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Plasterer

Kaiwhakapiri Uhi

Alternative titles for this job

Plasterers apply plaster or other materials to buildings. They usually specialise in either interior or exterior plastering.

Pay

New and trainee plasterers usually earn

$18-$19 per hour

Experienced plasterers usually earn

$19-$30 per hour

Source: Assn of Wall and Ceiling Industries NZ and Trade Me Jobs, 2018.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a plasterer are good due to a shortage of workers.

Pay

Pay for plasterers varies depending on their employer, location and experience.

  • Apprentice plasterers may start on the training or adult minimum wage. The rate goes up as they gain experience and unit standards.
  • Plasterers without a qualification may start on minimum wage or a little more.
  • With one to two years' experience, plasterers usually earn between $18 and $22 an hour.
  • Experienced plasterers can earn between $22 and $30 an hour. 

Those running their own business may earn more than this, but their income depends on the success of their business.

Sources: Association of Wall and Ceiling Industries of New Zealand; and Trade Me Jobs 2018. 

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

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 (if it's 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 business.

Skills and knowledge

Plasterers need to have knowledge of:

  • plastering materials and equipment
  • plastering methods, such as how to prepare a surface and apply plaster
  • how to apply different flashing (to keep water out of building walls) and cladding systems (to provide insulation and weather resistance)
  • health and safety regulations.

Working conditions

Plasterers:

  • usually work regular hours, but may work evenings and weekends
  • work on building sites and in buildings being renovated, where conditions may be noisy and dusty
  • may travel locally to job sites.

What's the job really like?

Zac Buchanan

Zac Buchanan

Plasterer

How did you get into plastering?

“I was in my last year of school when Steve, who is now my boss, put a notice up at school looking for somebody who wanted to do some plastering work with him. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school, and plastering sounded great.”

What do you find most enjoyable and most challenging about your work?

“The most challenging thing is putting up the cladding and polystyrene on a house. You’ve got to get it perfect so the house comes out good. It requires a lot of time and patience.

“The thing I enjoy most is probably the final result, seeing it all come together. There are lots of different finishes so each house looks different.”

What’s one highlight from your career so far?

“Winning the apprentice of the year competition was pretty cool. It just showed that I knew what I was doing.”

What advice would you give someone interested in becoming a plasterer?

“It’s a physical job, so be prepared for a lot of hard work. But at the end of the day it pays off once you see the end result.”

Plasterer video

Greg finds out what it takes to become an exterior plasterer - 8.28 mins. (Video courtesy of Just the Job)

Greg: I’m Greg, I’m 17 years old and I think plastering would be pretty easy, so I'd like to give it a go.

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 fill 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 Nik keeps an eye on Greg.

Nik: Getting the mud to a consistent level all day so not starting with a wet mix in the morning and a dry mix in the afternoon. You want to have a nice even flow of the same consistency throughout the day.

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 walk on to a site and just 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: Sweet.

It can be quite a messy job so people can often walk past and say ‘Ugh, what a messy job. You poor buggers’ sort of a thing but that’s not really a myth at all, it is a messy job. But somebody’s got to do it.

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!

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.

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.

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.

You tip your hawk over, and flip it on to your trowel like that.

Not quite, once again…

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.

I’ll just tidy this up for us bro, and you can carry on practising over the barrow.

It’s all a combination of angle of the tool, pressure on the wall and the speed that you’re putting it on.

Clinton: Practice makes perfect and Greg is getting the hang of it.

Greg: Yeeaaah!

Clinton: Nik uses a screed to wear the plaster back to a flat surface and any hollows are refilled. When the surface is dry to the touch they smooth it out with trowels, which is called floating.

With the wall drying, it’s Greg’s chance for morning tea and a chat with apprentice Norton.

Greg: How long have you been doing your apprenticeship for?

Norton: Oh my apprenticeship, I’ve probably been doing that about just maybe a year.

Yeah the BCITO guy comes out and checks your books to see that you’re on plan and doing alright.

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.

Clinton: Norton also knows how to work with propriety plaster cladding systems. Which is a modern, lightweight, plastering system.

Propriety plaster cladding systems are sometimes used on second stories to get the plaster look and feel while keeping the structure lightweight. These advances in system technologies extend the range of skills required of a plasterer and keep them on their toes.

Nik: OK Greg, we’re onto the third and final stage of our 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.

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 the future can come on site and just 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: If you’d like to become an exterior plasterer you will need to complete one of BCITO’s level 4 National Certificates in Exterior Plastering whilst in employment as part of a managed apprenticeship.

You will work under an experienced plasterer who will provide you with on-the-job coaching and support throughout your apprenticeship. You will also have the guidance of a BCITO training advisor.

There are no specific entry requirements to starting an exterior plastering apprenticeship. It will help if you have good maths and English skills as you will need to work out measurements, quantities and angles and be able to understand instructions well.

Plastering is not just a job, it’s a professional career.

It will take you around two to three years to finish your apprenticeship and get fully qualified. It costs from $1,060 to start, then $705 for each year of training after that.

To start your career as an exterior plasterer contact the BCITO on 0800 422 486 or visit bcito.org.nz for more information.

Entry requirements

There are no specific requirements to become a plasterer. However, you usually need to complete an apprenticeship and gain a National Certificate.

To become a qualified exterior plasterer you need to obtain one of the following qualifications:

  • National Certificate in Solid Plastering (Level 4)
  • National Certificate in Proprietary Plaster Cladding Systems (Level 4)

To become a qualified interior plasterer you need to obtain a National Certificate in interior systems (interior plastering) (Level 3 or 4).

The Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) oversees plasterer apprenticeships.

Secondary education

There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a plasterer. However, NCEA Level 2 maths, English and construction and mechanical technologies are useful.

Year 11 and 12 students can learn more about the construction industry, and gain relevant skills, by doing National Certificates in Building, Construction and Allied Trades (Levels 1 and 2) through the BConstructive programme.

For Year 11 to 13 learners, trades academies and the STAR and Gateway programmes are good ways to gain relevant experience and skills.

These programmes may help you gain an apprenticeship, but do not reduce the amount of time it takes to complete it.

Personal requirements

Plasterers need to:

  • be careful, methodical and accurate, with an eye for detail
  • be able to follow instructions
  • have good problem-solving skills.

Useful experience

Useful experience for plasterers includes any work in building or construction, especially as a plasterer's assistant.

Physical requirements

Plasterers need to:

  • be fit and healthy as their work can be physically demanding
  • have a strong back and arms, good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses) and steady hands
  • be comfortable working at heights.

Registration

To carry out certain exterior plastering work you need to be a licensed plasterer as part of the Licensed Building Practitioners Scheme.

To get a licence, you need to prove your experience and have appropriate qualifications.

Find out more about training

Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO)
0800 422 486 - info@bcito.org.nz - bcito.org.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Strong demand for plasterers

Job opportunities for plasterers are good due to:

  • steady growth in construction, which is predicted to continue until at least 2023
  • KiwiBuild, which is set to deliver 100,000 homes for first home buyers over the next 10 years
  • a shortage in the number of people going into plastering apprenticeships.

The construction industry needs at least 25,000 more qualified people in the next five years to meet demand.

Solid plasterer and fibrous plasterer appear on Immigration New Zealand's construction and infrastructure skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled plasterers from overseas to work in New Zealand.

However, like many building jobs, this role can be affected by economic conditions. A downturn in the economy can lower demand for plasterers.

Most plasterers work for small businesses or for themselves

Most plasterers work for small companies of between one and five employees. Almost 40 percent of plasterers are self-employed.

Sources

  • Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation, 'Exterior Plastering', accessed October 2018, (www.bcito.org.nz).
  • Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation, 'Interior Systems', accessed October 2018, (www.bcito.org.nz).
  • Immigration New Zealand, 'Construction and Infrastructure Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'National Construction Pipeline Report 2018', July 2018, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
  • Phelps, S, executive council member, Association of Wall and Ceiling Industries New Zealand, careers.govt.nz interview, September 2018.
  • Ranchhod, S, 'Construction Bulletin - July 2018', July 2018, (www.westpac.co.nz).
  • Wenman, E, 'NZ needs more than 50,000 construction workers by 2022 to keep up with demand', Stuff, May 2018.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Plasterers may progress to set up their own plastering business.

Plasterers usually specialise as either one of:

Exterior or Solid Plasterer
Exterior or solid plasterers apply cement-based plaster or modified plaster to the ceilings, floors and inside and outside walls of buildings.
Interior or Fibrous Plasterer
Interior or fibrous plasterers plaster joints in walls or ceilings and coat them to make a paintable finish. They may also "fix" (secure) plasterboard to the inside framing of a building.
An exterior plasterer applies a decorative finish to a wall

Plasterers mix and apply plaster to surfaces

Last updated 9 August 2019