Drywall Tapers

Summary

Drywall is a universal building product. It’s also known as sheetrock and gyproc, but no matter what you call gypsum wallboard you’re sure to have it surround you. Millions of square feet of drywall are hung, taped and finished every year across America. It’s used in residential, commercial and industrial buildings. But it’s not exactly a dry product like the name suggests.

Joint compound and tape are applied wet by drywall tapers who sand it smooth when dry. It’s a dusty occupation and for many years, drywall boards, joint compound and tape were made with asbestos.

Drywall Tapers Job Roles and Responsibilities

The drywall process involves two distinct construction steps. Normally, drywallers specialize in either wallboard installation or finishing the product. They’re called hangers and tapers in industry jargon. Drywall hanging is a heavy, exhausting job whereas taping requires finesse and patience.

You’ll find drywall tapers in every site that’s half-way through construction. Drywall is hung right after all mechanical systems are installed. It’s called covering-up as drywall sheets hide unsightly wiring, pipes and ducts. Once boards are up, tapers move in and seal the seams with special adhesive tape. Then, tapers apply several coats of joint compound to blend the tape and fill imperfections.

Drywall tapers have specific roles and responsibilities. Their duties are routine and repetitious, but without skilled tapers, the finished product would be a mess.

Drywall taper roles include:

  • Covering gypsum wallboard seams with rolled tape dampened in a plaster solution
  • Filling nail holes and indentations with drywall joint compound
  • Sanding smooth between coats and repeating the filling
  • Fanning or blending joints for an even surface
  • Applying textures to ceilings and feature walls
  • Inspecting for flaws with a high-intensity light

Drywall is a product evolving from the old lath and plaster process. Before World War II, most buildings had their interior wall surfaces finished with wooden lath slats covered in wet plaster. During the post-war construction boom, drywall became popular because it was cheap, fast and produced perfectly smooth surfaces.

What’s changed significantly is the move away from wood laths to gypsum-based boards covered by paper. Today’s joint compounds are still plaster-based, which is a mixture of gypsum, lime and cement. Chemistry advancements with polymer additives allow better curing times and mixing ease, but the basic products are still similar. That’s except for one thing.

MJN Brief

From the 1950s to the late 80s, gypsum wallboard, drywall tape and plaster joint compound all contained asbestos. It was an industry standard to add asbestos material to every bit of drywall materials. Asbestos appeared the best substance for manufacturing and applying drywall. It was inexpensive and plentiful. Asbestos made the ideal drywall filler as it was light, fireproof, aided sound control and acted as an efficient insulator. Asbestos was also stable, giving it the right working time from wet to dry.

Drywall Tapers and Asbestos Exposure

Anyone familiar with drywall jobs knows how dusty the environment is. There’s no escaping dust, and it’s an accepted job condition. Rooms are filled with drywall dust when wallboard is being cut and hung. Then, clouds or airborne gypsum dust are produced by multiple sanding stages. It’s almost impossible to see and breathe at some drywall stages.

Drywall tapers were in the highest risk group of all construction trades for asbestos exposure. Back when drywall contained asbestos, it exposed every taper to airborne microscopic asbestos fibers. This happened all day long and every day. Some tapers worked in this asbestos-polluted environment for years on end.

Tapers got exposed to asbestos off the job site as well as on it. Asbestos followed them home on their clothes, in their vehicles and in their tool kits. Deadly fibers also contaminated tapers’ family members. The same thing occurred with their friends and neighbors.

When asbestos particles detach from a stable product, they instantly go airborne because they’re lightweight. Drywall tapers constantly dislodged asbestos fibers from cutting, mixing and sanding. These tiny particles are inhaled and attach to the lung lining called the pleura. Asbestos fibers are impossible to remove. They can sit dormant for decades before causing a deadly disease called mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma and Drywall Tapers

Every drywall taper who worked with products containing asbestos is at risk of developing mesothelioma. The danger increases depending on the amount of exposure and duration they were in an asbestos environment. It also depends on what type of asbestos material they were handling. Chrysotile, or white asbestos, is hazardous for everyone exposed to it, but amphibole asbestos is deadly.

Asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma tumors in anyone. That includes other construction workers in a building where asbestos drywall was installed. Tapers also became exposed to other asbestos-containing products like cement, flooring, roofing and even cabinets.

Compensation for Drywall Tapers Suffering Mesothelioma

Drywall tapers that develop mesothelioma after working with asbestos-laden drywall materials may be eligible for compensation. If you fall in this unfortunate occupational group, you could be awarded money to pay for medical expenses as well as covering lost income. Punitive damages and even wrongful death suits are settled with negligent manufactures who knowing supplied hazardous asbestos products. Lawsuits also pertain to family members filing on behalf of ill relatives.