Web Exclusive: Drywall Finishing Training
March 6, 2009
Everyone who enters the trade makes a commitment to themselves as well as to their employer. This includes a commitment to work diligently, to learn new techniques, as well as improve on those already learned. The industry is constantly changing and only through efficient and continued training will the trade remain state of the art.
Day after day the search continues to find the next person to fill a void in the finishing industry. Not just any warm body will do anymore. You need somebody with skills who can produce high quality work. Finding good employees is becoming increasingly more difficult in today’s market. Where are the bulk of today’s tradesmen coming from? Whether recruiting is done through advertising or word of mouth it’s time to fill that position that remains open.
Coming from a family that was involved in the trade it was easy for me to become involved in the industry. The ‘mom and pop’ operations are typically developing friends or family into trade.
In my travels I have come across quite a large number of second-generation people who are involved in the trade. A large number of the people who are developed into the trade still come from apprenticeship programs worldwide. The Painters and Carpenters Union programs develop and produce most of the skilled workers in today’s market. Recruiting and development for the finishing industry is even starting at the high school level since it has become so difficult to find skilled workers. The fact that finishing has become more recognized as a great career choice is helping to pull in today’s youth.
I have attended some of these high school and college courses that are preparing people for the trade. It is always nice to see an eager group full of potential being developed for the trade. I have even stumbled across some private courses that are offered by current or former drywall finishers themselves if you’re looking for a crash course in the trade. Wherever the personnel comes from it is important to continually develop and train members to market changes.
Basic Finishing Training Outline
The following is a basic outline on how the taping and finishing process is completed. Knowing first-hand how many variables in the field, work against timely completion of a project, it is important to first recognize some basic jobsite and substrate conditions. It is important no matter what the skill level to recognize and resolve substandard or unsafe worksite conditions upon arrival to the worksite.
First and foremost is jobsite safety. Make sure that all safety equipment is being worn and used while working. Most jobsite accidents can be avoided with proper safety measures and jobsite preparation. Insure that area work is being performed in is clean and inspected so the taping process can begin.
It’s time to start working, so the first step is to inspect the substrate. Insure the fasteners are set to proper depth and are secured to framing members. The surface of the gypsum board is clean, dry, and the paper is not peeling or broken. All protrusions are removed and ready to pre-fill. There is acceptable lighting to perform work and work area is clear of debris. After these conditions are met the taping process can begin.
Drywall finishing is progressional. The tools used obviously start small and progress to larger as coats are completed. An example would be 8-, 10- and 12-inch hand tools would be used in progression during the finishing process.
Preparation would include set up of mixing area that has electricity, water, buckets, and tools. Pre-fill all areas that require attention with a compound of heavy consistency or a fast setting compound. Prepare joint compound in mixing area for taping.
All-purpose or taping compound are generally mixed to a creamy working consistency. Tape butt joints in an area then proceed to flat joints starting on sidewalls then proceeding to ceilings. Continue by taping angle joints (inside corners). Install any tape on bead, trims, and accessories and apply first coat of material to these areas. Tape and coat detail areas around light boxes and fixtures that are cut out too large on substrate.
First coat fasteners and the taping process are just about complete. The next two steps are extremely important, but are most often skipped because it is likely the end of a long day.
Walk through the day’s operations to make sure nothing has been missed and clean tools that were used. It’s difficult to finish a project efficiently if there is backtracking from day to day to catch up forgotten areas.
Again prepare the joint compound in the mixing area to a creamy working consistency. Typically all purpose or topping compound will be used in this phase. First coat flat joints followed by butt joints a ceilings first followed by sidewalls. Second coat all trims and tape on accessories. Apply coat to off angle and detail areas. When finishing by hand apply coat to one side of inside corners. Apply second coat to fasteners and again do a walk through inspection of day’s operations. Finally clean tools.
Prepare joints for finish coat with sanding pole. Quickly pass over mud joints to smooth out lap marks and knock down debris on surface. Again prepare all-purpose or topping compound to a creamy working consistency in the mixing area. Finish or skim coat plat joints followed by butt joints on ceilings first followed by sidewalls. Finish coat trims and tape on accessories. Apply coat to alternate side of inside corners. Finish coat fasteners and detail any areas that need attention. Walk through the day’s operations and clean tools.
Sand all joints fasteners and trims to eliminate edges, crumbs, and imperfections to create a smooth flat uniform surface for decorating. If joint compound is applied during sand and check out it must be pulled tight and sanded after the joint compound dries. In most instances 150- thru 220-grit sandpaper will be used for this step. Walk through and complete a final inspection of all prior steps leaving the drywall surface prepared for final decoration.
Advanced Finishing Training
Working in the field daily will provide the practice necessary to master hand finishing techniques. Following the typical step process outlined will also help get projects done with less roadblocks and greater efficiency. It’s time to increase production and quality by introducing automated finishing tools. Automated tool will reduce the amount of hours required to complete projects and insure that surfaces turn out more uniform at the end of the finishing process.
There are plenty of automated and innovative tools available on the market for drywall finishing. Each tool when used properly will insure the most consistent wall finish possible with less effort.
Although not every tool is for every project when automated tools are used production is maximized. Every automated tool on the market, like finishing by hand, must first be learned then mastered to achieve full benefit from the tool.
Most tool manufactures offer training classes, training videos, or operating manuals on how to use their tools and products. Using all of the resources available from the manufacturers will help to insure a timely transition to automated tool finishing. Once mastered automated tools become a necessary part of a finisher’s toolbox.
When using automated tools the basic outline for day to day finishing will vary slightly based on manufacturer’s recommendations and the type of tools being used in the field. Typically the process is completed in one less day from start to finish.
Not every finishing tool manufacturer offers tool certification classes, but they are available. Typically theses classes require a couple of years experience in the field operating automated tools as a prerequisite.
The certification classes insure that tool users have mastered automatic taping and finishing tool operation, maintenance, and repair. Some of the topics covered during tool certification class are tool preparation and preparing joint compound consistency. Body positioning and proper handling of tools along with the handwork required behind tools; troubleshooting and maintaining tools; and using automated finishing tools in the proper sequence to insure maximum production and efficiency.
When implementing specific tools, find out what tool certification is available to enhance an individual’s knowledge of and techniques of tool operation.
Learning new processes and tools will likely continue throughout the years as individuals work in the finishing industry. Occasionally there are new tools and products introduced to the industry. It is likely that these new innovations will be resisted, as it is not easy leaving a comfort zone that has been established through years of conditioning working in the field.
It is important for everyone involved in the trade to stay versatile and educated to the latest ideas as they become available. At some point in time it is likely that something new will be available that will make a definite difference in the quality or efficiency in which work is performed.
In my travels, I have been exposed to many great new products and processes and wonder how people got by doing this work the old fashioned way. It’s always a pleasure to learn or see something new and pass the information on to other workers who are in need in the industry.