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Belfast Building & Roofing

Builders Blog of James G

Builders Blog of Belfast Jamie

Founded in 1908 by the Daily Mail, the Ideal Home Show (formally Exhibition) was originally envisaged as a publicity tool for the newspaper and as a way of increasing its advertising revenue.

In this section we explore more of the history behind the show, from the fascinating facts to the varied features that have appeared at the show. Over time we will continue to add more from the archives that stretch over the past 100 years, and most of the 20th Century!

The Brief History

It’s hard to imagine what the world was like when the show first opened its doors in 1908. Suffragettes were chaining themselves to railings, the first Model T Ford rolled off the US production line and the UK’s first ‘skyscraper’ the Royal Liver Building in Liverpool was being built.

The vast majority of the British public rented their homes, but mass production methods were changing society and improving their living standards. For the first time people were beginning to have a greater disposable income which meant that the dream of owning a home was becoming a step closer to reality.

Visitors in the early days would have been amazed by the full size ‘Tudorbethan’ houses that were built at the show and wowed by the fantastic gardens that were constructed. In the 1920’s several crowned heads of Europe designed the gardens which were lit by special gas lamps that mimicked daylight so that visitors could see the true colours of the flowers.

Throughout the 1930’s the show became even more famous for introducing a marvellous array of gadgets and new inventions and became the launch pad for many of the products that we now take for granted. The vacuum cleaner, electric kettle, toaster and the Teasmade all made their debut at the Ideal Home Show.

WW2 meant that show was suspended, reopening in 1947 and over the next few decades it continued to grow in popularity, culminating in a record attendance of 1.5 million visitors in 1957. Visitors of the day would have seen the first fitted kitchen and rooms that demonstrated the height of interior fashion – open plan living!

The Royal Family has always taken an interest in the show; HRH Queen Elizabeth II has visited eleven times! The 1960’s saw cult of ‘celebrity’ begin to take a hold with visits to show from many of the leading faces of the day, such as Tom Jones, Eric Morecambe and even the Rolling Stones!

Whole villages were built throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s and by the 1990’s up and coming architects were invited to enter a competition to have a house built at the show. Green issues were tackled as far back as 1989 when the first green kitchen was shown with energy saving appliances, CFC – free cleaners and using wood from sustainable sources.

In 2008, the show changed hands for the first time in its history. Now owned by the multi award-winning media company Media 10, the show looks forward to the 21st century, bringing the latest innovations, the brightest ideas and the most inspiration (and of course fantastic shopping) to the hundreds of thousands of visitors that continue to enjoy the biggest and best home show in the business – the Ideal Home Show!

Builders Blog Belfast Jamie North Down Bangor Lisburn Finaghy

Builders Blog Belfast Jamie North Down Bangor Lisburn Finaghy

Builders Blog – Chimney demolition

Chimney Demolition

34 & 36 Richill Park Belfas BT5 6HG

6th December 2018 

Duration = Both Chimneys in 1 Day

Builders Blog Introduction.

First item in our Builders Blog is chimney demolition. This demolition is quite odd as both Chimneys had already been demolished and rebuilt with full Chimney lead trays costing thousands of Pounds. However when they were rebuilt they both had the very same problems & symptoms they had before all the the money.

Builders Blog Belfast Jamie North Down Bangor Lisburn Finaghy and Antrim Builders Blog Belfast Jamie North Down Bangor Lisburn Finaghy and Antrim
Chimney Repairs Belfast Bangor Antrim and Down  

Builders Blog Summary.

Unfortunately this is yet another unfortunate error of mistaking Moisture & Mildew caused by Condensation/bad ventilation etc for Water ingress was made.


Don’t take the advice of just one Builder. Especially If it’s going to cost a lot of cash. Get a second opinion, preferably from an expert.


Dry Lined Partition Wall

Drylining – Partition Wall  

Mercedes Boucher, Belfast BT12 6HU

February 14th 2017

Duration = less than 1 day.


This partition is odd as it has neither Thermal or Acoustic insulation and No Fire Rating.

Its only purpose is to stop light coming into the Photographers area were he Photographs the Cars. It only required a very basic single boarding either side and for or effect all the uprights and track were cut off site and Hot mud – “Easifill 20” (which goes off in 20 Minutes) was used. On top of this we used 3 coats normal White emulsion.

Dry Lining Mercedes Boucher Crescent Belfast Dry Lining Mercedes Boucher Crescent Belfast



Because the job was relatively small it was deliberately scheduled for one day to show the obvious advantages that dry-lining has over traditional finish etc when surfaces are painted and finished the same day.


Drywall compound is a lot more versatile than Gypsum Plaster.


Concrete Repairs 
Concrete Repairs   Fifth Ave Bangor 
June 2015 Duration = 1 Week

Velux Belfast
Velux Window in Bangor   15 Southwell Road 
May 2015 Duration = 1 Day

Down in Groomsport here at the Lodge House.

At 1 Donaghadee Road Groomsport BT19 6LG

This is a Listed building with a Date of Construction of 1860

Which basically means its an excellent example of a rather grand 1860

Stone House and building of local & Regional importance.

What this really tells us is that these Stone Chimneys have been taking a

hammering from the North Down Coastal Winds for 160 odd years.

So I suppose the serious damage and degradation of some the stone over this

time is no real surprise.

Some of the chimneys were repaired in Stu while others were completely

rebuilt using stone from other salvaged chimneys on site.

Unfortunately a few of the Chimneys were in such a serious condition they had

to removed completely Carefully Bubble Wrapped & bound before being

lowered to the ground and stored on Pallets.

The flues of these demolished chimneys were first closed off and filled with

granular insulation before being capped off capped with 40N High strength

Concrete and then sealed with SBR Tanking Slurry.




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Suspended Ceilings

Suspended Ceilings & Partitions  

Belfast Building & Roofing offer Thermal and Acoustic Suspended Ceilings & Partitions: For Belfast, Bangor, Holywood, Newtownards, Donaghadee and  throughout Northern Ireland.

We have 25 years experience in dry lining, partitioning integrated building solutions. This modern type of ceiling is Drylined and have many advantages over older types of construction. Speed and the lack of water used being only two. 

Using this knowledge and experience we undertake Office fit-outs, Sound

studios, Shop-fitting and both Commercial and Residential refurbishments.

We deliver premier projects of the highest standard and pride ourselves in

delivering high quality within time and budget. We are able to carry out

contracts all over UK & Ireland. 

 Suspended Ceilings Advantages  

Acoustics is a big advantage of Suspended Ceilings and Acoustics in

Suspended ceilings has improved dramatically over the years, with enhanced

sound absorption.

Suspended Ceiling Improve environmental quality.  

Including ventilation,

Lighting and thermal control,

Thermal comfort,

Use of daylight for natural illumination


 Energy efficiency,

A common measure of the light reflectance of a ceiling material is

ASTM E 1477 for Light Reflectance (LR-1). A level of about 75% is

considered good, although higher levels are more likely.

Integration with infrastructure

Integration with Mechanical Electrical & Plumbing Services (MEP) is important

with Suspended Ceilings. Most of these systems are by definition above the

ceiling. Fortunately, most ceiling systems products are now designed with this

integration in mind. Decisions here can also affect aesthetics, access and

maintenance. With 45 KG Rock-wool we offer high quality Acoustic Solutions 

while also providing exceptional thermal resistance for the Thermal Element.  


Dropped ceilings have an improved return over investment (ROI) over open ceilings and are over all a more manageable solution.

Suspended(Dropped)Ceilings Wiki  

Misc Previous include:


Suspended Insulated Ceiling

Church Road Holywood

Suspended Ceilings Repairs Partition Walls Belfast Bangor Newtownrds Holywood Doaghadee Helens Bay

Insulated Vaulted Ceilings Before

Southwell Road Bangor BT203AE

Suspended Ceilings Repairs Partition Walls Belfast Bangor Newtownrds Holywood Doaghadee Helens Bay

Split level apartment Ceiling

Upper Lisburn Rd Finaghy Belfast BT10 OLG


Suspended Ceilings Repairs Partition Walls Belfast Bangor Newtownrds Holywood Doaghadee Helens Bay
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Chimney Repairs

 Chimney Repair


Belfast Building & Roofing

Chimneys are generally ‘out of sight, out of mind’ but remain a fundamental part of any home. Your Chimneys condition has various implications to your home from Damp and Condensation to serious Structural and Health & Safety issues.

Neglected chimneys are a potential accident.

Brickwork can become a deadly weapon in extreme weather conditions. We therefore  promote pro active maintenance above reactive maintenance.

The most common Chimney repair is cracked, fractured & eroded caps.

If neglected open cracks will hasten the onset of more serious problems such as instability, water penetration and even disintegration. If caught in time, all that may be required to fix this and prevent further deterioration is a spot of localised primer and slurry coating.

Your Chimney is Punished by Icy Gales and the Baking Sun

Because of this its Cap or Crown is Exposed to the full range of Extreme Weathers above the ridge-line. You generally cannot see your Chimney Crown, but it is the most important part of your chimney designed for the protection of your chimney shell from water ingress. It is also the most exposed area of your home, it has to take the full force and fury of the constant exposure to the elements, the chimney crown often cracks shortly after construction usually within the first year of service.

Improper maintenance of the chimney crown causes serious damage to chimneys every year. Remember just because your chimney crown is hard to see or hard to get to, doesn’t mean you should neglect its’ maintenance, which can ultimately cost you thousands in unnecessary repair bills if you ignore it.

What problems can they cause?

A cracked chimney crown let’s water into the chimney body. Over time the crack widens letting more and more water enter the chimney. Eventually the retained water becomes more than what is evaporated and degradation begins. First with discolouration of the top brick courses with spalling, chipping and flaking of the bricks. With stone chimney’s moss and dark mold appears on the top of the chimney too. 

If the damage isn’t severe, a repair to the top of the chimney can be made by general brickwork repairs and the application of a Cement based Crown Slurry Sealer  to the crown. This protects the chimney and acts like a umbrella by shedding rain water from the top of the chimney stopping water penetration through the chimney crown. Secondary water entry, through the facing brick of the chimney, can be stopped with an acrylic-based clear masonry sealer to the chimney’s facing brick.

Materials, Mortars, Slurry Coatings and Chemical Solutions

We can Restore and Protect your Chimney Stack from whatever is thrown at it while maintaining its appearance and style. 

If you have any concerns about your chimney please contact us for a free no obligation quote.  

Chimney Repair solutions include. 

Chimney Diagnostics & Solutions Chimney Recapping & Repairs
Chimney Demolition / Removal Chimney Pointing and Repointing
Chimney Structural repairs Chimney Pot Replacement & Repair
Chimney Flashing Renewal & Repair Chimney brickwork restoration & repair.

Damp chimney breasts may signify ventilation problems.

If you identify a problem get it checked sooner rather than later by ringing

me on 07401088868 – You can also email photos etc to

Chimney repairs & Removal… Well actually this isn’t.. sorry wasn’t a Chimney. It was originally a lantern roof on a Methodist Church which later became Brethern and was(after being destroyed by the ravages of time) no longer required.  
Chimney Repairs Flashing Pointed Removal Bangor Co Down Belfast
This one is situated on the corner of Killaire Park Bangor and the Crawfordsburn Road. Chimneys Pointed Lead Flashings Belfast Bangor
The cap and flaunching
take most abuse 
on any Chimney so its
important to keep
them in good condition.
Chimney Repair Belfast Bangor Holywood Newtownards Builders Roofers

Moss Covered Flaunching around Chimney

This flaunching used
rather weak mortar
which has accelerated
Chimney Repair Belfast Bangor Holywood Newtownards Builders Roofers

Chmney errosion

Lack of cement in the
flaunching mortar
exaggerates exposure
to hail, freezing driving
wind, rain and also
the baking sun. This
chimney beside Ulster
Rugbys Ground at
Ravenhill Park Gardens
is surrounded by trees
which given the “open”
condition of the mortar
lets nature do the rest.       
Chimney Repair Belfast Bangor Holywood Newtownards Builders Roofers

Ulster Rugby Ground Ravenhill

On this particular repair the whole chimney was cleaned of moss mechanically, burnt by blow lamp and soaked in nitric acid.

All structural problems were then primed and repaired before a new stronger coat of flaunching applied and then sealed.


Chimney repair Ravenhill Park Gardens

Why do people still insist on putting flues through roofs

when they can put them

through the wall.

Is it because they “Want trouble”?

Chimney Repairs Flashing Pointed Removal Bangor Co Down Belfast
3 Primacy Road, Bangor BT19 7PQ

“Just a nice little cottage style Chimney Repair at the old school house primacy road Bangor.”

Chimney Repairs Flashing Pointed Removal Bangor Co Down Belfast
 Its now a day Nursery.
Chimney Repairs Flashing Pointed Removal Bangor Co Down Belfast
Chimney Repair Builders Roofers Belfast Bangor Finaghy

Shane’s Castle Chimney

Chimney Repairs Flashing Pointing Bangor Belfast Holywood Newtownards
Chimney Repairs
often require a visit to….

Davey Hunters Salvage yard.   

3-5 Dalton Street, Belfast, BT5 4BA

Davey Hunters Salvage yard.  3-5 Dalton Street, Belfast, BT5 4BA
Removing chimneys

Can lead to damp roblems. This Chimney was reflaunched, pointed, its cap sealed and most of its vent holes closed to alleviate the problems below. 

 Goliath Crane Bangor Belfast Roofers Builders Short Strand


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N Down Roof Gardens

The Plants of Bangor Seafront

The Roof Top Gardens of Francis Street

  • Belfast Bangor Builders Roofers King street Bangor
    We have moved to 5 King Street Bangor

Bangor Seafront and the elevated greenery or Francis Street Newtownards please send any pics to – 

Having worked on many roofs in Bangor Town Centre Newtownards I kind of assumed that Bangor Seafront had the edge as far as Roof Gardens go but as I regularly go to Ards I have noticed recently that they too have a few gems. All anyone really has to do is take a stroll down Francis Street…(and look up of course) I just came out of the Barbers today and found this beauty across the road. Note the natural back drop giving it extra depth.  

Newtownards Frances Street, Newtownards, Down, BT23 7DX Roofers Builders Ceiling Fixers Bangor Belfast Holywood  Helens Bay

These chimneys also on Francis street use a more restrained theme yet the added variety of this particular one gives it a more rounded overall depth.

Frances Street, Newtownards, BT23 7DX Chimneys Roofers Builders Bangor Belfast Holywood  Helens Bay

 This Chimney only a few yards away has gone for the 

“Mountain with a tree growing out of its shoulder look”

which is simple yet quite effective.

Ards Main Street

Someone recently tried to imply there was more Craic in Ards?

But even though my Father was born in William Street Ards.

I must say I would find that statement intellectually flawed.

Frances Street, Newtownards, Down, BT23 7DX Chimneys Roofers Builders Bangor Belfast Holywood  Helens Bay

But less than 5 Miles down the road we can see some real big hitters here on Bangor Sea Front and you can clearly see we are moving up in class with this formidable display of the “Desert Island Tidal Turf” look which is very much in at the moment “or is it out”? Its certainly very current (Strong current?)

Roofers Builders Ceiling Repairs Belfast Newtownards Holywood Helens Bay

The long Beard effect is achieved by the torrents of rain cascading off the back of this Bangor Seafront haunted house.. (I wonder does the gutter need cleaned?) But top marks must go to this…..

 Buddleja davidii on Bangor Seafront

Buddleja davidii (spelling variant Buddleia davidii), also called summer lilacbutterfly-bush, or orange eye, a flowering plant from central China, and also Japan. So this one seems to have come via China and probably through a hundred Pigeons before the one who ate it on Southwell Road and later “planted” it here in this very gutter to be nourished by its winged mentors daily. Ipeak shape and form in Aug this decadent context convey drama and tragedy steeped in irony beside temporary metal box’s paid for by the people of Bangor replete with bored Artists looking for something to paint.  


Queens Parade, Bangor, Down, BT20 3BH Roofers Builders Ceiling Repair Belfast Holywood Helens Bay

This picture of Queens parade lays out a much fuller context of the story of Bangor Seafront than any whitewash ever written in the Bangor Spectacular. Below we can see the same Buddleja in context with one of these “Box’s” “Project 24” “Art never sleeps” In reality – “Nature never Sleeps”

Queens Parade, Bangor, Down, BT20 3BH Bangor Seafront Belfast Builders Roofers Ceiling Repairs.


We’re all hoping for a revival. like these Palm trees which had clearly been through a few local pigeons then imprisoned in this seafront gutter before being rescued by

Belfast Builders Roofers

a local builder (seen below in the back of his van) and taken to new home in White-spots. 

(A mates Garden) gives hope to us all 🙂

Roof Conversions Palm Trees Belfast Bangor

As you can see here below, most of these Cordyline Palms have now found a

new happy home in part of Kyle Wilkinson’s(KW Coach-Finish) Garden at

White Spots were Kyle runs a Sanctuary for Homeless or Sexually Abused plants.  











Here’s a nice Bramble Plant on Holborn Avenue off High Street Bangor. I wonder (since most species are hermaphrodites) will we be able to make some Jam soon?

 Holborn Avenue, Bangor, Down, BT20 5ET Roofers Builders Ceilings Helensbay Holywood Newtownards Bangor Belfast

 Holborn Avenue, Bangor, Down, BT20 5ET Roofers Builders Ceilings Belfast

Hey look there’s the Ferry! No wait a minute the guttering has been replaced, No wait a minute the Bramble has been removed Crikey they are really prickly that must have been a big job – must have used scaffold for that one? OK so what about this amazing pic from the back of a “House”(for want of a better word) on Holborn Ave Bangor Co Down – just in today 10th Oct 2014. This was taken from the roof of house next door. I will try and get another couple to get a better idea of whats really going on.

 Holborn Avenue, Bangor, Down, BT20 5ET Roofs Roofers Repairs Ceilings Newtownards Donaghadee

 Holborn Avenue, Bangor, Down, BT20 5ET Builders Roofers Ceilings Belfast


Hard to believe this is Holborn Ave?


At Bangor Seafront Development we find the aptly named “King Street” in all its glory. We can clearly see that these guys don’t need Sunbeds to thrive.  

KING STREET, BANGOR BT20 3AH Holywood Helens Bay Belfast Roofers Builders  Ceilings

This is becoming a cake walk for Bangor

There was some big Newtownard’s talk about plants growing up through houses in Court Street Newtownard’s but nothing Materializing yet? Actually talking about Cake there’s a nice Coffee Shop a few yards from here? what’s this they call it?KING STREET, BANGOR BT20 3AH Roofers Builders Holywood Belfast Helens Bay Newtownards


Hey this came via email without a name. Well at least it puts Holwood on the Holywood Roofers Garden Map

Holywood, County Down, BT18 9LY Roofers Builders Ceiling Repairs Holywood Belfast Helens Bay Newtownards

And this other one was sent from basically across the road. What is it with Tanning Studios and roof plants? 🙂  Keep em coming – still no sign of any Roof Plants of Court Street from the big talking Newtownard’s poster! (Make that Boaster)

 Holywood, County Down, BT18 9LY Builders Roofers Ceiling Repairs Belfast Bangor Helens bay


Here’s another couple of offering from just off Holywood Main Street 

Holywood, County Down, BT18 9LY Newtownards Bangor Roofers Builders Ceiling Repairs Belfast Helens Bay


Holywood, County Down, BT18 9LY Newtownards Bangor Roofers Roofing Belfast Building & Roofing


King Street, Bangor

Below we can see a long shot of King Street, Bangor and how

they seem to have nailed the new “Ex-Soviet Border Town look” 

KING STREET, BANGOR BT20 3AH Holywood Builders Roofers  Belfast Bangor

 Belfast Ravenhill Park Garden’s

And here comes Belfast as we see this Ash Tree growing away on this  from this Chimney in Ravenhill Park Gardens.

Ravenhill Hill Park Holwood Builders


The Penguin King Street Bangor 


Funky Penguin KING STREET, BANGOR BT20 3AH Builders Roofers Ceilings Belfast Holywood Helensbay

Francis Street Newtownards end of days look.

Frances Street, Newtownards, Down, BT23 7DX Builders Roofers Ceiling Roof Repairs Belfast Bangor Newtownards

Frances Street, Newtownards, Down, BT23 7DX Builders Roofers Roof Repairs Ceiling Repairs Belfast Bangor Newtownards Holywood.

It’s actually the Bangor side of  Francis Street but what about this couple of  totally amazing pics from Mr Kane in Ards? Is this a possible winner? Certainly has that End  of days – Ebola / Disaster / Back to nature vibe about it. Certainly a bit of class. 🙂

 Newtownards BangorBelfast Roofers Builders

This Bangor Marina shot has gotta be in the same ball park?
And what about this Bangor Pic? Any one know where this was taken? 












This one too – Just another North Down Derelict.

Belfast Bangor Painters Decorators Builders Ceilings















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 European Values



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Felt v Butyl Rubber/EPDM?

Flat Roofers & Repairs

Felt on left Butyl Rubber on Right

flat roofers Belfast Bangor North Down Antrim

Specialist Flat Roofers

As Flat Roofers we always try to stress that (Summer) Flat Roof Maintenance is more important than Slate or Tile Roofing and will dramatically increase the life of any Flat Roof(in reasonable condition) at minimal cost. 

Most people know Gutters should be Cleaned, Checked & and any Minor Repairs (Pointing Etc) made good etc.

But when thinking ahead with Flat Roofing there are many ways your Flat Roof can be improved through predictive preventive maintenance, many products including bitumen based paints etc may be added to your flat roof at all stages of its life which can protect, enhance and dramatically increase its life span, while preventing damage from water ingress.

Flat Roofers Inspection & Photographic ReportAdvice.

Ring 07401 088 868

James G Mulvenna

Flat Roofers Claims

Most of the Flat Roofers claims about Flat Roof coverings are similar  

to the dieting business, there’s always the next big thing

with lots of impressive claims until you look a bit closer and

it starts to get a little more complicated, there’s always big headlines

with little to back them up except selective comparisons often out of


Felt Roofing 

In the 70’s Felt Roofing consisted mainly of boiling bitumen in Boilers

before pouring it on decking via watering can’s etc while rolling and

fitting the felt accordingly before the Bitumen Cooled. This

was quite a major procedure especially in Northern Ireland and its

very changeable Weather. The introduction of Torch on Felts however

has reversed the decline of Felt Roofing and in my opinion Torch on

Felt with Bitumen Based Aluminium Paint is a superior product to

Butyl & EPDM in many ways.

Although Torch-on Felt Roofing is much easier than its predecessor it

is still a more skilled job than Butyl or EPDM.

The reason Butyl became Popular in N Ireland was mainly because the

NIHE began issuing grants on Butyl. Not because it was a better

product than Felt but because it was a single piece of rubber it

was harder to “make a mess” of it. IMO Felt was better back then and

is still better Today. But it must be done right.  

A Typical claim.

Butyl is slightly more expensive than EPDM It is also important to remember that both Butyl and EPDM come in sheets made to order. Some Flat Roofers “pretend” not to or simply don’t know this and lead people to believe that EPDM comes in liquid form only. I have tried the liquid form of EPDM and found it is problematic with the Northern Ireland Climate and is prone to blistering and cracking. If someone requests a rubber roofing sheet installed on new decking and don’t specify which type I will generally quote for EPDM simply because it is cheaper and more logical in competitive tendering not because it is somehow better for Flat Roofs. Often people ordering Butyl are given EPDM as they cannot tell the difference.     

flat roofers Repairs Bangor Belfast Holywood Saint Brendans Church Sydenham Belfast Bangor

James G Mulvenna Torch on Felt Roofing Saint Brendans Church Sydenham Belfast


Of course there are plenty of Flat Roofers claiming X, Y & Z.

But it would be fair to say EPDM is slightly Cheaper (Handier

and Easier) than felt (Especially in the Winter months) This

doesn’t make it a better product which its not. Generalising

and comparing  EPDM with felt is misleading as (for start)

EPDM is thinner(1mm – 1.5mm) and generally less

expensive than felt and is generally used as single layer. Felt

is normally multi layered and up to half an inch thick. So

you could in most cases stick a hatchet into it and it

probably still won’t leak, whereas EPDM is much more



Felt Roofing Generally hits Rubber Roofing out of the Park.

James G Mulvenna 

 English Test . net 

Comparing English with other Languages?


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Plastering Belfast v Berlin

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Plastering Belfast v Posdammer Platz Berlin was Machine.  Potsdamer Platz Berlin  (in the 1990’s)

Plastering –  O L D   


N E W                      

Plastering Introduction   


I’ve been plastering in Northern Ireland and various places places 

for over 30 years now. In that time there has clearly been a lot of progress

in Plastering and Construction generally. It is my intention to attempt to

review and perhaps try to quantify that progress home and away.

Hawk and trowel Plastering

Hawk and trowel Plastering for example is still a major part of local

building and gypsum finish plaster is still widely used locally, unlike 

Western Europe generally.  

This post will try to examine local building techniques before reviewing them

in context with some major Germany projects from the 1990’s in the hope of

perhaps comparing that progress in two main construction sectors.

  • Larger Civil and Commercial Projects
  • Domestic Housing developments.

Authors experience

It will draw directly on the Authors experience’s both in Northern

Ireland and sub contracting on Potsdamer Platz “The new Centre of Berlin

were the main section of the Berlin Wall once stood and also the largest

Building Site in Europe during the nineties”. It will also use any

other sourced material deemed relevant.

 Plastering finished Potsdamerplatz_(Berlin)

Potsdamer Platz 

Larger Projects – Machine plastering and the Hawk & Trowel 

On Large Civil and Commercial Projects the advantages of modern

building techniques seem self evident. Machine plastering is ideal for

large expanses of solid exterior and interior walls and uses

relatively small teams of Men, normally 2 or 3 men per Machine 

with only one skilled plasterer required per team.

 The video below shows 4 men Plastering 5’000 Sq Ft in 6 hours. 

In Traditional Plastering those figures can be almost reversed with 

normally 2 or 3 Plasterers required per Labourer, giving Machine

Plastering an obvious advantage regarding Man Power .

The superior quality and speed of machine plastering and higher output

per man on larger projects soon becomes apparent with some very large

walls becoming problematic to do with Hawk and Trowel and are

usually broken up beaded out in sections using extra men.

I should also add that in all the projects I sub contracted in Germany

“Finish” Plaster as it is called in the UK was never used.

Plastering 135,000 metres Sand Cement Berlin 1280px-Luftaufnahme_Detlev-Rohwedder_Haus

The largest Project I sub contracted on
in Germany was Detlev-Rohwedder-Haus now the new Federal Tax  

office just off Potsdamer Platz (Formerly the old Luftwaffe HQ) were its entire

135,000 Square Meters  of  solid walls were renovated and machine

plastered in Sand Cement which was “Napped up”smooth using a

sponge float. This was our only detail on the entire project albeit a

massive one. 


All Ceilings were all either MF or Dry lined (Drywall) and all the walls were

napped up and finished painters using what is called filler. It is

normally bright white, applied with wide blades, is air drying and takes

most of the day to go off.


As this was essentially a renovation, job Sand Cement was deemed less

expensive and more suitable for its structural elements but Larger New

Projects also use one coat machine plaster which is sprayed edged up,

closed in and finished relatively quickly.

Machine Manufacturers boast that in Plastering approx 80% of the work is

transporting, mixing and getting the material on the Wall. 

As Sean Haseley demonstrates below it certainly looks rather stress free.

Material Management

In all our time on the New German Tax Office I never seen a bag of Cement

once.  All Cement on site was stored in 16 or 20 Ton Silo’s.                        

Each Silo had a compressor unit at its base called the Hopper, each Hopper

pumped the powder down a two inch pipe perhaps a hundred meters or more

to its designated Plastering Machine which could then mix the required

amount before spraying it on the required wall. Once the spray was finished

the Plastering Machine would be cleaned thoroughly including passing a

sponge ball through its hoses and rinsing.

The Silo’s were filled by Lorries identical to those carrying Oil with the powder

also pumped in by compressed air. No Fork lifts or extra men required 

only a single driver pulling a single lever to pump the entire 20 Ton



This Plastering Contract was 135,000 square meters in Total to the main

contractor so the logistical implications of using Traditional Plastering

Methods on this scale are immense which  seemingly confirms

that certainly on Larger Projects ;

Machine Plastering is more effective than Traditional Hawk & Trowel


 Part Two. Joint Filler versus Finish

The advantages of Dry lining (Drywall) on large construction projects

also seems self evident with ceilings and Partition Walls often measured in

hundreds of square meters and in some cases Ceilings measured in thousands

of square meters with walls often 6 meters or more high in extended open

planned areas. Like Machine Plastering “Jointing with Joint filler”

(Drywall) large areas of Ceiling or Walls is logistically more manageable

with smaller teams or often even loneJointer’s” working long hours

seamlessly finishing very large areas of Drywall to optimum quality without

the stress of large Teams of Plasterers Frantically mixing and “Skimming” and

in a lot of cases “Polishing” the Finish which is bad for decoration.“Finished”

ceilings are also more susceptible to cracking and depend too much on the Skill

of the available work force for Quality.

Traditional methods of “Skimmed” Ceilings and Wooden Studded Partition

Walls also Perform well below modern techniques on Fireproofing,

Acoustics, Quality of Materials and Finish

I think it is safe to say that on larger projects The Modern Techniques of

Machine Plastering and dry wall put the Hawk and Trowel in the shade.

 Residential Housing Developments

In Residential housing developments area’s are generally smaller

 than Larger Civil and Commercial Projects with most walls

 below 10m2. The stairwell is generally the largest wall in any Semi

 with even luxury bungalows still well within the capabilities of any

 Hand Plasterer.

 The smaller number of meters and rooms in each house would

 seem at first glance to give the hand plasterer a mobility and

 perhaps a feasibility advantage with the heavy machine to

 manoeuvre with hoses etc. attached although generally machines

 are positioned in the ground floor hallway were they can normally

 reach most of the house. This however can create its own

 feasibility problems, especially for other trades.

 With each house only worth 300 + square meters of

 sand cement/one coat Machine Plaster, one might ask is it

 really worth the bother of using a machine and moving it and

 setting it up every time. Firstly in terms of Sand and cement most

 Machine Teams would float a house in a day if not slightly over, and

 take less than two days to plaster your average semi in one coat

 machine plaster which can create other feasibility problems.

 Towards the end of the nineties in Germany when the German

 Economy began to slow down I began to take on smaller Machine

 Plastering contracts outside Berlin.

Plastering Belfast Berlin Twenty Ton Mortar Silo's for Machine plastering


Around this time I regularly had fax’s from a Company

near Stuttgart saying they had many houses and 4 years

work me, which at first seemed impressive and they

eventually received two plasterers to this particular job,

Geordie Mick and Cockney John.

The project was a domestic housing development with

mostly semi detached houses and in these house’s there were special details

which slowed the work rate down. one detail I remember particularly was a

special metal frame formed around pipework etc, which was filled with a new

mixture of sand & Cement and polystyrene balls which cut back created an

instant pipe casing ready for tiling. In spite of these details and some

problems with the machines supplied by the Company. In Spite of this Mick

and John were able to do a minimum of two houses per week. When the

company rang me panicking they had 6 houses sitting waiting to be plastered

sadly however after approximately a month Mick and John had run out of

work and were victims of their own success.                  

In the UK and Republic of Ireland, it would be difficult to find a

residential development were house’s were completed at the rate of

two house’s a week which could keep two good Plasterers in steady work.   

Based upon this one it might be argued that Machine Plastering is not ideally

suited to domestic house building in the United Kingdom thereby giving the

traditional hawk and trowel plasterer (at least on interior residential

plastering) a logistical advantage over the machine, however I would imagine

there are better ways round the issue with direct labour with say one plasterer

beading and preping and plastering and another labourer operating the

machine part time as needed with other regular duties on the site.  

In Domestic Housing developments. Dry lined Metal Stud

Partitions and Dry lined Suspended ceilings are much easier to

manage and monitor during the build than traditional wooden studs with the

setting of the stud tracks often (including the foreman) – which effectively

meaning the project is set out.

Dry lining can also be stopped or started seamlessly – holes and traps 

can be left open and blended perfectly after wards unlike finish. If the metal

partitions are done correctly using 45KG Rock wool, Acoustic band

and Acoustic Hangers for the ceilings their vastly superior performance

complete will leave the traditional techniques a long way behind.

Internal angles are finished with Acrylic mastic(painters mate) which allows for

movement. Finish on the other hand is trowelled right into internal corners

making it more prone to cracking. Finish is also weaker, less resilient but yet

harder and more prone to cracking than jointing compound. Finish can also crack

if dried out quickly and can’t blend” like Dry Wall and most plasterers will admit

that a Patch is always a patch unless you skim the whole wall. 

In Summary

When it comes to interior construction dry wall just

becomes too appealing for reasons not obviously to do with frailties of

traditional techniques.

  • Drywall partitions are lighter and faster than brick or block etc.

  • Drywall ceilings require less structural support 
  • Drywall is a smother yet more open decoration friendly finish.

  • Drywall has superior acoustics in terms of Sound insulation.

  • Dry wall provides typically F30 to F90 but can provide up to F240. 

  • Drywall can be modified & refurbished easier.

Furthermore in Time Context. It appears that apart from Central London and

selected sites around the Country the UK is lagging significantly behind what

Germany was using almost twenty years ago in terms of Construction

techniques Generally and Plastering in Particular.

James G Mulvenna 2013      The Plasterers Forum 

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