Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry Logo


The results of this, the first annual Wage
& Salary Survey done by an industry
magazine, show one thing: Pay rates for
union subcontractors exceed those for
open shop subcontractors, as would be

And, if you work on the West Coast of
the United States, whether it’s for a
union shop or merit shop, in most cases,
you’re making more money than
your counterparts in any other region of
the country.

In late April of this year, AWCI’s Construction
Dimensions canvassed some
of its U.S. readers to ask them what they
annually paid their estimators, supervisors
and construction managers, and for
the hourly rates paid to their tapers, lathers,
carpenters and plasterers. The results
from the 160 surveys that were returned
were compiled by Mercer Human
Resource Consulting, an independent,
third-party company that helps its
clients understand, develop, implement
and quantify the effectiveness of their
human resource programs and policies.
Although only 160 surveys were
returned, the results represent more than
10,582 workers.

Keep in mind that our surveys asked
only for straight annual salaries and
For the position of esti-mator
and construction manager, we
requested annual salaries; hourly wages
were requested for supervisors, tapers,
lathers, carpenters and plasterers. The
numbers do not include bonuses, benefits
or overhead costs, nor does it included
deductions for union benefits.

In cases where a company has more than
one estimator, we asked for the average
annual salary. For example, if a company
employs a senior estimator who
makes $60,000 per year and two other
estimators who each make $40,000 per
year, the average annual salary reported
would be $46,667.

The data presented in future years may
include more information, such as how
many years a person has worked for his
current company, and the number of
years he has held his current position,
but for now, we present you with regional
data as well as breakdowns by company


The average annual salary for estimators
is $52,658 (median is $54,600; Median
is that data point that is higher than 50
percent of all other data in the sample
when ranked from low to high. Also
known as the 50th percentile). But the
annual estimator’s salary on the West
Coast is $74,856 ($70,000 median)far more than their counterparts in the
Southeast, who make $55,649 per year.

Regardless of region, however, if you’re
an estimator who works for a union shop
company with revenues that are
more than $2.5 million but less than $5 million, your average salary
is $81,141. But, if your company makes between
$5 million and $10 million and is an open shop, your salary is


Here’s a title where being on the West Coast or being with a
union subcontractor can’t compete. The average annual salary
for a construction manager is $71,277, but it jumps to $79,577
if you work in the North Central region of the United States.
That’s followed by an average $71,214 in the Southeast,
$70,464 on the West Coast, $67,952 in the Northeast, and
$64,381 in the South Central region.

There weren’t enough data provided to report breakdowns for
union shops versus open shops in every region, but we can
report that open shops in the North Central region give an
annual salary of $80,293 to their construction managers, and
union companies in the North Central region pay an annual
salary of $75,920. Now, because the union wages for the foljowing titles are easily found, we will be reporting only the
hourly rates paid by open shops for supervisors, tapers, lathers,
carpenters and plasterers.


The West Coast rules again! For the entire country, the average
hourly wage for a supervisor is $19.84 per hour (the median is
$19/hour), but go to the West Coast and you’ll make $26.20
per hour ($25/hour median). The lowest hourly wage is in the
Southeast at $13.09/hour ($17.75/hour median). Not happy
with your pay in the Southeast? Move on up a little bit to the
North Central, and your average hourly pay will increase to
$20.49 per hour ($20/hour median).


Similar breakdowns for supervisors apply to open shop tapers.
Again, the West Coast is where you want to be: A taper on the
West Coast averages $18.75 per hour ($18/hour median), while
the average for the country is $16.73 ($16.03 median) per hour.

On the other end of the scale is the taper in an open shop in
the Southeast region. There the taper’s average hourly wage is
$15.33 ($15/hour median).

Break it down by company size, though, and it’s pretty good if
you’re working for a larger open shop company: A taper who
works for an open shop company that has revenues in the $5
million to $10 million range earns an average of $17.29 per
hour, and at taper in a company with $10 million or more in CARPENTER$
revenues makes $17.03 per hour. Somewhat surprisingly, if the
open shop brings in between $2.5 million and $5 million, the
taper’s hourly wage is $16.41, but go smaller to $2.5 million
or less—and your wage goes up to $16.64 per hour.


The average hourly pay for a lather is $15.47 ($15 median). But
look at the hourly rate based on company size, and the bigger
the better. If your open shop makes more than $10 million a
year, the lather makes $17.50 per hour. Go down a notch to the
$5 million to $10 million range, and the hourly rate is $17.11.

There’s a bit of a drop, however, when you look at the smaller
companies. If the open shop brings in revenues of less than $2.5
million, the lather’s hourly rate is $14.86. But go slightly larger,
to a company with revenues between $2.5 million and $5
million, and the lather’s rate drops to $14.50 an hour.


Again looking at pay rates based on company size, the “little
guys” pay their carpenters the most, but the biggest aren’t that
far behind. If the open shop’s revenues are less than $2.5 million,
the carpenter averages $16.93 per hour. That compares
to $16.48 per hour for those who work for a company that has
between $2.5 million and $5 million, $16.91 for the open shop
that brings in more than $10 million, and only $16.16 for the
open shop with between $5 million and
$10 million. Hmmm.


The average hourly rate for plasterers,
for the most part, falls in between the higher hourly wage than any taper, lath rates
paid to tapers and carpenters— er or carpenter—$18.17 per hour.
unless the plasterer works for a compa- Where the company’s revenues are less
ny that’s bringing in more than $10 mil- than $2.5 million, the plasterer’s hourly
lion a year. If you work for a $10 mil- pay is $15.85, but it goes down to
lion-plus company, you’re making a $15.68 per hour if the company’s revenues are between $2.5 million and $5
million. In the middle is the plasterer at a company with
revenues between $2.5 million and $10 million: His
hourly rate is $16.16.

The country’s average hourly salary for a plas-terer is $21 per
hour, but again the West Coast, where the aver-age is $19.83, is
where you want to work.


We also asked a couple of ques-tions that we
hoped would gauge the contractors’ economic
outlook. First we asked if the

company had plans to increase, reduce
or maintain its current staff levels during
the next 12 months. We then asked
if the company had any plans for major
equipment purchases in the next 12

The “cautious optimism” theme was evident
in that 59.1 percent of the respondents
said they planned to keep staffing
levels the same for the next year. Only
2.5 percent had plans to reduce staff,
while 38.4 percent are looking to add
additional staff Based on organization,
42.4 percent were open shop companies
and 29.6 percent were union shops that
were looking to increase staff.

A resounding “no” was given when asked
if there were any plans for major equipment
purchases in the next year—74.4
percent of the respondents are not going
to do it.

Of those companies, 69.8 percent of
union shops plan no large purchases,
and 78.4 percent of open shops agree
with them.


So there you have it. Forty-seven pages
of spreadsheet-data condensed into a
couple of charts and graphs and a bit of
text. Keep in mind that 160 responses
and 10,582 incumbents don’t speak for
everyone, but they do present a good
industry barometer. If we had 1,600
responses, the numbers would probably
change, but only by pennies.

Browse Similar Articles

You May Also Like

A truckbed full of T2Earth product.
ByT2EARTH® is a science-based manufacturer of sustainable, toxic-chemical free, fire-retardant and superior-performance forest building materials.
Young boy plays on drum kit at home. Elderly man irritated by noisy neighbor, screams, knocks on the wall. Low level of sound insulation. Apartments separated by thin wall.
We may take this for granted, but we all experience reality through our five senses, not the least of which is our sense of hearing.
AWCI's Construction Dimensions cover

Renew or Subscribe Today!