A Day in the Life of a Pro: Drywall Shorty

Updated: May 30, 2023

You probably know Lydia Crowder from Instagram. Learn more about her and how she got her nickname in this new FH series.

Welcome to our new FH series: A Day in the Life of a Pro! We’re introducing readers to tradespeople while giving insight into how they got where they are and what it’s like to work in the trades. Know someone we should feature? Email us here.

Meet Lydia Crowder, aka Drywall Shorty, co-owner of Trinity Drywall with 20 years of experience in the industry. You can also find her on Instagram at @DrywallShorty. (The “Shorty” part refers to her height; she’s 5-foot-1.)

How Did You Get Here?

drywall pro Lydia CrowderCourtesy Lydia Crowder

Crowder didn’t exactly aspire for a career in drywall. “I graduated high school and went to college for a semester, immediately flunked out and was working a boring job,” she says.

Her father owned a drywall finishing business and offered her a job. Crowder occasionally helped him out when she was younger and enjoyed it.  So she took her dad up on the offer and “fell in love with the trade,” she says.

When she started, her roommate and cousin also worked with her dad. Everyone treated her as an equal, she says, sharing their tips and techniques. That made her feel like part of the crew.

Starting With the Basics

drywall pro Lydia CrowderCourtesy Lydia Crowder

Crowder started by learning the basics of drywall.

“It was a lot of menial task work — spotting screws over and over, scraping and sweeping floors, taping small areas like closets and small spots,” she says. “I had to work my way up and really show I wanted to work in the trade.

“At the time, you want to be doing all the ‘big’ stuff like running tools, coating large areas, and using the bigger tools. But you have to learn the fundamentals first. If you really want to understand drywall finishing and how to get the best possible finish, you have to start at the bottom and slowly add the pieces.

“We all want to jump in head first, but that’s when you have failures and get frustrated because your skill level isn’t where it needs to be yet. You really have to put in the time to get your hand and body movements down to be successful.”

Twenty years later, Crowder runs her own finishing business with her husband. Now, she says, “I can walk onto any job and know I have the knowledge and skill set to complete any job.”

She encourages people just starting out in the industry to ask for help or advice, and never stop asking no matter how much experience they accumulate.

“You never want to think you know it all,” she says, “Especially in this trade!”

Highs and Lows of the Journey

We asked Crowder for more details about her career. She told us she relishes the self-confidence she gained from working in the trades. Every day, she says, she challenges herself to be better than the day before. Over time, she’s excelled at things she once thought she could never do.

“The trades give people an opportunity to build themselves up,” she says. “You make it as great as you want to and have the satisfaction of knowing you built this. No one can take that away from you and it’s incredibly empowering!”

Crowder also says drywall can be challenging and physical, especially when you’re new to the trade. It involves a lot of repetitive movements that take time to master. It’s not the kind of job newcomers can be instantly good at.

“It will be hard, you will be sweaty, exhausted, sore, tired and want to quit,” Crowder says. “But you build up the strength over time. Give yourself some grace and before you know it, those hard tasks will be much easier.”

Despite these challenges, Crowder loves her job. She calls drywall “a trade that keeps you on your toes and one that you can constantly be learning in.” She loves working on architecture that feels more like art, inspiring further passion for the work.

It’s that passion that makes this trade so wonderful,” she says. “There’s nothing quite like coming back to a job and seeing what you’ve accomplished.”

A Day in the Life of a Drywall Pro

drywall pro Lydia CrowderCourtesy Lydia Crowder

Crowder says every day is unique because different stages of a project require different things. Her crew primarily works in new residential construction. They come in once a crew hangs all the drywall board. The goal, she says, is to apply one coat per day. So the average job takes four to five days, barring weather delays or other complications.

What are her favorite and least favorite parts of the process?

“My favorite day is our first day on the job,” she says. “That’s the day we typically apply all our drywall tape on the project. It’s a fast-paced day and you can challenge yourself with how much you can get done.

Sanding days are my least favorite! It’s a very important part of the job, but it’s as much fun as it sounds.”

Crowder offers some good advice for people looking to break into the industry. First and foremost, she says, “Be a sponge! Drywall finishing is a bit of an art, and everyone has a little different way that they finish. Every crew can have different ways and you need to be open to other methods.” 

Because every crew has a slightly different methodology, it can be challenging to work with people who refuse to adapt their techniques to match the rest of the crew. Plus, she says, each job comes with unique considerations. Flexibility and adaptability are key to being successful in this industry.

Crowder also says there will always be something new to learn. “Don’t become so stuck in your ways that you miss out on the opportunity to learn,” she says. “Also don’t think that you’re above any task. One thing about construction is there are things that have to get done regardless of your skill level. Be a team player!”

Five Things She Learned

  1. Try new things! Never think you know everything. That’s when you stop learning.
  2. Believe in yourself. Push yourself to do things that challenge you. Worst case, you try again!
  3. Don’t be afraid to fail. We all have failures, it’s how we deal with them that’s important. Learn from them and don’t let them hold you back.
  4. Take care of yourself. The trades can be really hard on you physically. Make sure you’re taking time to rest and recuperate.
  5. Don’t let other people’s opinions keep you down. Your work speaks for itself, so do your best. Know what matters is what you can accomplish, not others’ opinions. At the end of the day, it’s your work. Be proud of it!