What do plasterer jobs involve?
Plasterers create the smooth hard finishes for walls and ceilings in our homes and businesses. “Solid plasterers” work indoors and out, applying external renders as well as internal finishes. They undertake repairs and restoration work on houses and on large commercial developments like schools, hospitals and hotels.
Plasterers usually work for a specialist-plastering firm, building contractor or local authority. They come in after the primary construction team has completed the ‘first fix’. Once the plastering is done, the building is ready for the ‘second fix’ including electrical points and plumbing fixtures, final carpentry and decoration.
Plasterers prepare the built surfaces for plastering sometimes by ‘dry-lining’ walls and partitions by fixing plasterboard, onto which a finish coat of plaster is applied. They mix their materials on-site and once mixed the plaster has to be applied with great skill and speed before it begins to set or ‘go off’.
There are opportunities for plasterers to progress to more skilled work, creating highly decorative finishes with fibrous plasters.
What is a plasterer’s salary?
Plasterers’ pay can vary according to location, and from employer to employer. Starting pay is usually around £14,000 – £18,000 per year. With skills and experience, plasterers can complete jobs at greater speed and push their earnings up to about £25,000 by completing more work. £30,000 is achievable for the most skilled and experienced plasterers, especially those who specialize in decorative fibrous plastering.
Remember that you may get overtime and extra shifts to boost your earnings. Self-employed plasterers can negotiate their rates.
These figures are intended as a guideline only.
What skills do I need?
Plasterers need the following skills and attributes:
» Practical skills.
» A good grasp of maths and arithmetic to work out surface area measurements and volumes of materials.
» A degree of physical strength and fitness. You’ll normally work in a team carrying out solid plastering (applying wet finishes to surfaces and putting protective coverings like pebble-dash on outside walls). The work is fast-paced, energetic and frequently involves climbing ladders or working with your arms extended overhead for long periods.
» Creative skills and attention to detail for fibrous plastering and other decorative work, creating ornamental plasterwork like ceiling roses, cornices and architraves.
What qualifications do I need?
There are no set requirements to start work as a plasterer, but employers will look for some site experience. A good way to start is as a plasterer’s assistant (mate) and train on the job. Another route in is to do a college course in plastering.
The City & Guilds Diploma in Plastering (6708) levels 1 to 3 cover the principles of construction and health & safety, as well as organising, planning and pricing projects.
In addition, there are apprenticeship schemes available through some of the larger employers.
You’ll need a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card to work on a building site and to improve your career prospects.
What are the hours and conditions?
You’ll typically work about 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday. As with most site-work, the working day starts at dawn.
Solid plasterers work both indoors and outdoors. You may work on existing buildings or on building sites but ‘Fibrous’ plasterers usually do most of their work in a workshop, only visiting the site to mount and fit the finished pieces. Plasterers often work at height on platforms or scaffolding and normally require personal protective equipment like hard hats, overalls, hi-vis jackets, safety glasses and safety footwear.
With experience, you could progress into site management, taking on a site supervisor role. Alternatively, there are opportunities to move into related trades such as tiling and estimating, or acquire the additional skills to become a kitchen or bathroom fitter.
Many plasterers make a success out of self-employment and progress to running their own teams of plasterers, working as a sub-contractor.
Areas of specialism
The most interesting field of specialism is decorative plastering, using fibrous plasters to sculpt and cast ornate cornices and ceiling roses, frequently as part of high-value renovations of period properties. The work is highly skilled and requires a good deal of creativity as well as technical know how. But the work is rewarding and skilled artisans can command premium rates.