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Save Money on Plastering: Take a Course

Trade Ability Reviews

When it comes to paying tradesmen to do work for us, we only pay for jobs we know we cannot do ourselves, either legally or just because our skills do not match up to the job. That being said, we're happy to give most things a go and if I've learnt anything through our home renovation journey it's that new skills can be learnt and lots of jobs aren't as difficult as they may seem at first glance.

We've tiled, built stud walls, fitted flooring, skirting, plumbed a new bathroom suite, even fitted a whole new kitchen - all of which were not as difficult as they sound and have saved us heaps in cash. So far, we've managed to avoid one job that does require a high level of skill and perfection: plastering. Well, I tell a small lie. I did plaster the ceiling of our bathroom and I also plastered around the fireplace in the smallest bedroom, but neither were as perfect as I would have liked. The fireplace was a very small area to plaster and the ceiling.... Well, lets just say it matches the less-than-perfect ceilings in the rest of the house!

We're quite lucky that the plaster in both the houses we've owned to date haven't been that bad. In our first house, we mastered the art of poly-filling large areas to avoid re-plastering and in this house, we're so very lucky to have the original lime plaster throughout (excluding kitchen extension and basement) which has stood the test of time and I'm determined to keep, regardless that it's not perfectly straight. It's all charm! However some areas of the house really need do need re-plastering - the kitchen has horrendous walls, the basement has no plaster at all, the attic has very badly cracked lath and plaster walls and the conservatory too, needs some plaster over the exposed brick. Plastering was definitely on the to-do list this year!

Despite plastering definitely being a skill, I think it's one that can be learnt with practise and patience. In fact, professional plasterers don't even need specific qualifications. Lots of builders simply "pick it up as they go" and companies that only need little plastering skills (electricians and log-burner installers, for example) often just take a course over a few days and start straight from there. We hate spending money on tradespeople, we enjoy the fact our home is a DIY-renovation and we're doing most of it ourselves, so it made sense to do the plastering ourselves too. Having learnt from experience with previous plastering mistakes and knowing it's not an easy task, we thought it would be most beneficial to take a course.

Grant had wanted to do one of these courses way before we even moved into this house, but we had been putting it off for months. Now that we're onto the kitchen and conservatory renovation, the time seemed right. Kayleigh from Yellow House Tales (go check her out!) also gave me the prompting I needed, after she had booked herself on a course right in our town! She also took away the need to research, as she had already found the best price and course in the area - huge thank you!!

(I should mention that we only booked Grant on this course, not myself (although I really wanted to go too!) - it obviously made financial sense for just one of us to do this course and Grant had wanted to do this for some time. So all info below is written with the help from my lovely OH :))

Location & Course

The 'school' we used was Trade-Ability which is located in our town, not very far from where we live actually (Newark-on-Trent, if you were wondering). As chance would have it, the owner even owns and rents-out the house straight opposite us! They offer a whole range of courses, from Bricklaying to Plastering, Tiling, Plumbing and even Block Paving. The plastering courses can be done either over a whole week or over two weekends and can come with or without a BTEC certificate. The prices vary slightly for either option, but we opted for the week course with a BTEC which cost £300. The courses only have a max of 6 individuals within them, so they're quite small and personal too.

Trade Ability DIY courses
Inside Trade Ability

What's Involved?

So the course actually covered much more than just plastering; it also included exterior rendering, plaster-boarding/dry-lining onto stud walls as well as using dot and dab techniques. The plastering itself included using different types of plasters, different tools, plastering ceilings as well as walls, using angle beads and even patching holes in plasterboard too.

Over the course of the week, Grant plastered around two to three walls a day, so there was plenty of practise and time to improve. Plastering does involve a lot of arm work, so you'll need a bit of arm strength, a lot of patience and an eye for perfection.

DIY Plastering Course
How to Patch Holes in Plasterboard

What can you Learn?

As I mentioned previously, we had attempted plastering before, so Grant did have a general idea of how to plaster.... So - did he actually learn anything new? Well, yes! Massively. A few key things that he learnt was that the quality of the plastering towel does matter. The trowel we initially bought cost no more than £5. But what's so different about more expensive trowels, I hear you ask? Well, they have pre-worn, curved edges which means it applies plaster much smoother without leaving any lines. A quality towel is also made from tempered stainless steel so that it's really strong but also flexible, meaning you can apply pressure without digging into the wall and it wont rust either (unlike our £5 one!). We've already re-invested in a new Marshalltown Permashape Finishing Trowel which we picked up from eBay for £35.

The biggest learning experience of the course was mastering the technique of using the trowel and applying the correct pressure to smooth the plaster out and not just push it around the wall. It's really easy to fall into bad habits, so taking a course before attempting to plaster is definitely a good idea for making sure your technique is correct, something I struggle with. Using a wet paintbrush to dampen the plaster helps massively to feather in edges and also allows you to work on the plaster for longer too.

Another thing the course taught him, was that it's really important to know when to leave the plaster alone, let it dry and firm up a little before coming back to it later. Too much faffing is never a good thing and generally does more harm than good. Any imperfections or knicks in the plaster can always be re-filled a little later.

Are Plastering Courses worth it?
Plastering a Ceiling on a Course

What the Course didn't Cover

Like any week long course, you cannot expect to learn everything in just a week. Whilst all the basics were covered to set you up to begin your plastering experience, some things can't be covered in a week long course. There was no practise for things like plastering around obstacles, or any areas that require a bit more intricate work. But of course all these things should just develop with practise and time, and once you've mastered the basics these things shouldn't be too hard to tend to.

Another thing to remember about plastering courses are that you will be plastering (mostly) flat surfaces. Older walls in your home may be trickier to work with (as we learnt) and if you're looking to plaster over Artex of course you wont have the practise for this on a course either.

Was it worth it?

Yes, yes and yes. Whilst we haven't fully tested out Grant's new plastering skills at home yet, he's much more confident in his ability and definitely feels as though plastering is a DIY job he can achieve a high level of perfection on without the need to splash the cash on with tradesmen. Plasterers charge extortionate rates, so £300 was an absolute bargain to be able to come home with new skills and be able to take on any plastering we need. Having plastered without doing a course myself previously, I can definitely say it's a skill that does need a little help to learn, and Grant definitely seems to have learnt a lot! At such a small cost - I think it's highly worth it and will save you hundreds!

My only reget is that I didn't get to do the course along with him.... But then £600 wouldn't have been such a great investment would it? I'm sure he'll be teaching me everything he knows though and I'll soon be a plastering pro too!


Have you ever taken a DIY course to increase your DIY skills?

1 comment

  1. Thanks for the mention :) How's Grant getting on? I'm almost through the living room now, and it's KILLING me! I'm still pleased I did the course, but I think I took on the task quite lightly! When we finally do the kitchen, I think I'll pay someone to do it (certainly the ceiling at least) just because of the sheer size. Because I can only do small sections at a time, I have spent a week solid in the living room and I'm still not finished. What a way to use my annual leave :-D Life of a diy-er hey?! Hope you are having a fab time away - can't wait till my hols in a few months time to really take a break from the reno. x

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