Plastering is a skill that takes a lot of training. Its one of the jobs that's difficult for a DIY enthusiast to turn his hand to. You can't do little bits and keep going back to do more. You need to know what you're doing, brace yourself and go for it all at once!
Plasterers are needed both indoors and out. Inside buildings they plaster and skim walls and ceilings. Outdoors they apply render, pebble dashing and stone effect coverings to walls.
Before starting to plaster you mix whatever plaster you are using, so this too is a skill, to get the right consistency. The plaster is then applied to the walls and ceiling fairly quickly to achieve a smooth finish. You'll use a hawk and trowel to do this - it looks simple but takes practice to do well. The flatter the wall, the happier your client will be. And for high ceilings you may even need to wear stilts as standing on a ladder doesn't allow you to move around. So some circus training will get you ahead!
Work ranges from domestic and commercial new builds to renovation work and even decorative work for those with creative flair. Decorative work involves making architraves, cornicing and ceiling roses and you can either create your own designs or work with an architect or designer. You then use moulds to produce what's required.
Plastering work falls into two main categories - solid plastering, which includes applying wet plaster finishes to walls, ceilings and floors and also putting protective coverings on outside walls. The other category, fibrous plastering, involves ornamental plasterwork.
Another growing area for plasterers is drylining. This is the creation of internal partitions by fixing plasterboard onto a timber or metal frame and then skimming with plaster to achieve an even finish. This is commonly done in new builds, but also in the countless conversions of large houses and old municipal buildings into apartments. This is certainly an area for any ambitious plasterer to get into.
Solid plasterers and dryliners work on site, often co-ordinating with other tradesmen. A building is usually weather proof before internal plastering begins but conditions can be draughty and are less than luxurious. Fibrous plastering is mainly done in workshops with site visits initially to agree on size and design and later to install the ornamental plasterwork.
Outdoor plasterers have to be able to deal with heights. If you are rendering a three storey building then a pair of stilts won't get you far. You may find yourself on some very high scaffolding, so you need a head for heights.
A good plasterer needs to be physically fit - you need strength and agility. You also need to be numerate, to work out the surface area measurements of what you are going to plaster and the volume of materials you'll require. And if you go for ornamental plastering you'll need some creative flair, or at least an interest in ornamental features. You should also be aware that working with plaster can involve a lot of dust, so if this is a health issue for you, then get advice before launching yourself into the trade.
Training in the UK includes an NVQ course which lasts six to seven weeks and there are further courses you can do to train in specialist areas. You also need some assessed work experience to be awarded the NVQ qualification, so get yourself an apprenticeship with a local plasterer. It won't be well paid but you could reap the rewards later on.
Job opportunities are varied. There a specialist plastering firms to work with, building contractors, local authorities and other public bodies. Once you've got sufficient experience under your belt you can be self employed or even put together your own team to subcontract to builders. And if you've got itchy feet there are opportunities to travel to other parts of the country or even abroad. With stilts on.