Adding skills to your portfolio

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Although many of us as painters and decorators have a wide skill set, few master everything, this blog looks at adding skills to your portfolio relatively easily. Usually during our apprenticeships we are focused on honing preparation technique and perfecting our ability to paint to a reasonable standard.

As we become more proficient with painting we may delve into faux or fashionable paint effects. Perhaps begin to experiment with wallpapers, although often apprentices aren’t trusted with that at first.

Then there is wide choice of diversity to explore if you have the inclination to look beyond what the perception of a “painter” by many. You could specialise in areas such as furnisher or kitchen painting which demands attention to detail.

There are various specially made wall coverings that require particular techniques to hang them.

Despite being less demand in rural areas there would generally always be work in larger towns and cities for those who went down the sign writing, gilding route providing they studied these arts correctly.

This is all very well and good I hear you say, many of these advanced techniques may take years to master to make them profitable, and “what can we do now to add additional value to our work.” and as the topic suggests add skills to our portfolios.

As a professional decorator we are supposed to have creative flair and sometimes customers need a little inspiration. Some of us will be happy to discuss the use of colour with confidence, perhaps many won’t.

So what enhancement would we suggest to a customer’s home?

Personally when introduced to a plain room one of the things I recommend is a standard 5” plaster coving. This is usually a good feature if the corners between the ceiling and walls have started to show signs of cracking or unevenness, a coving will enhance any room.

Predominately to install a plaster cove it’s all about working methodically. I prefer to mark a line around my walls to the depth of the cove, don’t worry too much about the ceiling edge at the minute. As the old phrase says “measure twice, cut once” if you’re not sure check your measurements.

I prefer Gyproc Coving and purchase longest lengths I can to avoid excessive joins. Have a good mitre box, mine is custom designed and made by a local joiner although generic ones can do a good enough job. Cut your first internal mitre, measure length of wall from mitred end, if your wall is longer than your length of cove I cut a mitre on both ends as a diagonal join works better than a straight one.

If you wish to check offer the cut length up to your wall, then support it at a comfortable level to apply adhesive. I generally use the correct Gyproc power adhesive, mixing only a portion at a time enough for each length of cove. You can use tile adhesive, plaster and several other power fillers if desired.

Adhesive is “buttered” onto the back edges of the cove, then its offered to it position, using your pre mark line as a guide, ensure its pushed on securely, I like to screw a couple of plaster board screws in as additional support. Scrape of excess adhesive that’s squeezed out as you fix the cove; use it to fill any gaps in the top and bottom edges. I have a small brush and water bucket handy to lightly clean and smooth the filled edges and remove residue from the coving face.

Repeat the process with each subsequent lengths, measure from the mitre of the fixed one until the corner.  Cut mitres to correspond if joining on a flat wall an internal and external mitre works best in my opinion. Internal corners usually butt together but minor gaps, can occur if walls throw coving off, can be filled as can any screw holes or joins.

External corners are best done in pairs with both parts been placed up together, bearing in mind the amount of cove that needs to protrude past the corner edge to allow for creation of an external mitre. Hence the need for accurate measuring as these look best if the mitres are precise, it’s better to have slight gap in the internal mitre side, which is easier to fill, if it ensures the external mitres look correct.

On the whole a standard room should take no more than a morning, with a little ingenuity one man can fix even long lengths of cove, but it’s often easier to have an extra pair of hands to support you getting them fitted to the wall.

If you’re lucky you may even have chance for a little cake as my customer kindly provide on my last coving job.


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