How to set up a plastering business

A self-employed plasterer and his apprentice plastering a ceiling.

Plastered walls and ceilings are commonplace in the UK. From smooth surfaces ready to decorate in new builds to ornamental fibrous plastering in older homes, this practice is used in nearly all UK interiors.

This means launching a business in this trade is not only rewarding, but can also be very profitable.

However, going it alone and running your own plastering business takes a lot of hard work. From gaining experience and researching your market to drumming up business and considering specialist trades insurance, there is lots you need to do to succeed. To help you on your way, in this guide we take a look at some of the key steps you will have to take when setting up your own business.

How to start your own plastering business

Breaking into a local plastering industry can take a lot of hard work. This is especially true if this is your first experience of running a business. After all, you will need to focus on building your brand’s reputation and completing the day-to-day tasks involved in managing a business. If you're used to working for someone else - with only the quality of your own work to worry about - this can take a lot of getting used to.

Below we run through the major steps you will need to take in order to make your plastering business a success.

Gain qualifications and experience

No qualifications are needed to become a professional plasterer. However, formal training can help when it comes to launching your own business. For example, if you have a diploma in plastering, you may find the added status helps to secure work. The same is also true if you have completed a plastering apprenticeship. Even casual experience with an established professional can help. By having prior industry knowledge, the transition into self-employment is much easier.

Do your research

Conducting basic research is an essential part of launching any business. This should be split into two different areas - internal and external research. Initial internal research should focus on the tools, equipment and suppliers your business needs to function. External market research should focus on the area you will be operating in and your competition.

The first thing you need to work out is what tools and equipment you need to purchase and how much everything is going to cost. This may also involve looking at different work vehicle options, as well as pricing for basic plastering tools and equipment such as plastering trowels, buckets, mortar stands, spackle knives and paddle mixers.

This initial research should also include looking into potential material suppliers. In order to get the most cost-effective deals on essential materials like plaster, you need to find suppliers that offer fair prices. You may even want to try to negotiate discounted loyalty deals before you start trading.

Market research is also important. By creating an overview of what your target audience and competitors look like, you have a better idea of your own strengths and weaknesses. Only by doing this can you form a clear target market in your mind. This can make the process of coming up with service lists and pricing structures much easier.

This research is also key if you need a business loan. By formalising this research using a business plan, you stand a better chance of securing investment.

Register your business

Once market research has been completed, the next step is to register your business. At this point, you have a decision to make as a business owner. You can either choose to run your business as a sole trader, or you can incorporate and register as a limited company. This is a big decision to make and can affect both your finances and how you pay tax.

If you opt to operate as a sole trader, you are personally liable for the business’s financial state. This is to say, if your business is in debt, your own personal assets could be put at risk. On the other hand, if you set up a limited company, liabilities are limited and your personal assets enjoy more protection. While it takes more money and documentation to incorporate, you will also enjoy several business tax breaks that sole traders do not.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of business. For this reason, it’s important to research both before making a final decision. If you are in any doubt at all, it may make sense to launch your business using a sole trader model, and then incorporate later down the line.

Define your services

The plastering trade covers a wide range of services. Although domestic wall and ceiling skim plastering will likely be your bread and butter, if you have the skills to offer additional services, it could be a good idea. For example, if you have experience in decorative fibrous plastering, external rendering, or restoration plastering, you may want to add these to your business’ list of services. After all, the more specialist work you can provide, the higher the day rate you can charge.

Buy the right insurance policies

Accidents happen in all trades, and plastering is no exception. Whether a client is injured after tripping over a misplaced tool in their home or you damage a client's flooring while moving equipment into place, the compensation your business may need to pay could financially cripple your business. This is why taking out insurance policies to protect your finances is an integral part of setting up a new business.

What insurance should plasterers have?

When it comes to specialist business insurance, there are a few types of cover plasterers should consider. These include:

This is the only policy that may be a legal requirement for your plastering business. If you employ any staff (including apprentices), your business must have employers’ liability insurance. This cover provides financial protection should someone you employ become injured or fall ill while working for you.

Although not a legal requirement, all self-employed plasters should consider taking out public liability insurance. These policies are designed to protect you against claims involving third party injury or property damage caused by the actions of your business. This insurance could protect you should a client claim you’ve ruined a carpet by dripping wet plaster on it, for example. Or if a member of the public trips over equipment you’ve left lying around the work site, and becomes injured. 

As the name suggests, these policies protect you in the event that any tools or equipment you need to work are lost, stolen or damaged. For example, say your work van is broken into, despite being securely locked, and all of your plaster trowels, buckets and mixers are stolen. If you have tools insurance, this policy may provide the money to replace your tools and cover any loss of earnings that result from the robbery. With tools insurance from Markel Direct, you can choose to cover your tools during working hours only (8am – 6pm) or on a 24 hour basis for complete peace of mind.

Being unable to work due to an accident can have serious consequences for your finances when you're self-employed. If for example, you are working on a job and slip on a wet surface, breaking your arm, it’s likely that you’d be unable to work for a few months and as a result have no income. This is where occupational personal accident (OPA) insurance would come in handy, providing you with a weekly income (or a cash lump sum) in the event you sustain an injury at work, or travelling to and from work.

Here at Markel Direct, we provide specialist plasterers’ insurance policies. These packages allow self-employed plasterers to combine covers to create one comprehensive policy.

Business insurance from £5 a month