Choosing the right plasterer
Reading time: 7 minutes
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 tradesperson would prepare for your project
- Find out how they plan to do the job itself
- Choose someone with lots of specific experience
- Find out what previous customers thought
- Ask about qualifications
- Get a detailed quote from each tradesperson you’re considering
- Never pay in full upfront!
Let’s look at each of these in a bit more depth.
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 tradesperson you’re thinking about hiring.
Kieran Wilson - of Grade A Plastering - has been a MyBuilder member since 2009. He’s been plastering since he was 17, and has been positively reviewed over 160 times on the site. Kieran 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.
An excellent place to start is the plastering section of MyBuilder’s Ask a Tradesperson forum!
Find out how each tradespeople 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 Kieran, it’s really important that you ask each tradesperson how they plan to prepare the walls or ceilings they’ll be working on:
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Good plasterers 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 tradesperson 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 tradesperson 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 Kieran, Lee Eaton of G and L Plastering has been a member of MyBuilder since 2009, and has nearly 90 positive reviews on the site. He 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 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 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!
Choose someone with lots of specific experience
Some plasterers specialise in working with particular types of plaster, or working on specific areas of people’s homes. Lee points out:
You might think all plasterers do much the same work - but there are some plasterers who can just skim, others who can just render, so it’s really important to check.
It’s best to choose a tradesperson who has plenty of experience of doing your type of job. Depending on your project, you might want to ask each tradesperson 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 tradesperson who takes a tidy, professional approach to a job, and cleans up really well afterwards.
Ask to view work the tradesperson 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 tradesperson 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 - like these City & Guilds Level 1, 2 and 3 diplomas.
This is another indication that they take their work seriously. However, experience is also very important - so if you can, choose a plasterer who has been practising his craft for at least a few years.
Get a detailed quote from each tradesperson you’re considering
Get quotes from at least three plasterers. As Lee emphasises, to give an exact quote a tradesperson would usually need to visit the site:
In the case of a new build, where the customer has provided you with a really clear and detailed specification, it can be possible to quote on the phone. But for domestic re-skims - they tend to need viewing.
If you’re getting a quote from a plasterer over the phone, you should work on the assumption that it may not be exact. In my phone quotes I like to give the customer realistic parameters to work within - for example, between £300 and £400 - rather than an exact amount before I’ve actually seen the work that needs to be done.
That way, the customer can be confident you’re going to stick between those parameters, even if there are unexpected issues when you see the work. There are tradespeople who will quote a ridiculously cheap price over the phone - but then raise it dramatically once they’ve actually seen the work - and that’s not good for anyone.
Make sure the quotes you get are comparable; each one should include all possible expenses, like extra labour, the removal of old wallpaper and plaster, the provision of any new plasterboard, waste disposal and scaffolding costs.
Never pay in full upfront!
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.