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Knauf highlights Readymix opportunity for decorators

Knauf highlights Readymix opportunity for decorators

Readymix spray plasters offer painting and decorating contractors an attractive new line of business, says Clive Reeves, Business Development Manager for Finishing Products at Knauf Drywall.

Painting and plastering are moving into common ground, bringing attractive new opportunities for decorating contractors – with economic and environmental benefits for developers, builders and end-users. The arrival of Knauf Drywall readymix spray plasters provides a simple, time-saving, no-mess, no-waste solution to interior wall and ceiling finishing in new and refurbished buildings – and it’s an ideal extra service offering for many painting firms.

People will always admire the painstaking brushwork of the true master craftsman, but it’s a slow and expensive way to tackle a decorating contract, especially where large surface areas are involved. It’s the same with plaster, but the introduction of machines to mix and apply plasters has enabled plasterers to produce high quality finishes on masonry and plasterboard up to three times faster than traditional hand plastering. Now, with readymix spray plasters, decorators too can create a perfect surface – and then paint it within 48 hours.

Rising costs of building plus the challenges of meeting the higher standards demanded by Building Regulations and Health and Safety requirements, have made architects, contractors and developers more keen to use systems and products that save time or money – as well as simplifying manpower and materials issues on site – while still ticking all the boxes on quality and performance. The long months of recession have made sensible new alternatives like readymix plasters even more appealing, and we can expect demand for systems like this to increase dramatically when the building industry returns to busier times.

On most sites, main contractors prefer to deal with as few subcontractors as possible, minimising the need for supervision and reducing safety and security risks. In many cases they would welcome working with just one company to complete the internal finishing – so there is much potential for painting and decorating firms who can offer additional services, such as spray plastering, to gain bigger contracts. Some firms have already recognised the opportunity for high quality, fast track solutions, and are using our readymix products to great effect.

The main opportunities for painting and decorating contractors to use spray plasters are in new buildings with large areas of concrete and / or plasterboard where a painted finish is specified, and in refurbishments where old surfaces need attention before painting. The plasters are simply sprayed on and lightly trowelled. In certain applications the surface may need to be sanded – although this is not always necessary. Knauf spray plaster can be applied directly to old painted, papered, plastered or plasterboard walls and ceilings – and with some initial preparation – even Artex.

In a typical newbuild application, 561 new student rooms at Essex University’s Southend campus were built from precast concrete panels. The original specification was for concrete walls and ceilings to be coated with a hand-applied filling plaster prior to painting. Jason Crump, Director of County Decorating, appointed as subcontractor, says: “We did some tests and found that plaster patching by hand was too slow for the fast track build timetable, very labour-intensive and it did not produce the right finish. We had used Knauf Airless Readymix Plaster previously and were quickly able to show that it met all the requirements for speed and quality.”

With just two men and one spray machine, County Decorating successfully sprayed up to 1,500m2 a week at Southend. Main contractor Hollybrook’s Project Manager Jim McKenna says: “They are making very good progress and are well within the time originally allocated for preparing the concrete panels – this means the units are ready for other trades more quickly, which helps our build programme significantly.”

A typical refurbishment application is St Pancras Chambers in London, where the former Midland Grand Hotel is being converted into luxury apartments and a new five-star hotel. H&S Decorating Specialists specified Knauf Plano Readymix Plaster as a solution for poor quality existing interior walls, which contained many surface imperfections after more than a century's use as a hotel and offices, and a further 20 years’ neglect.

Before starting on the nearly 600 rooms H&S prepared sample areas using traditional filling techniques to repair the old walls. Director David Gaffney says: “Despite using considerable resources, this failed to produce the finish necessary for the high quality apartments – and it was proving difficult to achieve a cost for substrate preparation that was compatible with the project budget. The Readymix plaster solution provided all the answers.”

Around 500 bags of Knauf Plano were used for the 12,000m2 of walls and 4,000m2 of ceilings to be treated with two very thin coats, prior to application of a mist coat and two coats of matt emulsion. David Gaffney says: “I strongly recommend using Knauf Plano for refurbishment projects where the existing plaster substrate is sound but aesthetically poor. The entire project team was very pleased with the high quality finish that we achieved and was extremely impressed with the improvements to the programme using these techniques.”

The main contractor at St Pancras was also impressed. Galliford Try Construction’s Project Director Simon Frawley says: “With Knauf Plano we have a solution that is acceptable to all the parties involved, including English Heritage. The obvious time saving and quality of finish achieved with this product are contributing greatly to the overall project.”

These examples show that spray plastering is well within the capabilities of professional decorators, some of whom already have the necessary spray equipment which they use for intumescent coatings, paints and varnishes. Painters starting out on spray plastering need a maximum of two days’ training, and it’s usually much less. At Knauf we provide full training and support to get contractors going quickly.

Readymix plasters are ideal for building sites where the environment is a particularly important concern. The plasters are factory-mixed to the right consistency for spraying, so no water is required on site. There is also significantly less waste: with standard gypsum plasters, up to 15% waste can be expected, but with readymix plasters waste is reduced to 1% at the most. Any leftover material is easily disposed of as non-hazardous, water-based waste – and even the bags can be recycled.

Our readymix spray plaster products – Knauf Plano, Knauf Deco, Knauf Deco Plus and Knauf Airless – have key advantages over alternative solutions in terms of quality and ease of use. For a start they are less labour intensive because the products have an element of self-levelling which reduces the need for sanding, and an experienced operator may not need to sand the surface at all. Supplied in 25kg bags, Knauf Readymix Plasters are simply tipped into the application machine’s hopper, ready for spraying. Once applied, the plasters are levelled and smoothed with a spatula for a perfect finish. Any plaster that is trowelled off can be returned to the hopper for re-use, cutting waste to the minimum.

Knauf Plano is primarily designed for use as a backing coat to fill or level holes or undulations on thin joint blockwork, for refurbishment projects, or uneven in situ concrete. Knauf Deco, Knauf Deco Plus and Knauf Airless are finishing plasters and are designed for use on plasterboard, old surfaces and smooth concrete. The Knauf readymix spray plaster range is available from builders’ merchants and now also a growing number of painting and decorating trade outlets, so contractors can conveniently still source all their requirements from their usual suppliers.

Spray application of finishing materials is clearly the way forward for a fast and economical yet high quality finish – there is very little mess, and the material itself is harmless to users or the environment. The best news is that professional decorators can now take on more surface finishing, or even complete plastering, with confidence. And that’s got to be good for developing new business opportunities.

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