Drywall Installers - What They Do

Plasterers apply finish, and maintain and restore plaster or similar materials, on interior and exterior walls, ceilings and building partitions to produce plain or decorative surfaces. Drywall installers and finishers install and finish drywall sheets and various types of ceiling systems. Lathers install support framework for ceiling systems, interior and exterior walls and building partitions. They are employed by construction companies and by plastering, drywalling and lathing contractors, or they may be self-employed.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:


  • Clean and prepare surfaces
  • Mix plaster ingredients in trough to desired consistency
  • Apply, level and smooth coats of plaster using trowels, floats, brushes and spraying equipment
  • Trowel or spray coats of stucco over exteriors of buildings to form weatherproof surfaces
  • Finish corners and angles and create decorative designs in finish coat, if required
  • Cure freshly plastered surfaces
  • Mould and install ornamental plaster panels, cornices and trim
  • Spray acoustic materials or texture finish over walls and ceilings.

Drywall installers and finishers

  • Measure, cut and fit drywall sheets for installation on walls and ceilings
  • Position and secure sheets to metal or wooden studs or joists
  • Cut and install metal corner beads to protect exterior corners
  • Fill joints, nail indentations, holes and cracks with joint compound using trowel and broad knife
  • Tape over joints using taping machine and embed tape in compound
  • Smooth out excess compound and allow coat to dry
  • Apply successive coats of compound and sand seams and joints
  • Fabricate and install suspended metal ceiling grids and place in panels to form acoustical and coffered ceilings.


  • Prepare wall and ceiling layouts
  • Install metal stud framing and furring for interior drywall or plaster walls and ceilings, using hand and power tools
  • Attach metal or gypsum lath to studs or furring using nails, screws, clips or wire ties
  • Cut openings in lath for heating and ventilation piping, ducts and electrical outlets
  • Install corner beads and wire mesh around beams to which plaster is to be applied
  • May install acoustic tile, hangers for suspended ceilings and metal studs for composition wallboard or lath.

Job titles

  • wood lather
  • plasterer apprentice
  • ceiling installer
  • drywall applicator
  • drywall finisher
  • drywall taper
  • plasterer
  • lather
  • lather apprentice
  • acoustical ceiling installer
  • sheetrock applicator
  • drywall installer and finisher apprentice
  • lather (interior systems mechanic)
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • Completion of secondary school is usually required.
  • Completion of a three- or four-year apprenticeship program in plastering, drywalling or lathing or A combination of over three years of work experience and some high school, college or industry courses in plastering, drywalling or lathing is usually required.
  • Plasterer trade certification is compulsory in Quebec and available, but voluntary, in Ontario, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
  • Drywall installer and finisher trade certification is available, but voluntary, in British Columbia.
  • Trade certification for lathers (interior systems mechanics) is compulsory in Quebec and available, but voluntary, in all other provinces and the Yukon.
  • Red Seal endorsement is also available to qualified lathers (interior systems mechanic) upon successful completion of the interprovincial Red Seal examination.

Essential Skills


  • Read brief notes or memos, such as notices of an upcoming company event. (1)
  • Read site orientation guidelines when starting work at a new job site. (2)
  • Read safety procedures and regulations, such as fall protection or use of guard rails. (2)
  • Read brochures describing new products and technologies. (2)
  • May refer to product labels or Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) to determine handling procedures or first aid information for a hazardous material. (2)
  • May read letters from the union regarding meetings and upgrading opportunities. (2)
  • May read change notices, two- to three-pages in length, describing changes to blueprints or specifications. (2)
  • May scan work orders for details of the requirements. (2)
  • Read training materials for refresher courses or seminars on topics such as Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), First Aid or Union Training Plan upgrading. (3)
  • Read specifications standards manuals, which define standards for the trade in a jurisdiction. (3)
  • May read two-page to three-page engineering reports detailing important or exceptional criteria for one job task or aspect of the work, such as specifications for constructing an engineered wall. (3)

Document use

  • Read labels on various materials to identify size and type. (1)
  • Read safety signs in the workplace. (1)
  • Enter hours on daily timesheets. (1)
  • Read measurements on tapes and readings on laser levels. (1)
  • Read project work schedules indicating projected start and stop dates for different parts of the work. (2)
  • Create simple sketches illustrating, for example, a specific detail on a ceiling or the face of a column. (2)
  • Review sketches or diagrams drawn by co-workers illustrating, for example, how to construct an unusual bulkhead. (2)
  • May use a simple spreadsheet, for example, entering numerical codes or entering names of tools or materials being logged out of a central inventory. (2)
  • May prepare estimates or invoices for clients following a standard format detailing deliverables, costs and totals. (2)
  • May refer to mechanical drawings illustrating, for example, where a fire-rated shaft will be placed in a wall. (2)
  • May complete incident or accident reports. (3)
  • Refer to or cross-reference between architectural, structural and mechanical blueprints to identify specifications pertinent to their work, such as the number of columns in a room or the size or spacing of steel studs. This requires an ability to interpret and apply multiple views shown in numerous drawings. At times, this may require an analysis of the blueprints to assure conformance to code standards. (5)


  • May write notes to themselves to remember or record information, such as a personal log of what work was completed on a given day. (1)
  • May write a short note to a supervisor, for example, requesting more information or materials. (1)
  • Write short answers to questions on a course test, such as WHMIS training. (2)
  • May write several paragraphs on an incident or accident report form, describing an event they witnessed. (2)
  • May be asked to write notes summarizing discussion and decisions at a weekly toolbox or safety meeting. (2)


Money Math

  • May total material costs for an addition to the contract. (2)
  • May prepare invoices for clients. Calculations include multiple steps such as multiplying lineal or square footage by a dollar rate, adding material and labour costs, calculating GST, and totaling the invoice. (3)

Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math

  • May record costs against categories in a budget. (1)
  • May have to adjust a bid or budget to incorporate for new information, such as a change in the price of materials, additions to the contract or unexpected expenses. (3)

Measurement and Calculation Math

  • Measure lengths or thicknesses using a tape measure. (1)
  • Calculate quantities needed, using two or more mathematical operations. For example, counting the number of columns and then multiplying by the number of sheets of drywall per column to arrive at the total number of sheets of drywall required. (2)
  • Check that the corners in a room are square by constructing a triangle with sides in a ratio of 3:4:5. (3)
  • Calculate the measurements of architectural features where no measurements are provided. For example, calculating the size of an oval reveal or drop from a ceiling by enlarging the scale drawing, making a grid on the floor and creating a pattern for the full-size shapes. (3)
  • Calculate the required radius, circumference and angles to construct architectural features such as barreled or domed ceilings out of standard lengths of metal lath or drywall. (4)

Data Analysis Math

  • May compare the costs of materials from one job to another, then calculate the percentage increase in costs to adjust the total charged for work. (2)

Numerical Estimation

  • Use "rules of thumb" such as so many feet of drywall per person hour to calculate the number of workers needed to complete a job within a certain time frame. (2)
  • Estimate length of time required to complete a job task, based on multiple variables such as the size and type of the work and drawing on past experience. (2)
  • May prepare formal estimates when bidding on projects, considering factors such as materials and labour. Estimation errors can have significant consequences, including financial loss or dissatisfied customers. (3)

Oral communication

  • Listen to messages from supervisors or clients on pagers or voice mail. (1)
  • Speak to a landlord to make sure the power is turned off. (1)
  • Talk to co-workers or other trades such as carpenters and ironworkers to coordinate work activities. (2)
  • May interact with suppliers to discuss features of new products or materials or to coordinate delivery of materials. (2)
  • Discuss the status of the work with an inspector conducting a formal inspection. (2)
  • Consult with other trades during a demolition if they discover plumbing or electrical hazards. (2)
  • Participate in routine meetings with co-workers including workers in other trades to discuss job progress or safety. (2)
  • Discuss with a supervisor options for performing tasks, such as how to modify a task to improve efficiency or lower costs. (2)
  • coach apprentices by providing instruction, direction, explanation or evaluation of their work tasks. (3)
  • Persuade an owner's representative to modify specifications such as the way a bulkhead is to be constructed. (3)
  • Negotiate and resolve conflicts with co-workers and workers in other trades, often under time constraints and/or in circumstances of considerable noise and activity. (3)


Problem Solving

  • May find that the tools or materials provided for a job are insufficient or unsuitable. The lather reports the problem to the foreman to rectify the situation. (1)
  • May realize an error has been made, such as underestimating the quantity of materials required to complete a job or task. Some loss of time or money may occur in fixing the problem, which may involve consulting with the foreman, obtaining more materials, modifying the plans or starting over. (2)
  • May encounter problems with work done by previous trades, for example a room that is not square. Lathers choose among several solutions, ranging from leaving it as is or building a furring wall to correct the situation. Numerous criteria will need to be considered, such as the degree of error, the nature and function of the space under construction, and time/money required to implement each solution. (2)

Decision Making

  • Decide what tools to use, weighing factors such as speed, accuracy and noise. A chop saw, for example, while efficient, may generate too much noise in some settings. (1)
  • Decide what size to make an opening, allowing for the thickness of materials. (2)
  • Decide how to approach a job assignment, including the best way to complete the job efficiently and cost-effectively. (2)
  • Make decisions about placement of materials or equipment. For example, where to place a dumpster, considering factors such as traffic flow, security, damage to the landscape or accessibility to the construction site. (2)
  • May decide upon materials or methods of construction, depending on the context, cost implications and design specifications, while still complying with industry standards. Lathers may, for example, choose to use 2 and 1/2 studs instead of 3 and 5/8 studs as a cost savings measure for a furring wall, but could not exercise the same discretion on a load-bearing wall. (2)
  • May make decisions regarding safe work practices that can have significant consequences including bodily injury, as when deciding if and when to brace a scaffolding. (3)

Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking information was not collected for this profile.

Job Task Planning and Organizing

Lathers (Interior Systems Mechanics) are typically assigned work tasks in a prioritized order. Within that framework, however, they have latitude in choosing how they will approach each job and what tools they will use in the process. They must be able to visualize and "scope out" a job, considering factors such as placement of walls, thickness of multiple elements that make up the wall and finish elements, openings and applications. Materials once calculated must be stored in reverse order, making the first used, most accessible. While much of the work is routine, each worksite varies somewhat and it is not uncommon to face new and unfamiliar design challenges in construction and renovation. Organizational skills are key. Coordinating work with co-workers, apprentices and other trades is critical, often under tight time constraints. Disruptions, such as electrical failure, are not uncommon and may require re-sequencing of assigned work tasks. (3)

Significant Use of Memory

  • Remember security codes for access to a job site.
  • Remember the order of work tasks assigned for the work day.
  • Remember wall type characteristics for the duration of the job.
  • Remember how they have approached similar design problems in the past.
  • Remember the numbering system for pertinent section(s) in a specifications manual.

Finding Information

  • Ask for and receive information from other tradespersons, lead hands, supervisors and other site personnel about routine matters related directly to work tasks. (1)
  • May consult specification books, safety manuals or Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) to locate specific information. (1)
  • Read brochures about new product information or new technology that they may consider using. (1)
  • May find that an important piece of information is missing from the blueprint. Lathers may need to refer to the specifications manual, consult with a supervisor, or if a supervisor is unavailable, speak directly with the architect or engineer in order to continue working on that task. (2)

Digital technology

  • They may enter numerical codes or names of tools or materials being logged out of a central inventory. (1)
  • They may send and receive e-mails. (1)
  • May use other computer applications, for example, they may enter information, such as a security pass code, into a computer-operated system. (1)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

While Lathers (Interior Systems Mechanics) often work independently, they must continuously co-ordinate their work with workers in other trades, such as ironworkers, electricians, painters and sheet metal workers. This requires the self-discipline to meet individual work targets as well as flexibility and interpersonal skills in working co-operatively with others who may have competing interests. Journeyperson Lathers (Interior Systems Mechanics) sometimes have supervisory functions, including responsibility for an apprentice.

Continuous Learning

Much Lathers's (Interior Systems Mechanics) craft is learned on-the-job or through participation in formal apprenticeship training. Work-related courses in Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), Occupational Health and Safety and First Aid are common learning opportunities, as are demonstrations by manufacturers offering new tools or products or courses offered through union training plans.