Drywall As An Art Form? A Craft-minded Contractor Explains

Courtesy CertainTeed

CertainTeed for Construction Pro Tips

By Julian Ketchum, Technical Marketing Manager, CertainTeed Gypsum

Far more than just a “board,” drywall has the ability to make or break a project’s appeal. While drywall is an important aspect of every project, few professionals take advantage of its true potential as a building material. Some contractors go as far as referring to drywall as an “art form,” transforming a space in ways that are otherwise unachievable with other building products.

That’s part of the inspiration behind CertainTeed Gypsum’s bi-annual Trophy Awards, which recognize unique and creative drywall projects, the people behind them, the challenges they faced, and the ingenuity in which they overcame them.

CertainTeed Gypsum recently sat down with subcontractor and Trophy Award semi-finalist Steve Page to discuss what inspired the creative use of drywall in his project. The project, Adoration Chapel, is a prayer room in a Catholic church, which Steve was a part of building from the framing to the completion of the drywall, perfecting every line and detail for a truly “art” worthy appearance.

Courtesy Certainteed

Q: Tell us a little bit about your work on the Adoration Chapel.

A: The church was doing a complete remodel and had a particular vision of what they wanted in the adoration room. The project drawings started out very simple and basic, but as we really understood the needs of the church and their vision of the room, we changed the design and evolved it into a more complex project. The Chapel is only 15 by 15 with a 21-foot ceiling, and even though it’s small, the project took a lot of time, due to the detail and angles. My goal with every project (including this one) is to create a visually perfect flow, were all edges and points align with precision and everything is plumb and flat. This particular project had its own challenges due to the multiple intersecting tight angles. If you miss everything aligning, it doesn’t have the same effect.

Q: What were some of the challenges you faced in transforming this space?

A: Like most detailed projects, they all present their own unique set of challenges. The framing was the first critical part and needed to be compensated and built, knowing how the angles would affect the drywall and throw off the lines. In addition, understanding the finishing products and their thickness to have everything align at fine points was also a challenge. Most projects don’t have this many points aligning with multiple off angles. But, the complexity of the angles was by far the most challenging. There were four points where lines tapered down to nothing and intersected with other points, and it had to be spot on.

Q: Why do you think drywall isn’t explored much as an art form?

 A: It starts with awareness. I was fortunate to have exposure to “out of the box” projects, and even I wasn’t aware you could be so creative with drywall.  After awareness, the other aspect is the skillset. It takes a high level of experience, knowledge and patience to take a project like this on. Time is also a factor, because the amount of patience it takes to put it together takes it to the extreme level. It’s amazing what you can do with drywall if you have creativity behind it, combined with a passion.  

Q: What advice do you have for other contractors to help them expand their creativity with drywall while planning a project?

A: To the contractors that want to expand their projects with creativity, you have to be willing to allow for the necessary time frame to take a project to the “artful level”. On a showcased project, you only get one chance to do it right and to create a work of “art”. Production goes out the window and it becomes about accuracy and planning. One of my mentors would always say, “Before you ever pick up a tool, figure out what it is that you’re trying to accomplish.” He was referring to production, eliminating unnecessary steps and creating efficiency with maximum quality with fast turnover.  Production doesn’t exist in a drywall art, but it still has to be planned for your vision to take physical form. When trying to add creativity to a project or perhaps just a room, ask yourself, “What else can I do with this?” It never starts as an initial idea but turns into, “Hey, what if we did this and added that…” which results in it being more advanced and creative. It’s fulfilling to see a project through the end and look back on the vision I had in front of me at the very beginning. Have fun with it and keep the production to the areas that are not showcased. Don’t attempt to take on a project to impress others – do it to impress yourself!

Feeling inspired? View other notable projects using drywall in creative ways at CertainTeed Gypsum’s Trophy Awards site. Check back this summer to view the 2019 awards finalists and vote for your favorite project.


Julian Ketchum Bio

Julian Ketchum is a Technical Marketing Manager for CertainTeed, a North American manufacturer of building products headquartered in Malvern, Pennsylvania. Julian has been with CertainTeed for 21 years, and in his role, he provides product-based expertise on gypsum boards and finishing products and their practical applications in commercial and residential projects. Julian is also a certified LEED® Green Associate™.


About CertainTeed

Through the responsible development of innovative and sustainable building products, CertainTeed, headquartered in Malvern, Pennsylvania, has helped shape the building products industry for 115 years. Today, CertainTeed is a leading North American brand of interior and exterior building products, ideal for every application, whether commercial or residential. Click here to see our previous article on Choosing the Right Drywall and stay tuned for more content from CertainTeed.