Add a finishing touch to various surfacesThe process differs according to the surface you're working withThe work involves standing, moving, bending and liftingMost plasterers learn their trade through apprenticeships

Plasterers who know the newest techniques and can use advanced materials are the plasterers that are going to find work, say experts in the field.

"Now the need is for drywall and acrylics," says Richard Wassill. He is the financial secretary of Local 222 of the Operative Plasterers' and Cement Masons' International Association of the U.S. and Canada.

"The pastel color that you see so often on strip malls and fast food outlets is an acrylic surface that plasterers apply, and which doesn't require painting. There is also quite a lot of industrial plastering being done."

Plasterers apply various types of plasters to interior and exterior surfaces. When working indoors, plasterers apply plaster to ceilings and walls to help make the surface fire resistant and to increase soundproofing.

Sometimes they apply plaster veneer over drywall to create a textured or durable surface. Much of the work done by plasterers is indoor work. But they sometimes apply durable plasters to exterior walls and roofs for insulation, durability or decoration.

Some plasterers cast ornamental designs in plaster. Others work with acrylic plasters.

The process differs according to the type of surface that is being covered. For example, if covering concrete, the plasterer will apply a base coat of gypsum plaster, then add a finish coat of lime-based plaster.

When they are plastering over wire mesh foundations, they use a trowel to apply a preparatory coat. Then they use a tool to scratch the surface so the final coat will bond properly.

Other surfaces require different skills and techniques -- including creating decorative effects by embedding marble chips into the finish coat. Or they might follow an architect's blueprint to create special designs.

When plasterers are working outside, they might have to apply heat to prevent the plaster from freezing in cold weather. They might also be required to work on scaffolds and ladders to reach high walls.

Plasterers must have physical stamina. Much of the work involves standing, moving, bending and lifting. Plaster dust can soil clothing and irritate eyes.

Plasterers must know how to mix the various types of plasters. They have to be able to estimate costs and amounts needed. They must also be proficient with a variety of hand and power tools. Plus, they need all the skills necessary to run a business.

Plastering may be a seasonal occupation. It depends on location, weather and the general health of the construction industry.

Very few women are working as plasterers, although the trade is actively recruiting female apprentices.

According to plasterer Reggie Bullard, it is difficult to find qualified people or to find people who are interested in learning the trade.

"It's hard work and a lot of people don't want to go into it," he says. "If someone does good work, they will be able to find a job."

Earnings and employment information from the U.S. Department of Labor is not available for this field at this time.

Plasterers and Stucco Masons Earnings

  • Region: U.S. National
  • Average Annual Earnings: $40,070
  • Average Hourly Earnings: $19.27

Plasterers and Stucco Masons Employment Stats

  • Region: U.S. National
  • Outlook: Stable
  • 2008 Workforce: 49,000
  • 2008 to 2018 Growth Rate: 6.56%

Most plasterers learn their trade through apprenticeships. Some begin working as helpers and gradually work their way up.

Apprenticeships are usually sponsored by joint committees of contractors and labor unions. They consist of a combination of on-the-job training and classroom training. Typically, an apprenticeship would last two to three years.

People wanting to become apprentices should have high school diplomas, good physical health and strength and good manual dexterity. It would be helpful to have studied shop, mathematics and mechanical drawing.

Since apprenticeship training programs are set up via joint committees, any such training program could be considered acceptable. The one listed here is affiliated with a large educational institution.

University of Indiana
Plasterer Apprenticeship Program
2805 East 10th St.
Bloomington, IN47408 USA

International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers
815 15th St. N.W.
Washington DC 20005 USA

Operative Plasterers' and Cement Masons' International Association of the United States and Canada
14405 Laurel Place, Ste. 300
Laurel ,MD 20707 USA

Northwest Wall and Ceiling Bureau
1032-A N.E. 65th St.
Seattle, WA 98115 USA

Ceilings and Interior Systems Construction Association
1500 Lincoln Hwy., Ste. 202
St. Charles, IL 60174 USA

Walls and Ceilings Magazine


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