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Drywall Taping/Union and Non Union Career Paths

Updated on July 1, 2017

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 | Source

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



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

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.


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    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

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

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      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.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

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

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 3 years ago from USA

      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.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

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

    • profile image

      nicki 4 years ago

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

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

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

    • vertualit profile image

      Abdus Salam 5 years ago from Bangladesh

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

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

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

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

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

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      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.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      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.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      John, You could check at this website ...

      Good luck out there.

    • profile image

      john 5 years ago

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

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      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.

    • profile image

      ross 6 years ago

      what's the rates like in Toronto

    • profile image

      john 6 years ago

      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

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

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

    • grayghost profile image

      grayghost 7 years ago

      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!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      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.

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 7 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      Always something interesting from you Susan. Nice work!

    • Chatkath profile image

      Kathy 7 years ago from California

      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

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      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!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      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 profile image

      TurtleDog 7 years ago

      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 profile image

      LeisureLife 7 years ago from USA

      Nice hub, thanks for sharing!

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      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.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      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 profile image

      WillStarr 7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

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

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      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 profile image

      WillStarr 7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      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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