Hiring a plasterer; what you need to know

Planning on building an outside wall? Need a ceiling resurfaced? It could be time to call a plasterer! As the name suggests, plasterers are tradesmen whose expertise lies in anything plaster-related. Plasterers can help build and restore floors, ceilings and walls – as well as creating outdoor walls and decorative fixtures. Plastering is a broad term and you will find that plasterers tend to specialise in certain areas of the trade so it is important to know what sort of plasterer you are looking for. As with most skilled craftsmen, good plasterers are in short supply and therefore it is difficult to contract a good one, which is essential if you want a good job and a fair price.

When might I need one?

There are two main categories of plastering work: solid plastering and fibrous plastering. Solid plastering means applying plaster finishes to creative a smooth finish on surfaces like walls, floors, and drives. Adding protective layers such as pebble dashing on outside walls also falls within this category. Fibrous plastering is the name given to ornamental plastering. Examples include creating ornamental columns or ceiling roses, often using moulds and design workshops. This work is far more design-based and there will often be some collusion between the plasterer and an interior/exterior designer on such a project. You might need a plasterer if you need any of the following jobs performed:
  • Applying a new finish to a ceiling or wall;
  • Restoring a ceiling or a wall;
  • Having screed (a sand and cement mixture) laid on a floor;
  • Creating decorative finishes, such as cornices;
  • Having an outside wall pebble dashed.
In addition to these common jobs, a plasterer should be able to provide a ‘dry lining’ service, which is a term used to describe the building of indoor wall and floor partitions using plasterboard. Not all plasterers will offer this service, but most large firms will have several plasterers on their books and will be able to offer the full range of services.

What are the benefits of using a professional over a D.I.Y. job?

If you only need to apply a small amount of plaster to an area, like an outside garage, where aesthetics are not of major importance, you might be tempted to do this yourself. However, more complex tasks are normally way beyond most home owners’ level of expertise: not only is plastering physically draining, but it is also a highly skilful trade. Unless you are confident, and have some prior plastering experience, it is probably best to leave plastering jobs up to the professionals – the finish will be much better (if not, you can always tell them you expect more and have them improve it), and you will save yourself a lot of time and potentially money. Besides this, a plasterer will have years of expertise and know-how, and will often be able to finish a job far quicker than you will, in addition to giving you peace of mind. Also, bear in mind that a job may require specialist tools or knowledge that you simply do not have access to. One last, and fairly major, advantage of using a plasterer as opposed to doing a D.I.Y. job is this: you will have someone to go back to if something should go wrong a few months down the line. When you consider the cost of re-doing an entire job, in terms of time and money, this becomes a major advantage.

Where can I find one and how do I choose one?

It can be difficult to find a reliable and honest plasterer – especially in London. Of course, plasterers advertise in the Yellow Pages but the problem with this is you will have no idea of how reliable, professional, and expensive the company is before you deal with them. The best thing to do is to ask people you trust, who live in the same area as you, who they use. Neighbours are always a good source of information! Always check that a plasterer has up to date insurance, covering him for any damage that might be caused to your property. As well as this, it is a good idea to check that a firm has a permanent HQ, with a listed phone number and street address so that you know they are not going to disappear after they have completed your job.

What qualifications/accreditations should you look for?

It is important to use a properly qualified plasterer to ensure that their techniques and knowledge are top-notch. Qualifications vary, but a newly qualified plasterer should have either an NVQ in Plastering at levels 1, 2, or 3 (where 3 is the best) or a level 3 SVQ in Plastering. An older plasterer would hold an advanced craft City & Guild qualification in plastering combined with an 8, 5 or 3 year apprenticeship. In addition to this, a plasterer working on a construction site will need to have a CSCS (a construction skills certification scheme card). This indicates that the holder has been adequately trained in health and safety techniques and is a competent practitioner. Several older plasters, however, will have trained through an apprentice scheme before the relatively recent qualifications were introduced. In such a case, a plasterer should have many years of experience and good recommendations from previous customers.

Cost

Unfortunately, there is no standard hourly or job-specific rate when dealing with plasterers. The cost will often be split into two components: labour rate and cost of materials. Some plasterers will charge a job fee, which might be better value – with a daily rate, there is no incentive for them to finish the job quickly. Prices will vary massively depending on where you are in the country, the plasterer’s own overheads (such as hiring help or materials), and the plasterer’s level of experience. A typical daily labour rate is anywhere between £150-250. London and the South East are the most expensive areas in the country with the North and the Midlands representing far better value. It is very important to get multiple quotes as prices can vary wildly. It is recommended that you obtain at least 3 estimates. As well as this, you should always get a written estimate with a breakdown of where the costs are before hiring a plasterer for a big job. The final price should not deviate greatly from this guide price (provided no unforeseen problems surface).

What happens next?

Once you have sourced two or three suitable plasterers, you need to book a time for them to come and see the house. Give them an idea of what you want done on the phone and ask them to provide you with an estimate afterwards – be sure to get a full written breakdown on the estimate. You might want to ask the plasterers when they can do the job and how long they anticipate it will take to finish. Once you have chosen a plasterer, ring them up and tell them that you would like them to start. Check that there are no hidden fees and that the price should not vary too much from the written estimate. Arrange a time for the plasterer to start the job and take their mobile phone number so you can reach them in case of an emergency. If you are going to be away when they arrive, you will need to arrange a way to let them in to the house, if the work is to be done indoors. You can drop a key off for them or have a neighbour let them in. Whilst the work is being done, you will probably not be able to use the room: it will probably become very damp and you will need to use a de-humidifier to extract some of the moisture. It may be worth bearing this in mind so that you don’t schedule plastering work for a period when you are throwing a party, for example. After the work has been completed, be sure to get a written invoice so that – if anything should go wrong – you can go back to the plasterer and complain.

Questions to ask your plasterer?

  • How long have you been practising?
  • Does that price include everything (materials, labour rate)?
  • How long will the job take to complete?
  • Can you please give me a written quote with a full cost breakdown?
  • Do you have full insurance, covering any damage that might occur?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *