In the January and February columns, we talked over what factors are involved in estimating a project. This month marks a starting point for us to look at some projects a lot closer than we've done in the past. We're going to take a kitchen remodel I worked on recently and break it down into two sections. First, we'll cover what it took to put it back together. And then we‘ll look at how a price for this type of work can be figured and put together. To begin, let's first discuss the work that needed to be done.

When I walked into the house, I was greeted by a contractor I've worked with for years. He is involved in doing a huge amount of kitchen and bath remodels each year. This project involved a kitchen area.

With many remodeling projects, there's often a wall that has been removed for one reason or another. This wall had been extended out. Though it seemed like a small area, there was quite a bit of work that was involved in it. One thing that was done ahead of me was the installing of the plasterboard (I do as little board hanging as possible). This contractor and many I work with will set up the job ahead of me in this way. Each side of this wall had a small piece of existing wall and a new piece of plasterboard that needed to be blended into a smooth finished surface. It took two corner beads, which I installed myself.

In this particular kitchen, they were interested in having the soffits removed. The open areas that this removal created were filled with board. They also had some electrical work done and so I had to plaster over several holes that were cut in the walls. Again, the contractor filled these in with board. The original walls were 3/8-inch thick gypsum lath panels (rock lath) that had 3/8-inch plaster put over them-a full coat plastered house that was done in the '50s. So, 5/8-inch board was used to fill the holes and this made resurfacing over these areas much easier, as there wasn't a lot of fill to do-it was more a skim coating that was done with the basecoat.

After bonding the surfaces, I began the first step: Embedding heavy fiberglass mesh over the areas where board meets existing wall or ceiling. Now, if this were new work, I would have installed fiberglass mesh over the seams and started out with a large batch of basecoat. My goal would have been to complete the basecoating in one step. However, with this kitchen, there was so much that was cut up and wider gaps to be filled in that I chose to do the basecoat in two steps. I first mixed up a bucket of basecoat and used this to fill in and then embedded mesh over the areas. Since the areas I was initially filling were not really that thick, there was no need for me to accelerate the plaster. It set up in about an hour and I was ready for the second coat of base.

For the wall areas, I basecoated them down to about 6 inches past where the counter tops would be, since the walls below would be completely covered by the counter top and cabinets. This simplified things, as it didn't require taking the plaster all the way to the floor.


Now let's go over some points I considered when estimating this project:

First, I visited the project to get a sense of the extent of plastering that was required. This included understanding what I was going to do and what the contractor was going to get ready for me. I saw right away that the board hanging was something that was going to be done ahead of me.

In forming an estimate, I also made sure I knew how much plastering was required right from the start: what the expectations of the contractor and the homeowner were. I personally felt comfortable doing half the ceiling because I felt I had the ability to make a seamless blending of the old and the new. But there are times when the homeowner or contractor wants a completely new ceiling all the way. In these situations, I feel they have the final say. I'm there to give them suggestions and options and then to do what it takes to make them happy. Of course, their choices will affect the final pricing, depending on how extensive the plastering gets.

I have always promoted keeping as much of the existing plaster in place as possible. Some contractors today seem to want to demolition everything. Which is just not my thing. As long as the areas are sound and secure, plaster can do wonders when it comes to resurfacing and repairs. There are those who will argue this point, saying it's better to rip it all out and start with new plasterboard throughout. The contractor I worked with here is of the same mind in trying to remove only what is necessary, which also keeps costs of demolition down as well. Again, it's a matter of opinion and gets to the next point I keep in mind with pricing.

The talent factor came into play in that this was not simply an addition filled with plasterboard ready to plaster. Matching and blending in require a certain level of talent. And this is going to reflect directly on the pricing. Remember that the bottom line is the look at the end of the project. Paint is the only thing that is going to be between the homeowner and the finished work, so it has to be right.

Final numbers

After getting in mind what was required, I figured up the amount of time I would be there and also the materials involved in doing the work. I thought I could do the prep work of bonding, as well as the basecoat, the first day. I also thought I could do the smooth coating of the small wall area that same day. I'd come back a second day to complete the smooth coating of the kitchen area. Figuring around $750 per day, I thought I could get the work done in one and a half days. When I come back a second time to a project, at times I will figure the second day a little higher than simply half the $750, usually figuring more like $450 for that second half day of work.

That comes in at $1,200. Materials I figured would come up to about $395. This brought the final estimate to $1,595, which was accepted and the work was completed.

Next time, we'll look at another project that involved several areas spread throughout the house. I'll share some options I had in how to price this out and then what finally was figured and done.

I want to congratulate Ken Eidson from Memphis, Tenn., the latest winner of the Walls & Ceilings/Plaster Man T-shirt! Just e-mail me at and include your name and address and company name. We've also received the newest heavy-duty work radio/CD player from Bosch. This thing rocks-and it even has a remote with it! We'll give this prize away a few months from now. Enter by e-mailing or writing. We'll announce the winner in an upcoming column.

Until next time, Plaster On!

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