as a piece worker. Working on your own or starting up your own company is another option.


In North America to belong to IUPAT (The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades) you will first need to go through a four-year apprenticeship-training program that entails classroom instructions with on the job training, which you do get paid for.

Belonging to a union not only protects your rights while on the job but gives you a pension plan, health and dental benefits, as well as life insurance. With IUPAT, a member can retire with a partial pension at the age of 55, and a full pension at 65. Once finished your apprenticeship training you will receive your ticket and then be considered a Journeyman.

Hourly Drywall Finisher/Taper

Most large buildings, hospitals, prisons and malls hire union companies that in turn will send hourly tapers to work. All taxes are deducted from each persons pay. Supplies such as tape, drywall compound/mud are supplied.

Piece Work Drywall Finisher/Taper

Piece Worker

Relating to how a piece worker is paid: It is calculated by the footage of the drywall. Most companies will pay extra for skylights, high ceilings, and cathedral ceilings. If the ceiling is to be painted rather than sprayed this is considered an extra, as the ceiling will take longer to finish.

Houses and some buildings will hire union companies that in turn will send piecework tapers to complete the work. In a house you will usually find either a single taper or a taping crew. There are no tax deductions and the individual has to submit his or her own taxes. In most cases the taper has to supply all materials. The taper is given a time frame in which the house or building unit has to be finished completely.

Tools Required For a Drywall finisher/Taper

Machine Tapers

Hand taper tools plus the following


Flat Boxes and handle


Nail Spotters

Angle Head, box and handles

Auto Tapers or Bazooka

Pole Sander

Hand Tapers

Assortment of knives ranging from 4 inches to 12 inches

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Utility Knives

Paddle to mix the mud

Pails to mix the mud in and to wash tools in

A 1/2" drill to attach the paddle to

Mud Pan

Mud Box aka banjo or slop box


Using a Hawk and Trowel

Using a Bazooka

Machine or Hand Taper

It is very common to see drywall tapers that use hand tools and machines. When learning how to tape you may find it easier to use only hand tools but you should also try the machine tools as well.

Other Tools That One Should Have

  • Hammer
  • Ladders, Bakers Scaffold if you are a piece worker
  • Mask to wear while sanding
  • Construction Hat
  • Steel toed safety shoes or boots

Other Careers

Health And Safety

  • When sanding drywall, always be sure to wear a mask or an air purifying respirator as the dust can cause chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
  • Keep work area clean so that you are not tripping over anything.
  • Always use caution when using electrical tools and working from ladders benches and lifts and scaffolding.
  • When working on open stairs make sure that safety rails are installed.
  • Always wear safety boots or shoes and hard hat when required.
  • Be sure that your WHMIS and Fall And Arrest training is up to date.


Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on September 02, 2014:

Yes everyone should hire a pro if they want their home to look the best it can look. Thanks Barb!

Barbara Tremblay Cipak from Toronto, Canada on September 02, 2014:

This is the one job in a renovation that my brother hires someone to do - It's an art. The taping determines the quality of the finished product for sure! Even our previous neighbor who can renovate, hires the pros to do this.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 18, 2014:

Favored, I agree people don''t realize it until they try to do it themselves.

Fay Favored from USA on August 17, 2014:

This is a task that my husband really doesn't like in the building field. I don't think people realize how hard it is to get the job seamless.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 20, 2014:

No idea I'm in Ontario Canada. Maybe check with your local union rep.

nicki on January 20, 2014:

What's the going rate for piece work in fl ? I was a union finisher from ct but quit now non union

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on April 24, 2013:

vertualit, Thank you and glad you liked the hub :)

Abdus Salam from Bangladesh on April 23, 2013:

just ask susan, how to make idea for writing? your every hub is interesting and helpful. thanks so much. :)

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on October 02, 2012:

Wilderness, That surprises me as I thought that there would be far more union members in the states.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on October 02, 2012:

GoodLady, Thank you, and yes there is way more to being a trade that many don't see.

Dan Harmon from Boise, Idaho on October 01, 2012:

Interesting that many Canadian drywall applicators are subcontractors. That is rare in the US, whether it be residential or commercial work. Non-union workers seem to be more prevalent here as well, particularly in right-to-work states.

Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on October 01, 2012:

Oh those building year slumps!

Oh that wear and tear on the body!

Oh how much more to the job there is than slapping something on a wall!

Good on you for the facts and figures here. My partner isn't a Dry Wall Finisher - he works in alarm systems, but there is so much more to his job too than fixing a box to a wall . Nice one.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 05, 2012:

John, You could check at this website ...

Good luck out there.

john on July 04, 2012:

hey i was wonder what r the rate in bc for taping thinking of goin out their to do some taping?

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on March 09, 2012:

Ross, Union residential finishing rates:

8' house $233.00/1000ft $00.35 per Lin ft. bead you supply materials.

Apartment rate: $217.00/1000

Beads $.0015 per Lin ft materials supplied

each additional ft in height pays .01/ft

Where texture spray is deleted $00.19/ft

Residential non union rates are about the same.

ross on March 08, 2012:

what's the rates like in Toronto

john on November 15, 2011:

Yeah I also a taper . I live in winnipeg manitoba and I get paid 39.50$ n hour plus detial or I get 47 cents a foot. Been doing it for 6 yrs now

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 05, 2011:

grayghost Thanks for reading and for your comments. Yes it does look easy until trying it yourself. :)

grayghost on May 04, 2011:

Great Hub! From a former GC, we were always smart enough to hire the pros for this work. They make it look simple but that all changes when you try it yourself!

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on April 11, 2011:

RH Thanks for coming by to read.

Chatkath My husband is a drywall taper by trade so have been around it for many years. Thanks for your comments.

Sharyn Thanks so much.

Sharon Smith from Northeast Ohio USA on April 11, 2011:

Always something interesting from you Susan. Nice work!

Kathy from California on April 11, 2011:

Doesn't sound like I will be doing this any time soon but at least I know where to go if I need some pointers! You are amazing Susan, now I understand the true meaning of your Hub Name LOL

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on April 10, 2011:

Ok well I have no immediate plans to go hang drywall. But you are such a darn good writer I wanted to read it anyway. So I did and I still don't want to be a drywall hanger thingy, so thanks for convincing me! Haha!

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on April 10, 2011:

toknowinfo Thanks so much for the vote and your comments. I have worked alongside my husband doing taping on weekends and I would never be able to do this job full-time and all I did was coat the nails.

LeisureLife Thanks so much.

TurtleD I agree it is a very hard job. Thanks so much for your comments and for reading.

TurtleDog on April 10, 2011:

This Hub is right on the mark. I've only rarely done taping, mainly to help out friends and a couple times for a buddy (during the housing boom) when his company was desperate for anyone, including an all-thumbs guy like me :-) It is hard, sweaty work. Especially trying keep pace with the pro's.

Thanks for the post

LeisureLife from USA on April 09, 2011:

Nice hub, thanks for sharing!

toknowinfo on April 09, 2011:

Great hub. For some reason, I am very good at taping and spackling. I can't hang a picture correctly, but when it comes to finishing a wall I do a good job. Maybe because I am patient and a perfectionist. So if my other careers don't work out, I guess I have another option. Rated up and useful.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on April 09, 2011:

We use them up here too but some places that you work will still not allow them due to safety. Now you have to carry proof of training with you when wearing them. They used to be illegal but as of January 1st I just found out they are legal with the proof of training.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on April 09, 2011:

I didn't know that! Americans use them extensively as great time and labor savers.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on April 09, 2011:

Thanks so much Bill. I did not mention stilts as in some places they are illegal to use, although most tapers that I know hide them :) in case the ministry of labor shows up.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on April 09, 2011:

Most tapers also use stilts:

With stilts, they can just walk along and tape ceilings or the tops of walls without cumbersome scaffolding.

Excellent Hub, Susan!

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