This category is comprised of special trade contractors primarily engaged in applying plain or ornamental plaster, or in the installation of drywall and insulation. Activities include taping and finishing drywall, applying solar-reflecting insulation film, installing lathing, and constructing ceilings.
Drywall, Plastering, Acoustical and Insulation Contractors
The U.S. plastering, drywall, acoustical, and insulation industry includes more than 20,000 establishments, according to the latest figures available from the U.S. Census Bureau. Drywall installers, ceiling tile installers, and tapers numbered roughly 176,000 in 2002. Average hourly earnings for dry wall and ceiling tile installers totaled $16.21, while tapers earned an average of $18.75 per hour.
This industry changed markedly in the twentieth century. In the early 1900s most walls and ceilings were constructed with wood laths and plaster. Homeowners commonly performed much of the work themselves. Thermal and acoustical insulation, if any, generally consisted of natural materials. After World War II, gypsum wallboard began to displace the lath and plaster, and various synthetic insulation products were introduced. New construction materials, along with a massive demand for plaster and insulation during the post-war building boom, created a specialized industry.
Because of its heavy dependence on new construction, the industry is cyclical. Commercial and residential construction growth during the mid-1980s generated a steady demand for specialty plaster contractors as gypsum wallboard sales surged past $2.6 billion. Conversely, a depression in commercial development and a recession in housing starts quashed industry growth from the late 1980s through the early 1990s. As the demand for gypsum products slipped to about $2 billion in 1992, many wallboard contractors suffered major setbacks, but sustained growth in housing starts gave the industry a strong boost in the mid-1990s. After dropping to 1.01 million in 1991, housing starts rose to 1.45 million in 1996.
Reflecting the performance of the residential construction industry in the early 2000s, the plastering, drywall, acoustical, and insulation industry performed well in the early 2000s. Although economic conditions in the United States were weak, historically low interest rates bolstered housing starts through the early 2000s. In fact, by 2003 single family...