Plasterers and stucco masons are considered to be specialty workers who build, fasten or apply exterior or interior wall coverings and wallboards in commercial, residential or other types of buildings. Stucco masons and plasterers may work both outdoors and indoors by applying plaster to walls on the interior and stucco or cement to exterior walls. In most cases work is performed for the purposes of functionality; however, in some instances, such as sound dampening or fireproofing; however, in some cases it may be solely for decorative use only.
Plasterer and Stucco Mason Job Responsibilities
Plasterers work by applying plaster to walls on the interior as well as ceilings in order to form surfaces that are resistant to fire and soundproof. They may also apply a veneer of plaster over existing drywall in order to create either a textured or smooth finish. Other duties of plasterers include installing prefab insulation systems over existing exterior walls. This can provide excellent insulation as well as an architectural effect. Stucco masons are responsible for applying plaster, including acrylic finishes that are polymer based as well as stucco to surfaces on the exterior.
A plasterer may plaster a solid surface like a concrete block or they may plaster a type of supportive mesh made of wire that is known as lath. First a brown coat comprised of gypsum plaster is applied in order to offer a support base. That is usually followed up with a second coat or finish coat that is known as a white coat. A prep or scratch coat may be applied with the use of a trowel when working on a metal lath foundation. The plaster mixture is spread over the metal lath. The surface must be scratched by the plasterer with a special tool before the plaster is allowed to set. This ensures the brown coat will be able to bond in a tight manner. Lathers may be needed to offer support walls when the worker is plastering on a surface that is non-solid. This is most common in ceilings, walls and building partitions.
Different techniques may be used when working with different forms of plaster coating. A trowel or spray may be used to apply the brown coast to the surface. When working with the white coat, the workers will usually make up a mixture that is comprised of water and plaster. This is then quickly applied using a metal plate that is known as a hawk. The finished product is smooth and durable.
In addition, plasterers can also create interior surfaces that are decorative. This can be done by using a press or a trowel and pressing it into the wet plaster or using hand motions to make decorative patterns like swirls. Even more complex ornamental or decorative work may also sometimes be used, which requires special creativity and skill. Such work might include chair rails and cornice pieces.
A stucco mason typically applies a mix of Portland cement, sand and lime; which is stucco. That is applied over concrete, cement, wire lath or masonry. In addition, the worker may embed gravel chips or marble into the final finish coat to achieve a finish that is decorative and pebbly. Insulation may also sometimes be required to be installed, depending on the needs of the building and the client.
This type of work can be incredibly demanding in a physical sense. It often involves kneeling, stretching, bending or standing. Stilts may be needed to perform the work in some cases. Workers may need to life and carry materials that are heavy and bulky. Protective gear such as gloves, goggles and masks must be used. Workers may also need to use ladders and scaffolding.
Plasterer and Stucco Mason Training and Education Requirements
Most workers in this professional are trained in their craft through an informal program or an apprenticeship. Three to four years of training on the job may be necessary in order to become skilled in this profession. Those entering the profession at entry-level may start out as a helper and assist workers with more experience. In some cases an employer may be willing to send a new employee to a vocational or trade school. Large construction contractors may offer employees a formal apprenticeship. This type of program combines training on the job with classroom instruction. Such a program may last three to four years in duration. There are also vocational and technical schools that offer training for this occupation.
Plasterer and Stucco Mason Salary and Wages
Median wages for stucco masons and plasterers in 2008 were $18.01 per hour.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Plasterer and Stucco Mason Certifications
In some organizations, certification may be offered. The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers International Masonry Institute provides certification in multiple areas, including plastering. A 12 week certification program must be completed in order to attain the journey level plasterer designation. In addition, the candidate must complete a competency based examination. Room for advancement in this field includes being promoted to supervisory positions, with experience.
Plasterer and Stucco Mason Professional Associations
Professional associations for plasterers and stucco masons include Associated Builders and Contractors and Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association.