The GA discuss some of the resources available on the association's Web site.

Like any contractor, you are probably very particular about the tools you use. However, you may not be aware of some of the most valuable "tools" at your disposal. In particular, there are technical resources and information sources available to help make your job easier and to help you solve and, more importantly, avoid common construction problems and misunderstandings. Some of these "tools" are available for free.

About 10 years ago, the Gypsum Association helped to develop a document that would specify the desired level of finish for interior gypsum board walls, ceilings and similar surfaces. The GA published this document as GA-214, "Recommended Levels of Gypsum Board Finish."

Approximately 75,000 printed copies of this document have been distributed since its initial publication in 1990. The technical content of this document was eventually incorporated into ASTM C 840, "Standard Specification for the Application and Finishing of Gypsum Board," manufacturers' literature and many other industry documents and standards. Architects, builders, contractors and others can specify and use either GA-214 or ASTM C 840 to provide specific information on the desired level of finish on any portion of any particular job. The universality of levels of finish has resulted in improved specifications, a more level playing field for soliciting and submitting bids, less room for disagreement as to the finish and a diminished possibility of callbacks.

Working for you

Although widely disseminated and publicized over the past several years, the objective of having Levels of Finish included in all drywall specifications has not yet been achieved. However, the GA and other organizations continue to work to achieve this important goal. For example, the GA, in cooperation with the American Institute of Architects, developed a computer-based Levels of Finish distance-education program for architects. Due to the popularity of this CD-ROM with architects, the GA decided to offer Levels of Finish on CD-ROM to drywall contractors. As a result, contractors can now receive at no cost a CD-ROM that will provide important information to the contractor and management staff, including estimators, on the levels of finish. To obtain a free CD-ROM, visit the "Contractors and Builders" link at the association's Web site at

In addition to its resources on the levels of finish, the association offers a wide variety of tools, services and materials to contractors, specifiers, builders, building officials and others who must make decisions or resolve technical issues involving gypsum-board applications and systems. For example, the association's publication, GA-600-2000, "Fire Resistance Design Manual," provides information on more than 300 fire-rated systems. This publication is updated every three years to provide professionals with new information on gypsum-board systems.

Other publications contain data, information and how-to suggestions for dealing with new construction, retrofit and renovations in commercial, residential and many other types of buildings such as pre-engineered metal buildings. The free Web-based publications can be accessed via a large button (Download Free Gypsum Association Publications) on the home page of the site. The GA makes available to construction professionals in the United States and Canada copies of independent reports on fire tests, sound tests, and other properties; the reports document the performance of gypsum products and materials and are available for a nominal cost.

In addition to maintaining current, comprehensible publications and information on technical aspects of gypsum board installation and use, the GA provides free technical services via telephone, fax or e-mail. The staff is available five days a week to respond to technical inquiries concerning the proper application of gypsum board, especially fire-rated systems. This is not to say that the staff will design a gypsum board system; rather, the technical staff will respond to questions and lend advice to contractors, especially on specific GA systems contained in the "Fire Resistance Design Manual," GA-600-2000.

Other resources available to contractors include the American Society for Testing and Materials, the primary organization for developing standards that affect gypsum-board manufacturing and installation in North America. For example, ASTM C 1396, "Standard Specification for Gypsum Board," will soon be the umbrella standard by which most North American gypsum-board products will be manufactured and tested. Underwriters Laboratories Inc. publishes a fire resistance directory that includes many gypsum-board systems. Manufacturers' research reports issued by the evaluation services of the various model code organizations are also a source of help, especially for new or innovative building materials that may not yet have worked their way into the mainstream of the building codes.

The gypsum industry is proud to offer high-quality products with which to build the commercial and residential structures of tomorrow; however, the industry wants you also to be equipped with the tools that help you build your reputation and your business. The industry's technical support system can be your most valuable tool as you work to achieve the level of success you desire.