If we live in an older house, we’ll probably find that the standard of plaster leaves a lot to be desired. Old houses settle over the years and anything brittle tends to crack and crumble with the movement. Among other things in the property, plaster falls into this category.
Plaster has multiple functions in your home.
- It seals rough brickwork or stonework preventing dust from working loose and floating in the air.
- Plaster provides a smooth surface for paint application.
- The smooth surface gives a clean, wipeable finish.
- You can use plaster to repair cracks and holes in existing plasterwork so the repair is indistinguishable from the original.
- Plaster is malleable when wet, allowing a skilled plasterer to build up decorative mouldings if required.
However, the smooth surface doesn’t just happen by magic. You need a professional plasterer with many years of experience to give you a perfectly smooth finish on a wall or ceiling, or to produce a decorative 3D moulding.
How much does plastering cost?
As you might expect, the cost of plastering a room depends on a number of factors:
The dimensions of the room
Surprisingly a very small room can often be as difficult to work in as a large room. The contractor needs room to move and use his tools properly. In general, however, as you might expect a large room costs more to plaster than a small one.
Accessibility of the surface
A plasterer needs some way to access a ceiling, especially if it is a high one. Walls in high rooms such as staircases also requires scaffolding of some kind. Scaffolding will usually be quoted on top of the plastering job
The condition of the existing plaster.
If the existing wall is in a very bad state, it might be better to completely re-skim the surface rather than patch holes. Remember too, that the condition of the finished job will depend on the condition of the supporting wall. Dry lining a wall with plasterboard followed by a plaster skim might sometimes be the only option for a poor quality wall. A skilled professional must see the job and assess the best solution to give you the best possible job.
The size of the company
A large company has a high volume of work so you’d think they could charge lower plastering prices per square metre. Unfortunately, large companies also have high overheads so they have to charge enough to cover all their expenses. Small companies, on the other hand, such as a single self-employed tradesman, can easily undercut the prices of larger companies. Furthermore, they don’t mind taking on small projects such as plastering a single room. They will also often give you a very reasonable cost to skim a room that the big boys can’t be bothered with.
How much to plaster a room?
As we said earlier, a plasterer can either remove old plaster and start from scratch or skim a 3mm plaster coat over existing plaster. The prices for these jobs vary accordingly. Most plastering professionals charge per day or for average room size. They know approximately what area they can cover during a day and will charge accordingly. If possible, ask for a quotation specifying costs per square metre so you can compare with other contractors. But, in practice, you’ll find that the cost to plaster 5m2 won’t be any different to the cost for 6m2. This is why many plasterers use the ‘small’, ‘medium’ and ‘large’ sized room method.
|Project size||Typical price||Approximate project duration|
|Plastering walls from scratch|
|Small room||£600 to £700||2 to 3 days|
|Medium room||£650 to £1,000||2 to 4 days|
|Large room||£1,000 to £1,500||4 days|
|Plastering ceiling from scratch|
|Small ceiling||£200 to £400||Up to 10 hours|
|Medium ceiling||£300 to £450||Up to 12 hours|
|Large ceiling||£400 to £750||2 to 3 days|
|Small room||£400 to £500||1 day|
|Medium room||£450 to £550||1 to 2 days|
|Large room||£550 to £700||2 to 3 days|
Additionally, remember to add on the costs of necessary scaffolding as well as for the disposal of any removed plaster. Local council-run recycling centres charge for disposing of old plaster rubble.
The most frequent types of plastering jobs
Plasterers usually rely on their ‘bread and butter’ jobs to make a living, specifically replastering walls, and new plastering of walls and ceilings. Before choosing a plasterer to work for you, ask for an estimate of how much the job will cost. Remember, the estimate includes labour and materials, but won’t include VAT. You’ll have to add that on yourself to get the final amount payable.
You’ll also find that prices in London and the South East of England are higher than the remainder of the United Kingdom.
At this point, it’s also worthwhile mentioning that an estimate isn’t the same as a quotation. A quotation or ‘quote’ is a fixed sum that you will be charged irrespective of how long the job takes. On the other hand, an estimate is exactly what it sounds like. It’s an estimation of how much the job is likely to cost. This is a common way to specify prices as sometimes the professional won’t know the condition of the wall until after he removes the old plaster. To provide a good and sound base for the new plaster might require a lot of preparation work that can’t be foreseen. To cover the cost of unexpected work, you might be charged a plasterer’s day rate or hourly rate, whichever is most convenient.
New Plaster walls
Covering your walls in new plaster requires some preparation beforehand. If the existing plaster is in poor condition, the plasterer might have to remove it back to the wall and built up fresh plaster using two or three coats. Alternatively, if the wall is really in poor condition he can attach plasterboard to battens to create a false wall. This is called ‘dry lining’ and once it’s built, the professional lays a 3mm skim coat onto the plasterboard.
This is probably the most popular job you can ask a plasterer to do. It involves re-plastering over existing plaster to repair blemishes and cracks. A skilled contractor will produce a finished surface that is indistinguishable from a freshly plastered room and you won’t be able to see any of the new patches.
This is one of the plastering jobs that takes a lot of effort and skill. The contractor continually works above his head, quickly tiring arm and back muscles. Even though this is a difficult job, as long as the plaster has the correct tools and the right skills, he can create a smooth surface perfect for decorating. Most modern ceilings are about 2.4m above the floor so the average plasterer will need some kind of platform on which to stand.
Hiring A Plasterer? Questions to ask
Before hiring a plasterer, you must ask some questions to ensure you’re confident with their skill level. Common questions are as follows:
- Find out how long they have been practising their trade.
- Have they any references? If so, follow them up to see if the projects went as planned.
- Make sure the plasterer has the correct insurance. This will be
- Public Liability Insurance, providing cover in case the contractor causes damage to your property or injures someone. The typical cover is from 1 to 5 million pounds.
- Personal Accident cover for the plasterer in case of injury.
- Employer’s Liability Insurance for employees working on the project.
Plastering Cost FAQ
How much do plasterers charge per hour?
Plasterers don’t only charge per job or per day. They also charge by the hour as well. A typical hourly rate, depending on whereabouts you are in the country but can be from £8 to £19 per hour, with a median of about £12 per hour.
What are the alternatives to plastering?
The simplest alternative is to use plasterboard without a plaster skim. The boards are mounted onto timber battens or studs. Fill the screw holes and cover the board joints with tape and joint filler (known as tape and jointing). Once this is dry, the decorator can prepare the surface for paint or wallpaper.
Another alternative is to cover the wall with wooden panelling or tongue and groove boards. This simple method substitutes plasterboard with decorative wood. However, you’ll probably need someone with carpentry skills to make a good job of this.
Ceramic tiles are a good way to finish off a wall. Although you need a stable and relatively smooth surface on which to install bathroom and kitchen tiles, you aren’t painting it, so the plaster doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth.
What does a work schedule look like?
The quality of plaster and its application are covered by various standard specifications depending on where you live. In the UK we are at present governed by BS EN 998-1 Specification for mortar for masonry– Cement plasters for walls, ceilings and soffits. This is fairly dry reading for the layman and it’s only of interest to plaster manufacturers, retailers and professionals.
In practice, there are standard operating procedures and codes of best practice which govern the application of plaster.
- Keep mortar and brick surfaces rough to allow a good bonding surface for the plaster.
- Clean wall with a wire brush to remove all loose particles, oil and grease.
- Wet the prepared surface for at least 6 hours before applying plaster.
- Apply a base coat of cement and sand to a depth of 9 to 15mm.
- Let the base coat partially dry and scratch the surface with a trowel to give a key for the topcoat.
- Apply the finishing coat to a depth of 2 to 3mm. Level with a wooden float and finally give a smooth finish using a metal trowel.
- After finishing the topcoat, keep moist for at least 7 days to develop its correct hardness. Remember, plaster (and mortar) doesn’t cure by water evaporation, curing happens by a chemical reaction.
- Clean excess plaster from door frames and skirting boards before it sets hard.
How long does plaster take to dry?
As stated previously, plaster doesn’t ‘dry’, it cures by means of a chemical reaction. Keep the surface damp for about a week so it doesn’t lose moisture too quickly causing cracks to appear. Allow the room to have a small amount of ventilation but don’t use artificial ventilation or heating to help the process along.
Plaster must be left for at least a week before it can be decorated. If possible leave it for 2 or 3 weeks.
Can you skim over old plaster?
Yes, you can. But, follow the following procedure for a good finish.
- Brush all loose plaster dust from the old surface.
- Fill large holes and cracks with mortar to provide a reasonably level surface.
- Brush on a coat of PVA to seal the surface. Allow drying time.
- Brush on a second coat of PVA to provide a key for the topcoat.
- Plaster skim the surface to a depth of about 3mm.
What are the disadvantages of plastering?
There are a number of disadvantages to plastering that can be avoided if you use alternatives such as wood panelling, tongue and groove boards, or tape and jointing.
Plastering is one of the ‘wet’ trades. As such, a considerable amount of water is locked up in the plaster mix you’ve got on your wall. This water slowly evaporates into the room. Furthermore, if you haven’t got enough ventilation, the moisture will soak up into other parts of the house. Susceptible surfaces include soft furnishings, carpets, and curtains in other rooms in the house. If you’re not careful, everything in the house will end up feeling damp.
Before mixing with water, dry plaster dust is very fine and will float suspended in the air for many days. Always seal off the workroom from the remainder of the house to prevent dust contamination.
Plaster is very caustic and damages skin and mucous membranes. Use protective gloves, dust masks, safety goggles and protect skin from exposure.
Getting Local Plastering Quotes
We talked earlier about what questions you should ask a plastering contractor before employing him. This can be hard work and sometimes difficult to confront a complete stranger with these types of questions. The easy way is to use the form on our site. Simply fill out the questionnaire specifying what you want to be done and you will get 2 to 3 quotes from reputable plasterers near you. We do the hard work of checking on their qualifications and reputations, leaving you to do the simple stuff.