As anyone in the industry can tell you, there’s a real shortage of skilled labor in drywall, and in the trades generally. What most people don’t talk about though, is how few women work in this industry—and what an untapped resource they represent.
The fact is, construction is an industry that has historically not been very friendly or welcoming to women and if we want to get more women involved (and we should want that), then we need to make it a place that appreciates, respects, and welcomes them. One of the best ways to do that, is to look at the women who are already doing a great job and use them as role models to encourage the next generation of young women to get into the trades.
We sat down with one such woman, Brittany Luly (pronounced “Loo-Lie,” like “July”), to find out about how she got into the industry, what she likes about the job, and more.
Luly is based in Belgrade, a town on the outskirts of Bozeman in Southwestern Montana. She is the boss and drywall expert behind Luly Drywall Inc., a company that she started, owns, and runs more or less by herself. She has no permanent employees and describes the process saying, “Usually, I’m working by myself. If I’m hanging, I hang with my brother, but I can texture by myself. I do mostly hand texturing. I do four or five houses a week, just driving around with my dog … then there’s always patch work.”
It’s no accident that she hangs drywall with her brother: drywall has been the family business for a few generations. Her father, brother, sister, and grandfather all work or worked in drywall. Her earliest drywall memory is from when she was only about five years old, playing with a bucket of mud when her father brought her on the jobsite.
“I remember sitting at a jobsite. My brother and sister were there, too. We had a bucket of mud and when my dad wasn’t looking, we poured it out and played with it … my dad came back and we were just covered in mud,” she laughs.
Luly finishes, on average, about 25 jobs a month, which can vary from hanging to taping to finishing, remodels, new construction and everything in between.
“We do it all, really,” she says of herself and her occasional collaborators (often family, but sometimes hired help). “I do remodels and stuff on the side but there’s a lot of new construction: spec homes, apartment buildings, anything and everything; we do commercial also.”
Doing everything and doing it to a high standard—that’s her approach—though she admits that it makes time management very difficult. “Time management is huge. Trying to schedule all the jobs, then putting patch work in between, [and] meeting with clients. Around here, I’m usually going around to different houses, taping one day, hanging the next … running around like a chicken with its head cut off doing patch work.”
As much as she enjoys the job, it doesn’t come without difficulties and time management isn’t the least of them.
“One reason I don’t have employees is that it’s hard to keep people around. It’s a skilled trade. It’s not like something you can learn in a few hours. It’s really hard to train people.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, she also says that “being a woman on the jobsite can be … annoying, obviously. Most guys don’t give me a hard time, but there are those—I always get notes on my windshield like ‘here’s my number.’”
“Builders who have never seen me before, they say like ‘who’s in charge? Is your boss around?’ Most people think I’m there to sweep the floors, but I’m better than most [other drywallers]. There’s a lot of shady drywallers out there, but I try to keep a good name.”
All her efforts and commitment to excellence are paying off though. She’s been recognized as an example of excellence in the craft and has a collaboration with All-Wall on social media that she enjoys.
“They sent me a full set of taping tools, but I can do comparison videos with tools and stuff that I already use. I’m not just selling stuff. I just went to Las Vegas and got to meet them. We played Top Golf! It was cool to meet them.” When asked about her favorite tool, she jokes “Do stilts count as a tool?”
But her favorite part of the job is doing new construction. “I walk in on bare studs and we hang all the drywall. I really like seeing that process. [At the beginning], you can see through the whole house, then you put up the walls and it really comes together.”
Despite that, her favorite job recently wasn’t one that she got to hang. “I had one out a couple of hours away, a little cabin in the woods. Actually, not so little,” she laughs. “In the middle of nowhere. I didn’t hang that one, but I did all the taping and texturing. I’m super proud—I did it 100 percent by myself.”
She loves the job and can’t imagine doing anything else.
“I’m obsessed with golf … [but] I don’t actually have anything else I’d rather do. I really love my job. I like going out every day. I couldn’t sit behind a desk all day, I know that. Unless I somehow make it to the LPGA, [five years from now] I’ll probably still be doing drywall.”
Women to Watch
Luly has a strong social media presence—including but not limited to her All-Wall partnership—and you can follow her work on Instagram, where she goes by the handle @that_drywall_chick. Luly frequently looks to her sister as a source of drywall inspiration. “I have tried to make a shared Instagram page with her because we really do make an awesome drywall team. For those wanting to see other women leaders in drywall, Luly recommends Leah Pawluk (@leahpawlukdrywall on Instagram) as someone that she follows for ideas, advice and inspiration.
Finally, for women interested in getting involved in drywall and other skilled trades, Luly urges them to “not to be afraid to do a ‘man’s job’.” She jokes that “In reality, women make better drywallers than men—our attention to detail makes all the difference.” And says to women contemplating a drywall career, “most women wear high heels to work; don’t be afraid to be the one who wears stilts!”