How to start a plastering business

How to start a plastering businessIf you’re thinking about starting a business, then you might want to consider plastering. Plastering is a great way to earn a living, and it can be a very rewarding experience. There are many different aspects to the plastering trade, and you’ll need to be able to master all of them if you want to be successful.

You’ll need to be able to mix the plaster correctly, apply it evenly, and then finish it off with a smooth finish. You’ll also need to be able to repair any damage that is caused by weathering or wear and tear. If you’re up for the challenge, then starting your own plastering business can be a great way to earn a good living

If you are an experienced plasterer you might consider starting your own plastering, dry lining, or other industry related business. Doing so will become easier after reading through our easy-to-follow guide.

How to start your own plastering business

Plastering is a skilled trade that has been around for centuries. Although the techniques and materials have changed over time, the basic principle of applying plaster to walls and ceilings remains the same. If you have a passion for plastering and want to start your own business, there are a few things you need to know.

First, you will need to complete a plastering course at a trade school or apprenticeship program. Once you have completed your training, you will need to obtain the necessary licenses and apply for a CSCS card ( Construction Skills Certification Scheme ) if you wish to carry out site work.

Next, you will need to purchase the necessary tools and equipment. Finally, you will need to develop a good marketing strategy to attract customers. With hard work and dedication, you can be successful in the plastering business.

Research your target market

Researching your market properly is very important. Research how much demand there is for your services, and how much competition there is to meet that demand.

Customers

Your services will likely be used by a large number of people. Plastering services may be needed by homeowners, residential landlords, commercial property owners, as well as other construction businesses.

Domestic work

Your area’s housing type should be considered. What is the size of houses, for example? How old are they? Are they well maintained, or do they appear to be in need of repair? What type of exterior coatings are there? Have they been recently renewed? Do most of the accommodations belong to owners or are they primarily rented? Local authorities or housing associations own some? Buildings within conservation areas and very old buildings, for example, have special requirements?

You should match your product and service offerings to the needs of local customers. If you are willing to travel to other areas to work, consider whether you are prepared to do so.

Work for other businesses and organisations

Consider other buildings in your neighbourhood. Plastering and rendering services are needed by shops, pubs, offices, churches, schools, and so on at some point.

Film studios and theatres may occasionally need your services, such as custom-made fibrous plaster mouldings.

You can direct your advertising efforts at your potential customers once you have identified who they are.

Contract and sub-contract work

You might be able to help other businesses by approaching them. Consider leaving your details with local builders, decorators, property developers, interior designers, and shopfitters. Subcontractors may also be required by other large plastering companies. Your local authority may be willing to list your business on a ‘approved contractors’ list – these are major users of construction services. Potential clients may also include housing associations. A contractor who is approved by insurance might be a good option for you.

Newly established businesses may find it difficult to secure contracts with large companies. Moreover, a young company may find it difficult to fund a large contract because many things must be paid for before any payments are received. A large firm such as a housing association, a local authority, or a large construction firm may be responsible for putting out to tender work. If you want to tender for a contract, find out how the process works.

Establishing the level of competition

In order to determine how well you are currently serving your customers, you need to determine who they might be.

In your area, are there any other plastering companies? Look through the relevant categories on Yell.com and other similar online directories (“plastering and screeding”, perhaps also “plaster ware”) to get an idea of how many plastering businesses are in your area. Also, you might want to check out local print directories. It is important to keep in mind that other types of businesses may also do plastering and rendering work, such as general builders – be sure to look at their advertisements as well.

Check out the advertisements and websites of your competitors to discover the following information:

  • What services do they provide?
  • Are there any specialist services available, such as antique plaster moulding renovation or high-performance floor screeding?
  • If so, what special features do they advertise, for example, ‘all work guaranteed’, ‘no job too small’, ’25 years of experience’, etc.?
  • Are they members of any trade associations, such as the FPDC, the Guild of Master Craftsmen, or the Federation of Master Builders?
  • How do their ads make you feel (for instance, do they seem small and friendly, large and efficient, good value, traditional, upmarket)?

Sadly, there may also be ‘cowboys’ and ‘moonlighters’ who do some plastering work for cash without advertising. These companies often offer very low prices but fail to match the quality of professional firms. Some are blatantly dishonest and have no insurance.

Decide which services to offer

Among the services that you might decide to offer are plastering, dry lining, rendering, and screeding. A new building project and a renovation project are two broad categories of construction work. A new build might consist of a new house, an extension, or a loft conversion. From minor repair work to refinishing a whole house, renovation work can include everything.

You might choose to participate in one, some or all of the following activities within these broad categories:

Traditional services

  • The plastering and skimming of interior walls using cement and gypsum. Among these may be new work, making good after other building work, re-skimming, smoothing over old textured finishes, plaster repairs, and other remedial plastering.
  • Application of artexing and other textured interior finishes
  • Lining with dry wall
  • The installation of coving and other basic moulded plasterware
  • A variety of exterior finishes can be applied, such as self-colour, brick, and stone effect render, roughcast, Tyrolean, and stucco.
  • Floor screeding

It will be necessary to hack off an old coating before performing many of the above steps. Other work, such as site clearance and waste disposal, may be required once the job is completed. An ‘end-to-end’ service is usually advantageous.

Specialist services

If you decide to offer specialist services to your clients, you have a number of options. You may be able to handle some of these yourself, or you may need to hire a specialist based on your skills and facilities. Here are some examples:

  • The fabrication and repair of plaster mouldings, including custom mouldings, in-situ moulding (such as running a Victorian cornice), and the restoration of antique plasterware
  • Plastering with special effects (for example, applying special polished plaster finishes to create the appearance of marbled plaster)
  • The traditional lime rendering process, and the heritage plastering process using lime mortar or clay mixed with fibre, hemp, or animal hair
  • Some parts of the country refer to pargeting as “pinking” (traditional decorative plastering).
  • Application of acrylic render
  • An application of heat-proof plaster around a stove or fireplace, for example
  • Machine plastering
  • Insulating systems – including internal plasters and external renders that contain Insulating materials, and systems that combine rigid bonded insulation panels with an internal plaster or an external render finish
  • Installation of brick and stone-effect external slips
  • Suspended ceiling installation
  • Concrete etching and preparation
  • Concrete polishing
  • Laying specialist floor screed systems, for example pumped and flowing screeds such as anhydrite
  • Installing fire-proof panelling

Other services

Other services you might consider offering include:

  • General building and concrete work
  • Partition stud-work and other carpentry
  • Tiling (wall and floor)
  • Wall-tie replacement
  • Patio building
  • Damp-proofing and timber treatment, including specialist salt-resistant plastering to make good after remedial damp-proofing work has been carried out
  • Painting and decorating

‘Added-value’ services

Offering attractive ‘added value’ services to your customers may be of interest to you. You might, for instance, offer free estimates and quotations, an insurance-backed guarantee on all new work, a freephone number or a ‘no job too small’ guarantee.

Consider your work rate

In the case of a fairly steady stream of work, your earnings are partly influenced by how many days you work and how long each day lasts.

You may decide to stay open during normal business hours, such as 8.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. Monday through Friday and perhaps on Saturdays as well. Perhaps you should start earlier or work longer hours. Work outdoors can be disrupted by bad weather. During times of good weather and high demand, you could work long hours, taking some time off during quieter periods.

If you start working too early in the morning or continue late into the evening, noisy jobs like hacking off old plaster or rendering may disturb neighbours.

A good idea of how long it will take you to complete certain types of jobs is crucial. A good estimate of the time it will take to complete a job is very important when quoting. If it takes you four days to complete your job, it makes no sense to quote for two!

Depending on the type and standard of work that you do, and your own skills and experience, your speed will vary. All these things should be reflected in your charges.

Non-productive time

There will be days when you won’t earn money all day long. You may sometimes work hard but earn nothing as a result of the following reasons:

  • Costing and quoting new work at sites
  • Completing work that takes longer than you expected (possibly due to unforeseen problems, like an unsound structure discovered after hacking off the old surface coating)
  • Re-doing faulty work (like an unexpected cloudburst that ruined an exterior render)
  • Getting tools or materials from a supplier, or travelling to and from jobs
  • Tools and vehicles need to be repaired

Occasionally, you may not be able to work at all due to:

  • There is no indoor work scheduled and the weather is too bad for you to work outside
  • A delivery of materials is pending
  • An essential tool or piece of equipment is broken – or your van isn’t working
  • The project has been delayed by another contractor
  • When a job goes wrong – for example, a wall turns out to be damp
  • Illness affects you or a key employee

When estimating how many productive hours you can work per month, consider all of these factors. Keep a realistic perspective. Make sure that you minimise the time you waste when planning your working schedules. You can, for instance, build a contingency into your work schedule so that if, for some reason, you cannot work at the original job, you can move straight on to another.

Promote your business

Advertising your business effectively is essential to letting potential customers know who you are, where you are, and what you can offer. You will likely not be able to provide plastering and rendering services regularly to your domestic customers and they might not know who a plasterer is.

Advertising and marketing

With so many people searching online for plastering services, a good website can be an excellent way to advertise your business and reach a wider audience. Try listing with trade associations’ ‘contact an expert’ directories online.

Using social media can also help you market your business, stay in touch with previous customers, and reach out to potential new ones. Additionally, you may want to consider using relevant forums or blogging (although some forum websites ban blatant advertising in forum posts). Checkatrade is a review website for tradespeople. Consider using job-referral websites like Mybuilder.com and Rated People to find work.

Your business can benefit from an entry in a local print directory. Try to distinguish your business from your competitors, however, as many will have done the same.

Advertising on large displays can be very expensive for some firms. Whether you compete with these firms head-on or find a different way to attract customers depends on your strategy. As an example, you could:

  • Your advertising material should emphasise your unique selling point (USP). A 25-year experience, a family-run firm, or even simply “Friendly, honest service” would be examples of this
  • Think outside the box when it comes to advertising. Consider distributing a paper flyer, plastic card or sticker with your business name and telephone number in an early spring mailshot
  • A good place to start is by applying to become an ‘approved tradesman’ with an insurer, a specialist helpline, or a directory (most of these organisation’s screen for quality, and some will only list firms that have been trading for two years or longer).
  • You can be listed in the suppliers guide of local residential landlords’ associations by contacting them

In your advertisements, make sure to emphasise as many good things about your business as possible, particularly what makes it different from your competitors.

Other ways of advertising

‘Contact the experts’ advertisements may appear regularly in your local paper. If you keep your vehicle clean and presentable, your vehicle can be a very effective form of advertising. Make sure that your client does not have any objections to displaying a large sign outside places where you work.

Consider other ways to promote your business. A local sports club or event could be sponsored, for example.

Word of mouth

It is extremely valuable for your business to receive word-of-mouth recommendations. Cowboys are notorious for bodging jobs and swindling their customers, and they want to know that you won’t do the same. Even small things like politeness and considerateness can have a big impact on your reputation – it takes good, reliable workmanship to earn it. Be sure that whoever represents your company is a good ambassador.

Price your services

What will your pricing strategy be?

The first thing you need to decide is how much you will charge for the work you do. You might, for instance:

  • If you supply materials and other items (such as ornamental plasterware), you will charge for these as well as your hourly or daily rates
  • Depending on the area to be covered, certain services will be charged. In the case of plastering an interior wall, you might charge a certain price per square metre
  • Some jobs are charged on a fixed rate basis. The cost of hacking off and re-rendering a small semi-detached house, for example, might be calculated based on a standard basic charge
  • You can charge per item for plaster moulding (if you do it)

Depending on the customer and the type of work, you may use different methods of costing for different jobs.

Setting your charges carefully is very important. Making sure you charge enough to cover all your expenses, including your own drawings, should be your priority when deciding on what to charge.

When setting your charges, you should also consider the following:

  • The price of similar services offered by your competitors
  • Are you trying to win business from your competitors by offering attractive pricing?
  • How will you vary your rate based on the type and complexity of the work involved?
  • Are you going to make a profit on the materials and services you buy in, or will you pass them along at cost? Decide how much of a markup (profit) you want to add
  • Which items are included in your prices, and which are extra charges? Do your quotations include the cost of skip hire and scaffolding where necessary? Your prices must be clear to your customers as to what they include and do not include

Quote or estimate

Quotes are fixed prices for jobs. The price cannot be changed once the customer has accepted it, even if there is a lot more work to do than you anticipated. The quote should specify exactly what is included and state that any variations or extras not included in the quote will be charged separately.

There is no fixed price in an estimate; it’s just a projection of the cost based on your best guess. You are not obligated to follow it. From best case scenario to worst case scenario, it is fine to provide several estimates.

If necessary, explain to customers what may result in a price change for a job, such as re-boarding a ceiling before plastering. In addition, if a customer requests extra work during a job, be clear about how this will affect the price.

Estimates and quotes are usually provided free of charge and without obligation. Perhaps you will refund this charge if it leads to a substantial contract if you decide to charge for more complex and time-consuming consultancy work.

Trade rates

It might be expected that you offer a special ‘trade rate’ to clients who come from other businesses. Similarly, insurance companies will expect your rates to be very competitive if they invite firms like yours to bid on contract work.

Make sure you include scaffolding in your quote if scaffolding will be required for a job. Work at height from a ladder is limited by health and safety laws.

Many of your clients will contact several plasterers for quotes, so make sure your quotes are accurate and competitive. Be careful not to cut yourself. A realistic price is often what clients are prepared to pay for good quality workmanship and efficient service. Your quote should not be too low, or you will end up losing money.

Plastering and rendering pricing guides are available to help you. You can get up-to-date advice on what rates to charge for different types of work from them. It may also be possible to work out what quantities and prices you’ll need from your materials supplier.

Buy an existing business

A plastering business that has already been established might be a better investment than starting one from scratch. Going concerns have already established products, customers, regular sales, staff, premises, and equipment.

You should have legal and financial expertise on your team before buying a business. Make sure the business has a realistic trading and financial position, so that the price you pay is not excessive.

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