The Cost/Price of Fitting Skirting Boards, Picture Rails or Coving

To clarify the following prices it is recommended that you read the article in the INFORMATION box below the PRICES…

(These prices are based on a tradesman’s rate of £150.00 per day and a labourer if required at £100.00 per day. This includes the cost of buying and collecting any materials, dumping any waste if necessary and any incidental materials they will need. The minimum price will usually be for a half day)

How Much Does it Cost To Fit Skirting Boards, Picture Rails or Coving?

coving cornice picture rails

You want to replace your existing painted skirting boards and architraving and add a dado rail (all in oak and to match the existing “ovolo” moulding pattern) in your 1930’s semi’s living room, which has an angled bay window. You have cleared the room to floorboards, stripped the walls of all paper and he has arrived exactly as planned on the very next day.

This will take 1 tradesman and his labourer 2 days. This will include buying the new timber, making good a bit of damaged plaster and tipping the old stuff

Materials £175, Labour £500

Job 2

Fit new softwood picture rails in a your Victorian living room which Barry Bucknall ripped out in 1963 (If you don’t believe me I’ve got the video). This will take 1 man, 1 day.

Materials £80, labour 150,

Job 3

Fit plaster covings in the 1930’s living room described in Job 1. This will take 2 men, 1 day. (If one man tries to lift a 3 metre length of coving into position with all it’s adhesive on the back and then attempt to fix it all by himself, first he will get adhesive all over the wall, then the coving will snap, then he will shout truly horrible words so loudly they will be heard in outer space)!

Materials £50, Labour £250,

For your must-see guide to Tradesmen's Rates please click on the map…


A Price Guide and Information Sheet on Fitting New Coving, Skirting Boards, Architrave and Dado Rails

Don’t confuse plaster covings with plaster mouldings which we have covered in our chapter on plastering ceilings. Mouldings are solid plaster applied wet then shaped and allowed to dry. Covings are plaster in a pre moulded form (usually a long concave strip) all covered with a special paper surround to stop everything falling apart. Mouldings and covings both go in the same place though, right up in the joint where the wall meets the ceiling.

Covings usually come in 2.4m or 3m lengths and once they have been mitred to fit into corners are just stuck up into place, all the gaps filled (there
will be gaps to fill) and then they are painted. It’s relatively quick and the effect is very pleasing in the right age of house i.e. 1930’s onwards.

Please don’t put them up in a Victorian house, this isn’t the seventies, “Z cars” is finished.

Wooden mouldings are essentially ………

Skirting Boards, Architraves, Dado Rails and Picture Rails.

Every dwelling has the first two named above.

Skirtings and architraves (the bits around the doors) were fitted originally to cover gaps, then they got a bit above themselves and became really quite elaborate.

Dado rails are the horizontal wooden mouldings placed (originally) at just the height on the wall where the
rising damp stopped and whitewash could be slapped on. They also stopped chair backs damaging the decorations. Their current use of course is as a convenient point to stop the stripes and start the anaglypta.

Picture rails bless them, are a dying breed, nowadays a big old nail belted into the wall seems to suffice.

Luckily we seem to have got over the 60’s and 70’s when everything had to get modern and varnished tongue and groove boards replaced all that old fashioned Victorian moulded rubbish. Now we are putting it all back or replacing it with oak. Well why not, we’ve got the “beamer” and the conservatory and the laminate flooring. What are we supposed to do, sit back and let the economy collapse?

If you are considering ripping woodwork out, be prepared for lots of plaster to come off in sympathy, that will mean redecorating, then your lovely wife will want new curtains and I can see that carpet is looking a bit shabby, even from here!

I know it’s not my house/flat/bungalow/apartment/prefab. but try not to go over the top. Consider the age of the dwelling, try and keep the new stuff in keeping, then some poor sod won’t have to go through the process all over again in another 40 years.

The type of “moulding” (the curves machined into the wood) you choose, is highly relevant to the dwelling’s age. The Victorians used “Ogee." “Torus” and “Ovolo” were more prevalent in the 30’s. Today we really excel ourselves, just plane a bit off and call it “chamfered” and “bull nose”. Get the builder to show you some pictures or
go to the timber yard if you are feeling brave. Be apologetic though, they are used to serving tradesmen, not completing the public’s carpentoral education.

Questions to ask the “chippie” during his quotation visit.

Can you plaster properly?
Making good a wall without leaving any ridge at all is not easy.

How will you fix the new stuff to the wall?
Don’t be put off if he is using glue. Builders use it all the time, some of it is literally capable of magic.

If it’s being painted will you leave it totally ready for painting?
This is important, no matter how good a “chippie” he is, there will be gaps to fill at corners and over nail heads. Too many builders just leave these for the painters. Of course if you are decorating, fill these yourself, it’s cheaper.

If a moulding is being left as virgin wood, how do you propose to fill the inevitable gaps so they won’t show?
Does he carry a full stock of colour matching waxes for instance.

Will you make certain that all timbers are long enough to fit each wall’s length, without having to make joints?
He may have to order one or two lengths as “specials” but all joints
will show no matter how good he is and is telling you the sofa will hide it, good enough?

Unfortunately, plaster covings do usually have to be butt jointed together on walls wider than 3 metres.

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