Fibrous Plaster Ceiling Surveys

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Case Studies
Useful Resources

ABTT Guidance Note 20

Association of British Theatre Technicians (ABTT)

Historic England

The Theatres Trust

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Historic Plasterwork Surveys and Reports

What we offer

Artisan Plastercraft provides a Fibrous Plaster ceiling survey and Lime Plaster and historic plasterwork survey and report service for all owners of public buildings, theatres and period properties.  We can offer baseline surveys and ongoing maintenance surveying services, as well as being able to undertake the securing and repairing of traditionally constructed ceilings and fibrous plaster mouldings should it be required.

Why it is important

Following the ceiling collapse at the Apollo Theatre, London in 2013 all theatre owners and managers of historic buildings and places of entertainment with suspended fibrous plaster ceilings have new guidance from The Association of British Theatre Technicians (ABTT Guidance Note 20).  These guidance notes advise all suspended fibrous plaster ceilings should be inspected regularly by competent plaster inspectors and structural engineers to make sure premises are safe for public occupation. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 places duties on employers to ensure that people are not exposed to risks while on their premises, so it is extremely important that public building owners have a maintenance plan in place to monitor the condition of suspended fibrous plaster ceilings and ensure all actions are taken to mitigate potential risks.

Fibrous ceilings and other components can be complex and require specialist skills for their inspection and maintenance.  The risk associated with historic and traditionally constructed ceilings is that of a breaking down of the structure leading in extreme cases to partial or complete collapse.

The ABTT Guidance Note 20 highlights concerns that unreinforced hessian wadding ties may have been used to secure suspended ceilings in various historic buildings. These hessian and plaster wads are susceptible to damage from water ingress, vibration, impact, overload and age and therefore should be inspected regularly.  After completion of a baseline survey, each inspection report should recommend individual timescales for re-inspection of those building areas.

An accurate survey of a building is essential to identify the condition of plasterwork and from this to set out and agree a remedial programme.

How we do it

In certain scenarios we may only be able to conduct a visual tap and test survey supported with photographic evidence.  In circumstances where we cannot assess the whole ceiling including access to ceiling voids, we are able to offer an Endoscope survey.

RAM’s Endoscope Surveying (ES) can be undertaken by drilling a small hole in the building fabric.

Endoscopic Surveys involve inserting an endoscope camera through an access point or hole to view inside the construction and identify defects.  Inserting an endoscope gives the surveyor precise vision in to voids and behind ceiling joists allowing him to record video footage and take photographs of the area to access the stability of the ceiling.

In the case of public buildings, a baseline survey in line with ABTT guidelines, undertaken in conjunction with a structural engineer, will establish the condition of plaster ceilings with the safety of the public in mind.

The ABTT recommended survey will lead to a report and recommendations for repairs necessary to secure  the ceiling.  Artisan Plastercraft are competent and capable in securing and repairing historic and traditionally constructed ceilings.

How we work and where

The ABTT guidelines, Appendix B, states that is essential that appointed plaster specialists have sufficient competence to undertake a project.  Our clients can feel reassured that our 30 years’ experience as fibrous plaster specialists and our qualified surveyors have the skills to provide a reliable survey and reporting service in connection with theatres, private residence and public and listed buildings of all types.  Artisan Plastercraft are advisors on the FIS Heritage Plaster Forum – a panel of experts advising on key heritage and public interest plasterwork restoration projects.  We have an up to date Health and Safety Policy and a designated Health and Safety consultant.  We have all relevant insurances including Professional Indemnity insurance.  Our Site Managers hold SMSTS (Site Management Safety Training) certificates, our site supervisors hold SSSTS (Site Supervisor Safety Training) certificates and our operatives hold IPAF (Mobile vertical -3a, Mobile Boom – 3b) certificates.

Below are some examples of theatres, museums and public buildings where we have undertaken plaster survey and restoration work:

  • Shakespeare Globe
  • Charles Dickens Museum
  • London Hippodrome
  • Lyceum London
  • Shaftesbury Theatre
  • Houses of Parliament
  • Victoria & Albert Museum London
  • British Museum London
  • Somerset House
  • Wallace Gallery
  • Bramshill Mansion
  • Grand Hotel Birmingham
  • Royal Academy of Arts
  • Hotel Russell, London

For more information about historic fibrous plasterwork ceiling surveys please contact us.

Technique Talk

Typical fibrous plaster ceiling scenarios

Whether damaged by water, fire, rot, neglect, wear and tear over time we can repair and restore your building’s plaster ceilings.

Survey methods

Surveys are undertaken by our in–house staff with the benefit of many years of experience and qualifications.  Our surveys involve close inspection of plasterwork. In the case of ceilings inspections from below and above the ceiling are recommended. Lath and plasterwork, lime plaster, fibrous plaster, plaster and render on EML all require an inspection.  When necessary samples will be taken to be sent away for analysis to establish the exact specification and composition of the lime used in construction.

Ceiling repair methods

Securing with stainless steel screws and washers
Securing with galvanised wire and plaster wads
Partial or complete replacement
Mechanical fixings introduced to secure enrichments
Repair and making good of surface damage and cracks