Ornate coving / cornicing advice

30 Jan 2008
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United Kingdom
Hi,i'm in need of some honest practical advice please I've got a Victorian House and have been rennovating the main bedroom. Its been a lot of work, lath and plaster ceiling down, new suspended ceiling up and skimmed, old plaster off the walls, all now rebonded and skimmed. I'm pooped! and one of the last jobs is to run some ornate plaster coving.

I've had a guy round who's quoted £300 for the day, labour only.He reckons 1 days work. Theres about 18m to run with 12 internal mitres and four external mitres ( square room with chimney breast ). The coving is shown in my album, its not massively fancy, having two faces one bonds to ceiling and the other to wall. The longest run is about 4 metres *( so two pieces for this run ). The coving and adhesive will cost about £170.

My question is ( and I know its a tricky one being that you don't know how competent/incompetent I am! ) how difficult is this really? I've spent a fair bit of cash getting the room nicely finished with the plaster and I don't want to cock it up now!

I tend to have a go at anything (except plastering). Any honest opinions wlecome and maybe an overview of how to support long lengths ( while adhesive drys i.e can you screw it), seamlessly join two lengths etc

Should I just pay this guy, watch him and do the rest of house myself cut my teeth using - I can take my time on this, my wifes very patient!
Thanks very much in advance!
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Standard Gyproc coving is not difficult & I put up 4m lengths using nothing more than adhesive + an extra pair of hands. Ornate plaster cove is usually timber/plaster construction, considerably heavier & can be more time consuming to get right; but it usually comes in 2m lengths so it can be easier to manage.

Some years ago I put up some ornate egg & dart coving in 2 interconnecting rooms, about 35m, & this included a large chimney breast & a couple of boarded risers. I used adhesive but drilled some pilot holes through the cove to allow me to put 6 nails/screws per length (3 wall, 3 ceiling) to hold it in place; took these out & filled the holes after the adhesive had gone off. It took me 2 days to get it all up, filled & blended in ready for painting; the most time consuming bit was filing & sanding the joins so they didn’t notice. Don’t know what pattern you’re using but the trick is to get the best possible match between adjacent lengths so you can fill & blend it in; my joins were invisible.

Personally I think £300 a for a day’s work is taking the P*** :eek: , even plumbers & sparks can’t command that & putting up coving hardly fits into the same skills category; & what happens if he turns that into 1 ½ - 2 days work, doubling the price! It sounds like your practical so, if you take your time, I see no reason why you can’t get it right, even better than the guy who quoted as I can’t imagine he’s included to fill & blend it all in!
Thanks Richard, I'll give it a go. I know what you mean about £300 a day - I should have become a "cover" instead of engineer! :)

I hear what you're saying about matching the lengths so that they mitre well at the corners and also where 2 pieces make up a long run

I'll get a mate to give me a hand or battern the wall temporarily to hold the coving while I stick it and temporarily nail / screw it.

When doing a long straight run made up of two pieces you don't have to cut them diagonally on the meeting edges do you ( like 2 pieces off skirting ). I assume you just butt the two 90% faces together, leaving a small gap to fill and then sand?

you do need to cut at an angle it looks better and reduces the chance cracking, find your joists and mark with a pencil you will be able to screw straight through the cornice into the joists but make sure you dont use screws that will rust. Is the guy charging you a day rate or price?
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Thanks for advice. He said £475 the whole job including materials ( which I worked out to be around £150- £170max ) and it would take him a day, so no not a day rate. It just sounds like an awful lot of cash that I don't have for 1 days work! :eek:
Plaster coving -victorian style - nothing very fancy though. Theres a picture of it in my proflie albums ( I think - not used that feature of DIYNOT before.)
This seems like a very fair price, plaster coving is a lot harder to fix than coving, it doesnt bend and if the ceiling and walls dont run perfectly flat its very difficult.4 external and 12 internals is a lot of cuts to get spot on and filling is and art in its self. What height are the ceilings? is there a ceiling rose involved? If he took 3 days would you feel happier? is there 2 of them? if they done a top job it is well worth 300 but i wouldnt part with my money until it was finished completly.
Ceiling is 2.7 meters, newly skimmed and flat as a pancake ( suspended system off the joists ). same with the walls, just been completely replastered ( bonded and skimmed ). No ceiling rose involved. Don't think theres two of them. I payed my plasterer 170 a day and using that as a benchmark for costs ( he's been plastering for 40years ) - is this a more skilled job than plastering then?
i wouldnt say it was a more skilled job, more of a specialist job. When i served my time as a plasterer i might of gone one way or the other ie fibrous plastering/solid plastering. Probably one out of 15 on the course would of went the fibrous way. Have you asked your plasterer for a price? If it took him 2 days theres 340 and you might not get the same quality. If he's been at it 40 years he should of done it in the past, maybe pay him the day and both of you do it. How many days did it take him to do the room? Some people wll find sticking cornice up a piece of **** but if there are any flaws they will show.
-- is this a more skilled job than plastering then?
No it’s definitely not more skilled than plastering; you’ll be fine if you take your time with it. It’s standard practice to join a straight run of Gyproc with a mitre but with ornate coving you need to think a bit more about it as it rather depends on the pattern; for instance, I wouldn't mitre a straight run of egg & dart!
Gents, thanks for the all the advice. I've decided to give it a go. The whole house needs doing eventually and I can't afford to pay circa 4k to get the house done!
Times on my side so I can take care with the tricky bits. I did a bit of surfing around and most of the cornice manufacturers say that most ( except the very large and detailed ) cornices can be erected by a competent DIY'r. One even gives working photos of the process - v useful :eek:

Thanks again. If I'm feeling brave I may post a photo up of the finished result.Cheers!

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