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Modern plastering - skimping

Discussion in 'Plastering and Rendering' started by islingtonmike, 28 Sep 2007.

  1. islingtonmike

    islingtonmike

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    I live in a house which is 150 years-old. All the walls in the house which have not suffered settlement or mechanical damage are plastered plumb-dumb on the money. That is they are flat as a pancake, that is, when I put a five-foot straightedge up against them there will no undulations against the edge.
    Why is modern plastering so crap?
    It seems to me that dry-lining as a method is inherently engineered to be off but just good enough to deceive the eye.
    Similarly, skimming, by its very nature - using a steel trowel which will bend with the flow, is also going to be off. I can apply the straight-edge test on most surfaces and guarantee to find that surface off. Once again, not so much as to disturb the untrained eye.
    An expensive book I bought by a tutor at a craft college, J B Taylor, explains how it could be done - using a wooden trowel and going through three coats up and down and across the wall. But I doubt if he has ever gone near a wall and doesn't really appreciate the masonic magic craft of the old-timers.
    Any magicians in the house care to break their rule of omerta and share the knowledge?
     
  2. joe-90

    joe-90

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    It's not difficult to do with an aluminium straight edge, but who wants to pay twice the price for perfection?
     
  3. islingtonmike

    islingtonmike

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    actually some people do. And they've come to understand that price is the joker in the pack - allowing the chancer to compete for business with the true pro. Anyone who has any dealings with the trade knows how difficult it is sort out who is doing what for what.
    I want to employ a tradesman at a good price - £150 a day in London - to do a bang-on-the-money job. I can't. Almost all "tradesmen" can't do it better than I can and what I produce will pass their test but won't pass the test of someone who really knows what they're doing.
    Am I asking for perfection? Not really. But out by 0.3mm over 3m - the BSI standard - is accepting poor work IMO.
    Again, I remain absolutely amazed by how good Victorian craftsman actually were. By the same token, my belief that modern plastering "skimming craftsmen" are a bunch of duffers is continuously affirmed by what they produce.
     
  4. noseall

    noseall

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    you need to get out more islingtonmike.
     
  5. islingtonmike

    islingtonmike

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    Oh gawd. Somebody who thinks he's a wit by repeating a deadbeat cliche. Obviously not a real plasterer.
     
  6. brist

    brist

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    ZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzz
     
  7. joe-90

    joe-90

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    I live in a Victorian house and the walls are nowhere near perfect - but who the hell cares? Perfection of a square box isn't style. I don't think I've ever seen perfection in a house, and I really don't want to see it.
    £150 per day in London will buy you a 'chancer', no-wonder you are getting such poor work done.
     
  8. freddiemercurystwin

    freddiemercurystwin

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    Whats wrong with insisting on perfect walls? You'll need to be willing to pay for it though, its all about personal opinion, a concept that escapes some posters on this forum. :rolleyes:

    The British Standards for plastering a wall does allow a suprisingly uneven finish.
     
  9. joe-90

    joe-90

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    He wants to pay £150 A day in London for perfection? I doubt he'd pay for a weeks work when others quote half that time.
     
  10. Micilin

    Micilin

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    I live in a house which is 150 years-old. All the walls in the house which have not suffered settlement or mechanical damage are plastered plumb-dumb on the money. That is they are flat as a pancake, that is, when I put a five-foot straightedge up against them there will no undulations against the edge.
    Why is modern plastering so rubbish?


    You would be better to say ;Some modern plastering is rubbish. There is plenty of high quality work being done today. I have seen loads of Victorian/Edwardian etc plastering that is out of plumb, undulating etc. You are lucky to have a house in which a good tradesman (for it surely was a man back then) was paid enough to do a good job.


    It seems to me that dry-lining as a method is inherently engineered to be off but just good enough to deceive the eye.

    If you can't see a fault in it with your eye, then it is good enough. If something is fitting against it, it must be square and true but because that is shown up by the eye.

    A good clerk of works will check plastering by eye ( render for tiles and similar must be checked with edge and level) . It is a poor or inexperienced clerk of works that needs an edge to check agnles, ceiling lines , skirting lines etc



    Similarly, skimming, by its very nature - using a steel trowel which will bend with the flow, is also going to be off .

    Leaving your definition of 'off' to one side for the moment- A steel trowel does not generally bend with the flow, your arm does. Putting on skim with the trowel properly follows the contours of the wall it is applied to. If the backing is straight, then your skimming with the trowel will not be out that much if done properly. See below





    . I can apply the straight-edge test on most surfaces and guarantee to find that surface off. Once again, not so much as to disturb the untrained eye.

    I would again say that if an undulation cannot be seen by the eye , or shown up by a fixture against it, then it is not a fault. If however, you know that a, say, skirting or worktop has to be fixed against it, then it does indeed have to be checked with a straight edge.




    An expensive book I bought by a tutor at a craft college, J B Taylor, explains how it could be done - using a wooden trowel and going through three coats up and down and across the wall.

    You don't need a wooden float today . That's all they had those days. If those lads could buy today's floats, that's what they would be using. There would be no aluminium hawks or straight edges available then, but you can be sure they would have used them if they had them. I still laugh at the specifications for plastering that are used today, specifying materials, tools and methods that are not actually used today. Also, the methods in a lot of these books are not related to the materials used today.


    If this standard of work is required, put the finish on with a float and rub it up before trowelling, or apply with trowel and rule off, fill and rule off before floating up after it has tightened up. Three coats is not the key to achieving the standard. A good man can do more with one coat than a poor man with three or four.





    But I doubt if he has ever gone near a wall

    Probably not!

    and doesn't really appreciate the masonic magic craft of the old-timers.

    No magic to it, just serving your time with someone who has.



    Any magicians in the house care to break their rule of omerta and share the knowledge?

    I will gladly answer any questions you have


    And they've come to understand that price is the joker in the pack - allowing the chancer to compete for business with the true pro.

    Agree totally, but the market is the market.


    Anyone who has any dealings with the trade knows how difficult it is sort out who is doing what for what.

    Most tradesmen know what they are worth.



    I want to employ a tradesman at a good price - £150 a day in London - to do a bang-on-the-money job.

    £150 a day is no where near a day rate for a first class tradesman, never mind in London.

    The work you are talking about , nobody would bother with. A half decent spread can make over £300 without breaking a sweat skimming. In fact, if one of my lads couldn't make that, he wouldn't be working for me. House bashing on dot and dab or timber framed, I'd have a handy day with more made.

    Maybe you are closer to Victorian wages than standards :D ;

    Anyway, day rates are a bad idea , get a price for the job. Everybody knows where they are.



    I can't.

    Not at a day rate that was a poor average for a piece worker a dozen years ago.

    Almost all "tradesmen" can't do it better than I can and what I produce will pass their test but won't pass the test of someone who really knows what they're doing.


    Rephrase that to - 'almost all the tradesmen I know who are willing to work for £150 a day'

    Am I asking for perfection? Not really.

    I agree, but you must pay for what you want.

    But out by 0.3mm over 3m - the BSI standard - is accepting poor work IMO.

    Not the BS standard. And I doubt if you could measure 0.3mm.



    Again, I remain absolutely amazed by how good Victorian craftsman actually were.

    Some were good, some not. Some were paid well, some not ;Same as today. If you get 100 men running the 100m, they won't all cross the line at the same time.

    By the same token, my belief that modern plastering "skimming craftsmen" are a bunch of duffers is continuously affirmed by what they produce.

    I agree serving your time is not what it was. But, Apprentices can go for years just skimming, so it is hardly surprising things are the way they are. Builders don’t want quality, indeed as you say it is not demanded.

    People go on three day courses to be plasterers. What more can I say?
     
  11. joe-90

    joe-90

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    That was a great post, Micilin.
     
  12. roughcaster

    roughcaster

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    Years ago Micilin,when I was serving my time,it was common practice to use three coats to finish walls and ceilings.After the floating coat had been put on and gone off,normally the day after,we would set (finish) the the walls with 3 coats of siraphite and lime.The first applied with a finishing trowel,second with a yellow pine finishing float,and third with a finishing trowel again.All angles in the corners of walls, beams, along ceiling lines, window reveals etc, were rubbed using a cross grain float and a water brush.The cross grain float is another tool you don't use today.Plastering is a pale shadow of what it was.Thankfully, as you said,there are still a lot of good, real plasterers out there.Plasterers who can do a lot more than just skim over walls,and that's not real plastering.

    Roughcaster.
     
  13. Richard C

    Richard C

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    Especially if it really is his first!
     
  14. marshman

    marshman

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    Roughcaster,
    I must of served my time a little later than you as siraphite B was getting hard to get
    but I was taught to use the cross grain for all you said, hard angles every where and never to leave a "kick" anywhere.

    Islingtonmike,
    There is no time to day to produce the standard your looking for nobody wants to pay the cost of the extra time needed.
    if you're as good as you say but just need a little help / tip to improve then buy a new plastic float with a cross hatch Patten on it
    and use it only as cross grain on skimming as posted by Roughcaster,
    when you lay on your skimming pull through your lap joints and as you trowel up, trowel both ways in internals,
    never start your trowel stroke horizontal to your pull / stroke "hop up lap area"
    pull a short stroke starting horizontal on your skirting line then pull a second stroke across this with the toe of the trowel facing down
    twisting the trowel up to horizontal and continue through as a full stroke up the wall, "this will keep your chippy happy".
    is this enough omerta to keep you happy cause to give you more then I would have to be looking over your shoulder as my
    benefactor was for me.
    I would suggest you only lay one wall on at a time as you learn to use the cross grain method as a second wall will of set before you get there.
     
  15. Micilin

    Micilin

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    Thank you, Joe. I was afraid it might have been a bit preachy when I read it back
     
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