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Plasterers – Are They a Dying Trade?

Plasterers have been around for many years and have constructed some magnificent features. Sadly though, there are less tradesmen around now who are fully skilled in this ancient craft. This may be attributable to several factors.

When we look back through time and in particular, at tradesmen from many years ago, it is an absolute joy to appreciate the shear skill that these older tradesmen had. It is only when we look at different structures and the way they were built that we can truly appreciate the works of art that were created.

Perhaps to some, describing every day building tasks as a work of art may actually seem a little far fetched and even over-rated, but when we consider the workmanship involved and how these old builders and plasterers achieved what they did, with what little tools they had, I think the term is actually quite fitting.

My father was one of those ‘old tradesmen’, a stonemason who indeed was incredibly talented and skilled in construction. In fact, he worked on some of the UK’s greatest structures including the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and also St Paul’s Cathedral.

It was from him that I developed my own skill for working with my hands but it was not working with stone. I developed a love for plastering and trained for several years and worked for many leading contractors before eventually setting up my own building company.

For the purpose of this article though, I would like to talk about plastering and the change it has undergone.

Plasterers today are still in force but sadly however, the numbers are no where near what they might have been many years ago. This is attributable to many factors and one of those reasons may very well be the fact that the developers of today no longer need the skilled plasterers that would have been used many years ago.

Buildings are now built differently and from a plastering perspective, you would be lucky to even see walls being floated and set anymore. Floating and setting is essentially applying a backing plaster or mortar to the wall and then skimming it up afterwards.

Plasterers in are now using alternative methods to finish walls in houses. Most houses now are built with dry lining or plasterboard as it is more commonly known. It is simply just a case of taping the joints and rubbing in a compound before rubbing down to finish. No substitute for a properly plastered wall though.

There were also many plasterers who specialized in fibrous work which included making and fitting specialist decorative coving and mouldings etc. This was highly skilled work and it is very rare to see this nowadays. There are firms who specialize in old coving and mouldings but you may find that it is very expensive to recreate some old period feature.

I’m sure that plasterers will still be around for some more time yet, but with the advancement of technology and the way building is moving forward all the time, the plasterers of today could very well become obsolete.

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