Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from early development to completion.
Construction managers typically do the following:
- Prepare and negotiate cost estimates, budgets, and work timetables
- Select appropriate construction methods and strategies
- Interpret and explain contracts and technical information to workers and other professionals
- Report on work progress and budget matters to clients
- Collaborate with architects, engineers, and other construction and building specialists
- Instruct and supervise construction personnel and activities onsite
- Respond to work delays and other problems and emergencies
- Select, hire, and instruct laborers and subcontractors
- Comply with legal requirements, building and safety codes, and other regulations
Construction managers, often called general contractors or project managers, coordinate and supervise a wide variety of projects, including the building of all types of residential, commercial, and industrial structures, roads, bridges, powerplants, schools, and hospitals. They oversee specialized contractors and other personnel. Construction managers schedule and coordinate all design and construction processes to ensure a productive and safe work environment. They also make sure jobs are completed on time and on budget with the right amount of tools, equipment, and materials. Many managers also are responsible for obtaining necessary permits and licenses. They are often responsible for multiple projects at a time.
Construction managers work closely with other building specialists, such as architects, engineers, and a variety of trade workers, such as stonemasons, electricians, and carpenters. Projects may require specialists in everything from structural metalworking and painting, to landscaping, building roads, installing carpets, and excavating sites. Depending on the project, construction managers also may interact with lawyers and local government officials. For example, when working on city-owned property or municipal buildings, managers sometimes confer with city council members to ensure that all regulations are met.
For projects too large to be managed by one person, such as office buildings and industrial complexes, a construction manager would only be in charge of one part of the project. Each construction manager would oversee a specific construction phase and choose subcontractors to complete it. Construction managers may need to collaborate and coordinate with other construction managers who are responsible for different aspects of the project.
To maximize efficiency and productivity, construction managers often use specialized cost-estimating and planning software to effectively budget the time and money required to complete specific projects. Many managers also use software to determine the best way to get materials to the building site. For more information, see the profile on cost estimators.
Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers, and Tapers
Drywall and ceiling tile installers hang wallboards to walls and ceilings inside buildings. Tapers prepare the wallboards for painting, using tape and other materials. Many workers do both installing and taping.
Drywall installers typically do the following:
- Review design plans to minimize the number of cuts and waste of wallboard
- Measure the location of electrical outlets, plumbing, windows, and vents
- Cut drywall to the right size, using utility knives and power saws
- Fasten drywall panels to interior wall studs, using nails or screws
- Trim and smooth rough edges so boards join evenly
Ceiling tile installers typically do the following:
- Measure according to blueprints or drawings
- Nail or screw supports
- Put tiles or sheets of shock-absorbing materials on ceilings
- Keep the tile in place with cement adhesive, nails, or screws
Tapers typically do the following:
- Prepare wall surface (wallboard) by patching nail holes
- Apply tape and use sealing compound to cover joints between wallboards
- Apply additional coats of sealing compound to create an even surface
- Sand all joints and holes to a smooth, seamless finish
Installers are also called framers or hangers. Tapers are also called finishers. Ceiling tile installers are sometimes called acoustical carpenters because they work with tiles that block sound.
Once wallboards are hung, workers use increasingly wider trowels to spread multiple coats of spackle over cracks, indentations, and any remaining imperfections. Some workers may use a mechanical applicator, a tool that spreads sealing compound on the wall joint while dispensing and setting tape at the same time.
To work on ceilings, drywall and ceiling tile installers and tapers may use mechanical lifts or stand on stilts, ladders, or scaffolds.
Painters, Construction and Maintenance
Painters apply paint, stain, and coatings to walls, buildings, bridges, and other structures.
Painters typically do the following:
- Cover floors and furniture with drop-cloths and tarps to protect surfaces
- Remove fixtures such as pictures, door knobs, or electric switch covers
- Put up scaffolding and set up ladders
- Fill holes and cracks with caulk, putty, plaster, or other compounds
- Prepare surfaces by scraping, wire brushing, or sanding to a smooth finish
- Calculate the area to be painted and the amount of paint needed
- Apply primers or sealers so the paint will adhere
- Choose and mix paints and stains to reach desired color and appearance
- Apply paint or other finishes using hand brushes, rollers, or sprayers
Applying paint to interior walls makes surfaces attractive and vibrant. In addition, paints and other sealers protect exterior surfaces from erosion caused by exposure to the weather.
Because there are several ways to apply paint, workers must be able to choose the proper tool for each job, such as the correct roller, power sprayer, and the right size brush. Choosing the right tool typically depends on the surface to be covered and the characteristics of the finish.
A few painters—mainly industrial—must use special safety equipment. For example, painting in confined spaces such as the inside of a large storage tank, requires workers to wear self-contained suits to avoid inhaling toxic fumes. When painting bridges, tall buildings, or oil rigs, painters may work from scaffolding, bosun’s chairs, and harnesses to reach work areas.
The following are examples of types of painters:
Construction painters apply paints, stains, and coatings to interior and exterior walls, new buildings, and other structural surfaces.
Maintenance painters remove old finishes and apply paints, stains, and coatings later in a structure’s life. Some painters specialize in painting or coating industrial structures, such as bridges and oil rigs, to prevent corrosion.
Artisan painters specialize in creating distinct finishes by using one of many decorative techniques. One technique is adding glaze for added depth and texture. Other common techniques may include sponging, distressing, rag-rolling, color blocking, and faux finishes.
Painting and coating workers apply materials to manufactured products, such as furniture, toys and pottery, as well as transportation equipment including trucks, buses, boats, and airplanes. For more information about these painters, see the profile on painting and coating workers.
Roofers repair and install the roofs of buildings using a variety of materials, including shingles, asphalt, and metal.
Roofers typically do the following:
- Inspect problem roofs to determine the best way to repair them
- Measure roof to calculate the quantities of materials needed
- Replace damaged or rotting joists or plywood
- Install vapor barriers or layers of insulation
- Install shingles, asphalt, metal, or other materials to make the roof watertight
- Align roofing materials with edges of the roof
- Cut roofing materials to fit angles formed by walls, vents, or intersecting roof surfaces
- Cover exposed nail or screw heads with roofing cement or caulk to prevent leakage
Properly installed roofs keep water from leaking into buildings and damaging the interior, equipment, or furnishings.
There are two basic types of roofs, low-slope and steep-slope:
- Low-slope: About two-thirds of all roofs are low-slope. Most commercial, industrial, and apartment buildings have low-slope roofs. Low-slope roofs rise 4 inches or less per horizontal foot and are installed in layers.
For low-slope roofs, roofers typically use several layers of roofing materials or felt membranes stuck together with hot bitumen (a tar-like substance). They glaze the top layer to make a smooth surface or embed gravel in the hot bitumen to make a rough surface.
An increasing number of low-slope roofs are covered with a single-ply membrane of waterproof rubber or thermoplastic compounds.
- Steep-slope: Most of the remaining roofs are steep-slope. Most single-family houses have steep-slope roofs. Steep-slope roofs rise more than 4 inches per horizontal foot.
For steep-slope roofs, roofers typically use asphalt shingles, which often cost less than other coverings. On steep-slope roofs, some roofers also install tile, solar shingles, fiberglass shingles, metal shingles, or shakes (rough wooden shingles).
To apply shingles, roofers first lay, cut, and tack 3-foot strips of roofing over the entire roof. Then, starting from the bottom edge, they nail overlapping rows of shingles to the roof.
A small but increasing number of buildings now have “green” roofs that incorporate landscape roofing systems. A landscape roofing system typically begins with a single or multiple waterproof layers. After that layer is proven to be leak free, roofers put a root barrier over it, and, finally, layers of soil, in which vegetation is planted. Roofers must ensure that the roof is watertight and can endure the weight and water needs of the plants.