Monthly Archives: April 2017

Plastering machine training

49608655 - plasterer operating sprayer equipment machine for spraying thin-layer putty plaster finishing on brick wallPlastering machines are now an ever present sight in the building trade; twenty years ago they were something of a rarity that had to be hired in specially, with a team of highly trained machine plasterers to go with it.  You still have to be highly trained to use a plastering machine, but they are no longer a rarity, instead appearing regularly, with many plastering outfits purchasing their own machines; offering the ability to cover very large surface areas quickly and without extra labour costs.  Having the skills to use a plastering machine means you are in demand with many companies and can pick up highly paid work all over the country.  Owning a business that offers sprayed plaster or render also means that there is plenty of work available to you.

There are a variety of different models of plaster spraying machine out there, from those that can handle almost any type of surface covering, to the more specialised interior plastering machines that use a certain type of pre-mixed plaster.  Whatever the machine in question, anyone operating them needs to have the proper training in application and how the machine works.  Plasterers One Stop shop, with PFT Central, offer training courses from £180 per person (ex. VAT) on all types of plastering machine, whatever your experience level.

The main makes of plaster spraying machine that we offer training on are M-tec, EZE, Putzmeister, PFT, Maltech, Utiform, Priomix and Lancy; but there is no machine we cannot offer training for, so get in touch even if you have a type not listed here.  We can offer training on older machines that are no longer in production and cater to any skill level from a novice plasterer to someone with decades of experience.

We also offer training on specific materials, including K-Rend coloured renders, CPI plain and coloured render, Knauf MP75 single-coat internal plaster (very popular on new commercial builds) and Supaflow self-levelling floor screeds.  We are also able to offer training on the Mapetherm and Knauf external insulation products, applied by both machine and hand.

If you are a new plasterer just starting out, it is well worth being trained on machine plastering early on, as it is a good paying job and can fund your learning of more traditional techniques while you learn.  Plastering machine training is a lot cheaper than traditional plastering courses.  Similarly, for time-served plasterers who are getting bored of the same manual job day in, day out, machine plastering offers good money and uses your existing skills, leaving the manual plastering as a fall back option, as well as something else to offer to potential employers.

If you own a plastering business it is worth investing in machine plastering training for some, if not all, of your workforce so you can increase the volumes of business you are able to do in a given month, as well as competing for jobs that previously would have been outside your capabilities.  Give us a call to find out the best course for you or your employees and in six months you could be seeing a real difference to your earnings.

Carrying and fitting board – could it be easier?

roughneck-plasterboard-carrier1Carrying plasterboard can be torture on your back and fingers, not to mention that lifting plasterboard (and anything else that comes in large sheets, such as kitchen worktops, wardrobe panels and doors) is intrinsically heavy and hard work.  It is especially hard work when carrying a lot of items back and forth, up a steep driveway or similar tricky terrain.  If there are two people to carry each board it is a lot easier, but sometimes working alone is unavoidable so something that helps with heavy and unwieldy plasterboard is a lifesaver for solo workers.

The Roughneck plasterboard carrier is the answer to these problems.  It is cheap and lightweight but will hold up to the job for years and save you money on painkillers and osteopath appointments.  Made from plastic it may appear flimsy on paper, but can carry a load of up to 80 kilos.  It is deep enough to carry all but the thickest insulating plasterboard with ease.

For an apprentice who is still building up their muscles, this product will help them get the job done safely and quickly without wearing them out, meaning the trained staff can get on with their jobs and not have to help out a labourer or apprentice with the carrying or teaching various techniques for shifting plasterboard.  This plasterboard carrier is also ideal for anyone moving house or carrying out large scale renovations where kitchen surfaces and doors are being replaced or moved around.

When hanging doors or fixing plasterboard in a solo effort, a board and door lifter is another valuable tool that will save time and energy.  It slides under the bottom of the board or door, holding it in position while it is fixed.  It is much more adaptable than using odds and ends of wood or chisels and screwdrivers to keep things in position and can be adjusted with a foot with no danger of it slipping away, as there is with a screwdriver.

Rendering Extensions – what to be aware of

28172093 - plasterer spreading out plaster with trowel around the windowsExtending a home is a popular choice among growing families who do not want the upheaval of moving house to gain more space.  With the current uncertainty in the housing market and prices set to drop further, more and more people will opt to extend and increase the value of their home rather than sell up at a loss for the sake of an extra bedroom.  Plasterers and renderers are in a great position to benefit from this activity as they will be in high demand to finish the extension both inside and out, but there are some important points to consider when surfacing extension walls.

Timber framed extensions are a common choice among homeowners but there can be problems with the settling and movement of these newly built parts affecting the plaster and render.  Sometimes homeowners do not know about this movement factor and they should be made aware that cracks in plaster can commonly occur as the construction settles.  It may be worth offering to set aside a day or two for them in a years’ time to rectify any small cracks, as by this time most of the movement that will happen has been and gone, and the structure has been through a whole year of seasonal changes.

External rendering of timber framed extensions often means putting in a movement joint, between the original building and the new part, to reduce the effects of movement on the surface render.  Silicone based renders are naturally more adaptable to movement than cement based ones, so it is worthwhile discussing the choice of materials with the customer to ensure they are aware of the potential problems, and what can be done to minimise them.

Another big factor when rendering an extension is the blending of the old and new renders.  Some people plan to paint the entire house afterwards to create a seamless look and blend the new part in with the original house; but some may be open to the idea of re-rendering the entire house if the old render is damaged or not to their tastes.  It is worth providing a quote for rendering the extension as well as the whole house, as this gives the homeowner a choice of the work they would like done – they may have been pondering re-doing the whole house anyway.  Once they take into account the upheaval of having scaffolding up (essential for a two storey extension) they may decide that it is worth getting all the work done at once rather than waiting a year or two and then having scaffolding put back up.

Of course, some builders will offer to render the extension they build and while there are some builders out there with decent rendering skills, often they are not as good as they think.  If the homeowner says their builder will do a scratch coat for the render it is always worth explaining the shortfalls of unpractised people doing half the job, and that you may have to remove that first coat if it is not up to standard before you can start the job.  As with any plastering or rendering job, educating the customer is vital in order to achieve a result that everyone is happy with.

What happens when too many coats of render are applied?

cracking plaster wallsHouses built in the early part of the 20th century and prior to that have often been rendered several times; with coat after coat going on, sometimes sandwiched with a layer of paint and various render textures.  Homeowners typically aren’t aware of how many layers have gone on, and they also don’t usually understand why continuing to render layer over layer is a bad idea.  They may be aware of cracks appearing in the render but put this down to the house settling, opting to literally plaster over the cracks.

Cracked external render that does not line up with similar cracks in the internal plaster is often caused by there being too many layers of render on the house, and not to do with movement or seasonal changes in the walls.  Although a layer of render is not that heavy in itself, when there are three, four or more coats there the weight increases to a point where it cannot sustain itself and it starts to crack.  Once water gets into the cracks and freezes the cracks get larger and can even lead to chunks of render flaking off the walls.

If it is possible to find out how many layers of render there are from the homeowner, this will give you a good starting point on deciding whether to re-render, or to knock off the existing coating and start again.  If the homeowner has owned the building for several decades they should have a good idea, but sometimes a little investigative work is needed to determine exactly what lies beneath.  Rendering over patchy or blown render never works as the new coat ends up pulling the old render off the wall, so if there are several dodgy patches it would be best to strip it back entirely and starting again.

Painted renders are notoriously hard to render over as the paint layer prevents the new render from bonding with the old, and the same issues arise if waterproofing products have been used on top of renders.  Explaining the basic science to the homeowner usually works; once they understand that renders can only be properly applied over the right surface conditions, and by ignoring that rule the threat of having to spend more money later to rectify a bad job normally influences the customer to take your advice, knowing they can rest easy for many years without having to have any remedial work done to the render on the outside of their house.

Occasionally after a client finds out that there is more work involved in removing render, to get a decent long lasting finish, they can baulk at the idea of spending the extra money, and may decide to find someone who is willing to simply re-render cheaply; whilst other clients understand why the render needs to be stripped back completely and are happy to pay the extra money to get a result they are happy with, and these customers are worth their weight in gold.  Offering one of the new insulation and render systems as an option can help soften the blow a little, as the energy bill savings gained from better insulation can contribute towards the cost of a decent external surface system.

Tool theft – what measures can plasterers take to protect themselves?

plastering_tools-1A tradesman in Birmingham recently started an online petition to ask the government to do more to help the victims of tool theft, specifically to provide emergency loans to those who have had vital equipment taken and to increase the sentences for those found guilty of tool theft.  It can take years to build up a full tool and equipment set, with frequent replacement of items that get worn out regularly and investment in better and newer versions of items.  Power tools can be very expensive and are a highly attractive target for thieves as they are easy to sell on and can get a fair bit of money in one hit.  Plasterers can lose work if their tools are stolen and they can’t afford to replace them immediately, and this can also cause further financial troubles as other bills may fall behind on payment as the money is spent on staying in work.

Tougher sentences may be a just punishment for those caught stealing tools, but could be enough of a deterrent for an opportunistic thief?  It may be some comfort to know that if someone who steals your plastering tools gets caught they will receive a longer sentence than in the past, however, the law has not been changed yet and plasterers still need to take measures to reduce the risk of their equipment being stolen.

Displaying a notice or sticker on your van declaring that no tools are left in the van overnight is one common way of deterring would-be thieves; however, this will only work if, indeed, people who display this sign do remove all of their tools, as the thieves will soon learn to ignore the sign if it is a bluff. Many vans are easy to break in to for the experienced thief, so taking extra measures to secure the doors, such as deadlocks and alarms, can make it harder to get in.  Often, the extra time and noise it takes will put the opportunistic thief off, as they are more likely to draw attention to themselves and increase the risk of getting caught.

Tool theft doesn’t always happen overnight, however, sometimes you can be unloading your equipment and return to your van to find things have gone missing.  Simply securing your van each time you leave it, even if that’s only for a minute, stops this type of chance theft.  It may seem onerous having to lock and unlock the van each time but it is much better than having to replace your tools.

Sometimes tool theft even occurs on site, from people you are working with.  When working with new colleagues try not to leave your tools unattended, especially the expensive or desirable ones.  Most people can be trusted, especially when you are all working in similar trades but unfortunately there are some unscrupulous people out there, who wouldn’t think twice about slipping a pipe trowel in their pocket when no one is looking.  If possible, secure your tools at home or elsewhere so that they will be safe and only take the equipment you need to each job.  Doing this reduces the amount of stuff available that could be stolen, and it also means that you are carrying less around with you from job to job.  Security and deterrents are key here, so lock it or risk losing it.

New career options for plasterers

 tasty brown caramel fudge served on a plateHad enough of plastering?  Are you thinking of a change in career, where your existing skills could be put to good use?  One plasterer has made the leap from tradesman to fudge maker extraordinaire, but he still keeps one hand on the trowel.  Michael Goodchild, a plasterer from Eston, Middlesborough, also runs Fudge Fancies, a confectionary business that makes a wide range of flavoured fudges and beautiful handmade fine fudge pieces.  His creations have been supplied to the Big Brother house among others and although he has had to take time away from the fudge business to earn good money plastering down south, he has turned to the sweet side once again after social media took his creations to a wider audience.

Now, plastering and fudge making might seem to be two crafts that don’t have much in common, but actually the skills required to make up a good mix of plaster and an equally good batch of fudge are similar, as you need a good eye and feel for consistency.  Making high quality fudge treats of the type Goodchild produces, involves tools like spatulas and palette knives which require a similar knack to use as plastering tools, and the eye for a smooth finish is key to both trades.

Cake decorating is another craft that is similar to plastering, albeit on a smaller scale.  Sugar-craft, the art of creating intricate models of flowers, animals and people has a lot in common with fibrous plastering, and the skill to ice a cake perfectly with a flat, smooth finish is something that a skilled plasterer would find easy once they are used to working with much smaller tools.  Cake decorating and sugar-craft are lucrative professions, with prices for wedding cakes reaching an eye-watering £550 for three tiers, a cost which can rise even higher if delicate edible decorations are added.  You don’t even need to be a particularly good baker, as the real value of the wedding cake is in the decoration.  As with plastering, there are many different types of surface covering available for cakes in the form of different styles of icing; and the ability to know when a mix is just right for applying, will come in handy when mixing up icing to achieve the right consistency for application whilst ensuring it will set as it should.  Both these careers are very different from plastering on paper, but in practice there is a lot of crossover in the skills needed to do a good job.