Getting plastered….

Anybody who has been following my blog will know by now that I have been building my barn on the basis of two guiding mantras:

  1. If I’ve read it in a book of course I’ll be able to do it
  2. How hard can it be?

And on the whole that thinking has served me pretty well; the slates have stayed on the roof for years in spite of the best efforts of Scotland’s gale force winds, the internal stud walls are still standing, and the cows have not yet managed to breach my defences.

Seriously, I consider myself an honorary builder. If ever the stress and the lunacy of being an accountant in the big smoke becomes too much, maybe I should consider a change of career.

But I confess there is one trade that I have not mastered, and if I’m honest, I doubt I ever will.

When I moved out of the caravan into the cottage of the house, it was a concrete shell. Desperate to introduce a few creature comforts, I decided that I would have a go at plastering. Since I would be lining the place with plasterboard, it was just a case of applying a skim coat. Well how hard can that be? Mix up a bucket of plaster, spread it over the wall and smooth it off to that perfect plastered finish…..

Well the first challenge was just trying to put the plasterboard up. Fairly straightforward getting it fixed to the walls, but have you ever tried to manhandle a 1200 x 2400 sheet of plasterboard on to a ceiling on your own? With nothing more than a stepladder and a couple of acrow props? The air turned blue. Very quickly.

Having boarded it out, things went from bad to worse. In theory it’s just tape joints, apply plaster skim, and smooth over. It’s all in the wrist action I’m told.

Clearly my wrist action needs practice – I spent an entire afternoon with a circular sander trying to smooth out the Himalayan mountain range effect my plastering attempts had created. My neighbours had been on the point of calling the fire brigade when they saw the huge clouds of white smoke billowing from the open windows. Until they saw me emerge from the building looking like the survivor of an explosion in a flour factory. They realised the ‘smoke’ was in fact just plaster dust.
And the walls? Well the politest word I can think of is ‘rustic’…..

The depressing thing was that it had taken me a couple of weekends to complete (badly) just one small room in the cottage. The thought of tackling the rest of building, with its ceilings that are, in places, 5m high, was more than I could cope with. The average house probably takes about 120-150 sheets of plasterboard. In the end, the whole barn took about 400 boards. I’d put up about 20 in the one room I’d done. It would take me a decade to complete the place on my own.

Time for an executive decision. Since I was in any case about to jump on a plane back to India for a couple of years, I decided to hand the job over. Having finally found a tradesman I could trust, I left him to turn the air blue as he wrestled with the job of boarding the vaulted ceiling 5 metres up in the music room.

And I promised myself I would never touch plastering again.

But what a difference it made as the boards went up. Suddenly whole rooms started to emerge from the building site. It would soon be time for the exciting stuff to start. Must go and get a paint chart…..

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