Plasterer - About the job Alternative titles
Plasterers apply plaster or other materials to the inside and outside of buildings. They usually specialise as either an interior or exterior plasterer.
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Pay for plasterers varies depending on their employer, location and level of experience.
- Apprentice plasterers may start on the minimum training wage or the minimum wage. Their rate will go up as they gain experience and unit standards.
- Inexperienced plasterers without a qualification may start on minimum wage or a little more.
- After a year or two, plasterers can expect to earn between $15 and $18 an hour.
- Experienced plasterers, or those running their own business, may earn between $25 and $50 an hour.
- MoreBusiness.com website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website - information about minimum pay rates
What you will do
Plasterers may do some or all of the following:
- advise clients on suitable products for their projects and prepare quotes for work
- erect scaffolding (only if it is less than five metres high)
- clean and prepare surfaces for plastering
- mix and apply plaster to surfaces
- sand surfaces ready for painting
- run their own businesses.
Skills and knowledge
Plasterers need to have:
- knowledge of plastering materials, compounds and equipment
- knowledge of plastering methods, such as how to prepare a surface and apply plaster
- knowledge of how to apply different flashing and cladding systems
- knowledge of health and safety regulations.
Plasterers running their own businesses need small business skills.
- usually work regular hours, but may also be required to work weekends and evenings to complete jobs
- work on building sites and in houses and building being renovated where conditions can be noisy and dusty
- may have to travel locally to job sites.
What's the job really like?
Mark Holtom - Interior Plasterer
"I've learned how to plaster on the job with tools in hand, which is how you have to learn, really.
"For the first six months you learn by working with other people and after that you get thrown in and start doing jobs yourself. It's relatively simple thing to start to learn, but not so easy to master. You only get that through practice.
"I've been self-employed for two years now. It's really good. I employ a couple of other people as well. Being an employer has its good side, but can have its downsides as well. It's hard to predict who is going to make a good plasterer and who's not. Some people manage to pick it up fast and some people don't.
"My girlfriend also works with me. She wasn't a plasterer before she met me, but she's been great, and picked things up really quickly.
"It's a job where you have to pay attention to detail, that's where my girlfriend is good. You don't have to be so quick when you only have to do something once – and get it right first time."
Watch the video above to find out about becoming an exterior plasterer - 6.05 mins. (Video courtesy of the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation)
Clinton: You might be in for a bit of a shock there, Greg. Solid plastering is used to coat the outsides of houses and offices covering brick, blocks and other surfaces. It involves a set of skills that must be mastered in order for the finished plastered surface to make the house look great. Copley Solid Plasterers foreman Nik will be starting you on that path.
Nik: There’s normally three coats in block work for plastering. the first coat which we’ll be doing today is called slushing. This consists of a 50/50 mix of sand and cement, so today we’ll just be doing three and threes, which is three sand and three cement.
Clinton: They call plaster mud in the trade, and mixing it is where all apprentices start, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Nik: Ah hang on bro. You need to full that right up to the top, so if you can just put a bit more sand in.
Clinton: If you get it wrong the plaster won’t stay on the wall and that can be costly, so Nick keeps an eye on Greg.
Nik: We like to have kind of a stronger-type person, because there’s quite a lot of manual and physically hard stuff to do during the day. We look for a person who can just walk on to a site and say yes to everything we want, and will give anything a go.
Clinton: The first layer is a slush coat that acts as a key for the second coat to grip on to.
Nik: I’m flicking it on with quite a bit of force.
Greg: Is that so it sticks on to the wall?
Nik: Yeah, exactly.
Clinton: Greg’s got the muscle and he gets the theory, so do the skills come as naturally?
Nik: Any of the bald patches that you can see, you need to get those as well or else we’ll have the second coat peeling off the wall.
Clinton: Greg’s showing a real enthusiasm to get the job done, which is good because the entrance wall is ready for a second coat of mud to go up.
Nik: OK mate, so there’s the mission, you’ve chosen to accept it, we’ll see what you can do by yourself. No training, here you go…
Clinton: He’s looking confident, but will Greg regret his earlier words?
Greg: I think plastering will be pretty easy…
Nik: One of the biggest myths that comes to mind is people always coming up to you and saying, “Oh, it’s just like buttering a piece of bread, eh mate?” Or, “icing a cake”, when in actual fact it’s nothing like icing a cake or buttering bread!
Nik: All right, that’s all very well if we want to get finished by Christmas! But we’ll give it another go and I’ll show you how we do it in the trade.
Nik: OK mate, that’s how we do it, so I’ll just give you a few pointers. Stick your hawk inside the mud barrow, push some mud up on to it…
Greg: Um, what’s a hawk?
Nik: This thing here. And you do it above the barrow so you’re not dripping mud anywhere else. Just one motion, flip it over, and it’s centred in the middle of your hawk.
Nik: Some people come on site and have it sussed in a day and totally freak everyone out. But me myself, I spent hours and hours practising using a hawk and trowel.
Nik: You tip your hawk over, and flip it on to your trowel like that.
Nik: Not quite, once again…
Nik: Generally the hardest thing to pick up is taking the mud off the hawk. It takes a bit of getting used, getting the knack of it.
Nik: I’ll just tidy this up for us bro, and you can carry on practising over the barrow.
Nik: It’s all a combination of angle of the tool, pressure on the wall and the speed that you’re putting it on.
Clinton: Practise makes perfect and Greg is getting the hang of it.
Clinton: Nik uses a screed to wear the plaster back to a flat surface and any hollows are refilled. With the wall drying, it’s Greg’s chance for morning tea and a chat with apprentice Norton.
Greg: Had you been doing plastering before you started your apprenticeship?
Norton: Yep, I did it for about three years after I signed up – I did a year and a half on the mixer, just making the plaster and that. Then the boss slowly got me on the wall every now and then, building up those skills.
Nik: OK Greg, we’re onto the third and final stage of out plastering mission today.
Clinton: The final coat is a premix, which includes a range of resins to help it harden after a few hours. The coat has to go on fast, so Greg and the team rip into it.
Nik: They’re a good bunch of blokes that you work with, and you get used to each other, so you can give each other a bit of stick and they can give it back, which is great. And it’s a good way to get through the day quickly, while at the same time doing your job.
Nik: Well we’re coming to the final stage – the sponge finish. We use one of these puppies here, which is a sponge flat. It helps to bring the grain all to the surface and hopefully it will be really consistent and look really good for the client.
Clinton: That’s one column finished, and the boys will be sad to see Greg go.
Nik: OK Greg, that’s the end of our two days together. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, it’s been a real pleasure having you on site with us these last couple of days, and just a small question – what was your favourite part of the job that we’ve had you doing?
Greg: Probably the actual plastering, getting to do what you guys do every day, that was good to have a go at it.
Nik: I’m glad you liked it, because you seemed to have picked it up quite naturally I thought, and I hope that all our apprentices in future can just come on site and pick up things, and ask the same questions that you have over the last couple of days. Hopefully everything goes well for you in the future and hopefully we’ll see you on site sometime soon.
Clinton: Exterior plastering apprentices learn plastering skills on the job, and can specialise in either solid plastering or proprietary plaster cladding systems. On top of plastering skills, an apprentice will also learn general building and construction skills – like scaffolding, safe use of hand and power tools, health and safety, and first aid. If you are creative, love being outside, getting physical and seeing the result of your work at the end of a day, then a BCITO apprenticeship in exterior plastering is for you.
There are no entry requirements to work as a plasterer. However, many employers prefer to employ plasterers who are working towards, or have, a qualification. Apprenticeships are overseen by the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO).
People aged 16 to 21 years old may be able to do an apprenticeship through the Modern Apprenticeships scheme.
- Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation website - find out about doing an apprenticeship in exterior plastering
- Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation website - find out about doing an apprenticeship in interior plastering
At least three years' secondary education is recommended. Useful subjects include maths, English and workshop technology.
Year 11 and 12 students can learn more about the construction industry, and gain relevant skills, by doing a National Certificate in Building, Construction and Allied Trades (Levels 1 and 2) through the BConstructive programme.
For Year 11 to 13 students, the Gateway programme is a good way to gain industry experience.
- Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation website - information on the Gateway programme
- BConstructive website - information on the BConstructive programme
Plasterers need to:
- be careful, methodical and accurate, with an eye for detail
- be able to follow instructions
- have good problem-solving skills.
Mark Holtom - Interior Plasterer
Useful experience for plasterers includes any work in building or construction, especially as a plasterer's assistant.
Plasterers need to be fit and healthy as their work can be physically demanding. They also need to have a strong back and arms, good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses) and steady hands.
Plasterers need to be comfortable working at heights.
As of March 2012, certain exterior plastering work has had to be carried out or overseen by a licensed plasterer as part of the Department of Building and Housing's Licensed Building Practitioners Scheme.
To get a licence, plasterers will have to prove their experience and/or have appropriate qualifications.
- Department of Building and Housing website - information on the Licensed Building Practitioner Scheme for exterior plasterers
View information on courses in the course database
Find out more about training
years of training usually required
What are the chances of getting a job?
Opportunities are good due to:
- a strong residential building sector - the value of consents issued (excluding apartments) was at its highest point since 2007 at the time of publishing (May 2014)
- a strengthening commercial (non-residential) building sector - consents were at their highest level since 2009 at the time of publishing.
The building and construction industry is expected to continue to strengthen in 2014. Much of this work will be in Auckland and Christchurch. However, work is also picking up in other regions, such as Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, and Nelson.
In some regions the building and construction industry is performing less well and opportunities for plasterers may be harder to come by.
Plasterers needed to rebuild after Canterbury earthquakes
Construction in Canterbury picked up significantly in 2013 and further growth is expected in 2014.
High demand for their skills has seen interior (fibrous) plasterer and exterior (solid) plasterer included on Immigration New Zealand's Canterbury Skill Shortage List, which highlights occupations expected to be in shortage during the rebuild of the region.
Most plasterers work for small businesses
Most plasterers are either self employed or work for small firms that have between one and five employees.
- Department of Building and Housing, New Zealand Housing and Construction Quarterly, December 2013, accessed May 2014, (www.dbh.govt.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Canterbury Skill Shortage List', accessed March 2014, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- McClintock, J, operations manager, Certified Builders Association, Careers New Zealand interview, February 2014.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2013 Occupational Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2014.
- Statistics New Zealand, 'Building Consents Issued March 2014', accessed May 2014, (www.stats.govt.nz).
|Interior stopping/ plastering Listed: 24 Mar 2015||Canterbury|
|Solid Plasterer Listed: 20 Mar 2015||Canterbury|
|Experienced Exterior plasterer Listed: 30 Mar 2015||Canterbury|
|Plasterer, Painter, general "handyperson" Listed: 15 Apr 2015||Southland|
|Skilled Tradespeople - ROOFING Urgent Listed: 17 Apr 2015||Bay Of Plenty|
|Plasterer Listed: 16 Apr 2015||Canterbury|
|PAINTER/ INTERIOR PLASTERER Listed: 16 Apr 2015||Canterbury|
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Progression and specialisations
After gaining experience, plasterers may start their own businesses.
Plasterers usually specialise as either an:
- Interior Plaster
- Interior plasterers plaster joints in walls or ceilings and coat them to make a paintable finish. They may also secure plasterboard to the inside framing of a building, which is called fixing.
- Exterior Plasterer
- Exterior plasterers apply cement-based plaster or modified plaster to the ceilings, floors and inside and outside walls of buildings.
How many people are doing this job?
Job vacancies by region
Updated 23 May 2014