Many self-builders – perhaps even a majority, and especially those on a low budget – choose to build using subcontractors.

In some ways this is like learning to swim in the deep end: choosing to build without the backup of a builder and taking on a project that in most cases is way outside their normal life experience. Most are successful. Most experience a very steep learning curve that involves mistakes, delays and misunderstandings on site, which the repeat self-builder will make certain never happen again.

Learning the sequence of events on a building site is invaluable. Learning what each trade does and where their responsibilities begin and end is vital. And learning that the critical path in building can so easily be thrown off course – and how to get it back on track again – is essential.

Listing the tasks of each trade is one thing. But all but a very few overlap to some degree and it’s important to understand the grey areas between, which can be the responsibility of a builder but which, in their absence, often falls to the self-builder.

The Plasterer: What needs laying on?

  • Many plasterers supply their own bagged goods. Most expect plasterboard and beadings to be provided
  • Plasterers are fairly self-sufficient and will provide all of their own tools and mixing equipment
  • They may need a board scaffold or trestles for ceilings or high walls
  • They will need scaffolding for external render
  • They may need a mixer for render

Who do they work with?

  • Plasterers tend to work alone with the property cleared for their purposes
  • The trade can be a single trade or split up into three separate trades who work in sequence:
  • The tacker – fixing plasterboard to ceilings and studwork
  • The dry-liner – fixing plasterboard to external and studwork walls with taping and jointing
  • The plasterer – rendering and setting walls, setting ceilings, external rendering, screeding and/or skim coating walls
  • A fourth trade could be said to exist if the ceilings or walls are Artexed and coved

What do they do?

The plasterer’s tasks on a typical job:

  • Tack ceilings with plasterboard or gypsum fibreboard
  • Fix all beading and lathing
  • Float and set all masonry walls
  • Dry-line walls with plasterboard or gypsum fibreboard
  • Tape and joint plasterboard walls, or:
  • Skim coat all dry-lined walls
  • Tape and joint ceiling boards
  • Skim coat ceilings, or:
  • Artex ceilings
  • Fix mouldings and coving
  • Render external walls
  • Screed floors


On a rendered house it’s possible that the plasterer’s first task will be to render the external walling at or around the twelfth to thirteenth week before the scaffolding comes down. This could take between one and two weeks.

Around the fourteenth week, whoever’s doing the tacking will need to come in, followed by dry-lining and/or plastering. This is about two weeks’ work.

What do they cost?

Plasterers may work on a supply-and-fix, part-supply or totally labour-only basis and often give a lump sum price.

Scarcity means that £150-200 a day for a full plasterer is not abnormal, with £90 per day for the labourer.

Grey Areas

  • The main thing to sort out is whether you’re splitting up this trade or whether it’s all kept in one camp
  • Dry-liners tape and joint the boards but they can leave them for skim coating by a plasterer

Judging their works

  • Look for smooth walls with no trowel marks when looked at from an angle towards the light
  • Look for right-angled reveals
  • Make sure no board joints are visible to dry ceilings or walls

Finding a Plasterer

This is likely to be the most difficult trade to find and you’ll need to gear one up long beforehand and make sure you stay within their window of availability. Recommendation and a look at previous work is essential.

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