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Plasterers apply different kinds of plaster to give a finish to internal walls, floors and ceilings. They also apply coatings to outside walls using sand and cement, pebble-dash and stone-effect materials.
Plastering work can include everything from large commercial developments to small-scale domestic extensions, repairs and restoration.
The two main types of plastering work are:
- solid plastering – applying wet finishes to internal walls, ceilings and floors and putting protective coverings like pebble-dashing on external walls with hand tools and spraying equipment
- fibrous plastering – making ornamental plasterwork such as ceiling roses, cornices, ornamental columns and architraves from a mixture of plaster and short fibres. These often follow drawings from an architect, artist or interior designer, using tools like moulds and casts.
A third, rapidly-growing area of work for plasterers is 'dry lining'. This general term is used to describe the fixing of internal plasterboard or wallboard partitions. Plasterers who do this kind of work (often known as 'dry liners') fix wall and floor partitions by fastening boards together on a timber or metal frame ready for decorating. For more details on this area of work, see the separate Ceiling Fixer job profile.
On large projects, for example the construction of a new office building, plasterers may work in teams on different sections of wall at the same time.
Hours and Environment
Plasterers work 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday, although overtime at weekends or evenings may be necessary to meet deadlines.
As a solid plasterer or dry liner, you work indoors, which may include partially completed buildings. If you work as a fibrous plasterer, you are usually in a workshop, with some site visits. You may have to work at heights from ladders, platforms or scaffolding, depending on the job.
You travel from site to site on contracts and some jobs may involve working away from home for periods of time.
Skills and Interests
To be a plasterer, you need:
- good practical skills to work with tools
- the ability to work quickly, accurately and as part of a team
- good numeracy skills for calculating surface areas and volumes of materials
- creative ability for fibrous plastering and other decorative work
- a reasonable level of fitness
- an awareness of health and safety issues.
You do not need any set entry requirements, but employers tend to want people with some on-site experience. If you have not worked in construction before, then you may want to consider working as a plasterer's mate or labourer to gain site experience. Once working, the employer may be willing to offer you training in plastering (see Training section below).
You may be able to get into this job through an apprenticeship scheme. Funding for apprenticeships is available for 16-24 year olds and some over-25s. To find out more, visit www.apprenticeships.org.uk. For information about apprenticeships in other parts of the UK, see Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
To be eligible for an apprenticeship, you will need some GCSEs/S grades in subjects, such as maths, English and design and technology, or equivalent vocational qualifications like the Edexcel Introductory Certificate or Diploma in Construction.
You can take college courses in plastering, which are open to all age groups. These can teach you some of the skills needed for the job but employers may still want to see some site experience.
The college courses include:
- City & Guilds Basic Skills in Construction award: Plastering (6217)
- Intermediate Construction Award (Dry Lining) or Intermediate/Advanced Award (Plastering)
- Awarding Body Consortium (ABC) Entry Level Certificate in Preparation for Employment (Plastering).
Check with ConstructionSkills and your local colleges for more details.
ConstructionSkills has information on construction careers and qualifications (in Further Information), and the Equal Opportunities Commission is promoting the construction trades as a career option for women through its Know Your Place campaign.
Once you are working as a plasterer, you have training on the job, with day or block release at a local college or training provider. This leads to the NVQ/SVQ in Plastering at levels 1 to 3.
NVQ/SVQ plastering units include:
- producing internal and external plastering finishes
- applying and fixing dry lining boards
- producing castings
- fixing and repairing fibrous components
- contributing to efficient working practices.
Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS)
The CSCS allows you to prove to employers and contractors that you are qualified to do your job competently and safely. Many construction firms and their clients will now insist that you hold a relevant CSCS card to work on site. To get your card, you must hold an NVQ/SVQ or acceptable equivalent and pass a health and safety assessment.
You card is graded according to your qualifications and experience. If you are an experienced worker without formal qualifications, you can use On-Site Assessment and Training (OSAT) or Experienced Worker Practical Assessment (EWPA) to get a CSCS card.
For details about the CSCS scheme, gradings, equivalent qualifications and applications, contact CSCS or SkillsDirect. See the ConstructionSkills website for more detailed information about the health and safety test, training providers, OSAT and EWPA.
Opportunities for plasterers are good, with around 2,500 newly qualified workers needed in the next two years.
You can work for specialist plastering firms, building contractors, local authorities and other public organisations. Many are self-employed and work as sub-contractors, working as 'labour only' with the building contractor supplying materials.
You can progress to supervisory roles or related areas, like tiling, estimating and construction management.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
Starting salaries are between £14,000 and £17,000 a year.
Qualified plasterers earn between £17,500 and £22,000.
Experienced plasterers can earn up to £26,000 a year.
Overtime and shift allowances will increase earnings, while self-employed plasterers negotiate their own rates.
Tel: 01485 577577
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The information contained in our Career Profiles Database was correct at time of publishing, but since publication certain details may have changed so please use this section as a research tool and in some cases further research may be required.
Careers Database Information By Learn Direct Advice