How to choose the right plasterer?

Plastering

How to choose the right plasterer?

When choosing the right plasterer, there are some key issues you need to think about. In this article, we’ll take you through them step by step.

  • Arm yourself with some basic knowledge first
  • Find out how each tradesman/helper would prepare for your project
  • Find out how they plan to do the job itself
  • Choose someone with lots of specific experience
  • Ask about qualifications
  • Never pay full upfront in cash!

Let’s look at each of these in a bit more depth.

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Arm yourself with some basic knowledge first

Try to learn a few rules about plastering yourself, right at the beginning of the process. If you have a basic understanding of what your job is likely to involve, you’ll be much more able to ask pertinent questions of the tradesmen/helpers you’re thinking about hiring.

Kate has been plastering since she was 17, she explains:

“People should do a little bit of research themselves and find out what work goes into different types of plastering. There are loads of online DIY forums… plasterers’ forums – where you can ask professionals questions about the work they do, and about the skills needed for different types of plastering projects.”

Find out how each tradesmen/helper would prepare for your project

Two walls, plastered in two different ways, may look much the same initially. But ‘what lies beneath’ is crucial to the quality of the finished product and how long the work will last. That’s why, according to Kate, it’s really important that you ask each tradesman/helper how they plan to prepare the walls or ceilings they’ll be working on:

“Good plasterers/helper are very rarely cheap, because good plastering is all about good preparation. Anything can be plastered and look alright at first – but it’s about how long it’s going to last! A tradesman/helper could skim a bedroom in a completely different way to me – a way that takes half the time and costs half the price. And it might look good to begin with, but after a while cracks are likely to develop.

“For example, if you’re skimming on top of old, lime plaster – that could be 100 years old – that plaster could well be faulty in places. It might look OK, but if it moves when you push on it, it’s got to come out first! Then you’ve to fully plaster that area in again before you can skim it – take big areas out and start again. If you don’t, the weight of the new plaster is going to cause cracks. It might not happen immediately, but probably will happen.

“That’s why everything has got to be properly examined first – as a tradesman/helper you really need to go over every square centimetre of every wall and ceiling to look for any cracks. Push it, bang it – you need to see what the substrate is like before you start working. That’s key.”

Find out how they plan to do the job itself

It’s also worth asking how they plan to tackle the main body of the job. Like Kate explains that skimming is an area where plasterers often cut corners:

“There are a few technical questions it’s definitely worth asking about the process itself. For example, some plasterers/helper just apply one coat of skimming. This looks nice enough – but when you paint it, and you have uplighters or downlighters, you can see that there’s only one coat, and you can see trowel-marks.

“One-coat skimming over plasterboard works alright – and lots of plasterers/helper have got that down to a fine art – but once they go over to re-skimming in people’s homes, it doesn’t finish in the same way; you can tell it’s one coat and it’s not really the correct procedure. So ask them how many coats of plaster they intend to put on!”

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Choose someone with lots of specific experience

Some plasterers/helpers specialise in working with particular types of plaster, or working on specific areas of people’s homes. Kate points out:

“You might think all plasterers do much the same work – but there are some plasterers/helpers who can just skim, others who can just render, so it’s really important to check.”

It’s best to choose a tradesman/helper who has plenty of experience of doing your type of job. Depending on your project, you might want to ask each tradesman/helper some of these questions:

  • Are you more experienced in working on new build projects, or on traditional (for example listed) buildings?
  • Do you specialise in internal plastering, or external rendering?
  • Do you have experience of stucco projects, as well as plastering?
  • Do you have experience of decorative plastering, achieving a range of finishes and colours?

Find out what previous customers thought

If you’re hiring for a large project, it’s likely a plasterer will be in your home for several days. Plastering can also be an extremely messy job, because a lot of dust is created and it’s easy for surfaces to become spattered with wet plaster. So, it’s important to choose a tradesman who takes a tidy, professional approach to a job, and cleans up really well afterwards.

Ask to view work the tradesman has done for previous customers – and if possible, speak to one of these customers yourself. Then, as well as finding out about the quality of the work, you can ask how careful the tradesman was protecting their home beforehand, and cleaning up afterwards.

Ask about qualifications

It’s worth checking whether a plasterer has any formal qualifications in the trade. 

This is another indication that they take their work seriously. However, experience is also very important – so if you can, choose a plasterer/helper who has been practicing his craft for at least a few years.

Never pay full upfront in cash!

For larger jobs, a plasterer might ask for a deposit before work begins. However, never pay more than 25% upfront, and only pay the balance when you’ve inspected the work and are happy with the finished job.

It’s a good idea to make sure payment terms are put down in writing, and signed off by both of you, as part of the initial quote.

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