A Day in the Life of a Site Basher

Updated May 9, 2024 | Posted Oct 5, 2020 | Professional insight, Life of a Decorator | 8 comments

If you’re a decorator like me, you’ll know that a site basher is a painter who works on a building site. Believe me, it isn’t as glamourous as it sounds!! I’ve been a decorator all my working life and spend my time either site bashing or subbying for a commercial company. I’ve been bashing for the last few weeks and I wanted to let everyone know just what life is like for us lot. This was my day today…

 

My Day

 

I got my sh1t together and left the house at 6:30. I had an hour and a half drive to the site I happened to be on today. Bear in mind I haven’t seen the plot I’m meant to be working on, I was told by email the night before how much I’d be getting paid for it and it would be ready. Oh well, beats snagging on day rate.

Got there, had my fag and a brew and sat there waiting for some jobsworth site agent to come and induct us so we can enter the site. He was late by half an hour, that’s half an hour I’m not on the tools and not getting paid for.

It’s obvious the site agent doesn’t want to be there giving his little safety speech. He probably does the same thing every morning on every workday of his life. Half an hour later I get told my plot number. I drive down the muddy road and park up.

The site itself is a sh1t hole. All new lawns and tarmacked roads, but the ground is wet and there’s still mud everywhere. There’s already a van in the drive of the plot I’m supposed to be in, which I knew spelled trouble.

For anyone who has worked on a site, no matter the trade, you’ll know prices are crap and working around other trades just slows you down. You end up working for naff all. I walked into the house and low and behold there are 2 chippies based up in the front lounge hanging doors. There is sh1t everywhere!! Shavings and tools, scruffy bastards! It was in every room!

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What follows is an argument I’m sick of having.

Me – Hi lads, I was told this plot was ready and I had to start today.

Fat chippy – Sorry mate, we’ll be here all day. What room do you want to start in.

Me – I’m on price. I need to work through the whole house from top to bottom. All the ceilings, all the walls, all the woodwork.

Fat scruffy chippy – Mate we’re f**king working in here. You don’t need the whole house at once. You can have the kitchen and the upstairs.

Me – It’s no good lads, I need the whole plot in one hit.

Fat scruffy d1ckhead chippy – F**k’s sake mate, we’re truing to make a living too you know. Fine, we’ll just work round each other.

Me – Right, I’ll base in here. Any chance of sweeping up some of your mess?

Skinny chippy chirps up – It’s not ours mate, must be the other lads. Just go find a labourer.

 

After about 20 minutes of this crap, I’m off to find the site agent to sort this out for me. Takes me 45 minutes to track him down. I have a moan, he doesn’t want to hear it and he finds me a labourer. It’s gone 10 at this point, I’ve been on site for 2 hours and earnt exactly nothing! P1ssed off!

Believe it or not, a tiler turned up to do some work in a bathroom about an hour later and it all kicked off again. You learn quickly on site to stand your ground. It’s a rollercoaster being self-employed, and it can be brutal on site. With a clear run on a well-managed building site, you can earn great money. The people you’re subbing from need to like you, or you get stuck with snagging, or the bad plots.

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When you get a site that’s badly run, it is an absolute nightmare. Trades falling over each other, patching, bad workmanship, plots not ready, messy, no electricity or water. The list goes on! It is a real uphill battle. Not only is your work life a struggle, but you earn next to nothing too.

 

A Site Basher’s Standards

 

I get around £850 for a 2 bedroom house. It’s all misted out and all the materials are supplied (contract mtat and oil gloss). To make it pay I need to be in and out in a week, 6 days at most. That includes any time wasted by the bad management of the site, drying times being halted because the heating may not be on, cleaning up other trade’s mess and a few hours snagging after the site manager has had a mooch at the end.

First day I do all my priming, caulking and filling on the woodwork. I fill flush where possible, so I don’t need to sand. Caulking is done properly because it’s the one thing they get a hard-on about.

Second day its 1 big thick coat on the ceilings. As I’m going on I dosh in all the woodwork with the same white. Whatever I’m painting gets loads of product with a big brush or roller. I generally get a good head start on the walls too.

Third day it’s the walls (maggy contract). Spot prime and 1 big thick coat on everything. Dosh right onto the woodwork.

That leaves me a day and a half to finish the walls and get a coat of gloss on the woodwork. Then I just need to get it snagged and signed off. The place looks sh1t, but every trade is the same. I don’t even use an undercoat some of the time.

The thing is, I know it’s going to look even worse by the time it’s handed over to the new owner. Other trades come in putting things right and they wreck everything. Sparks are the worst, but tilers and chippies can be just as bad.

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They come in, f**k everything up, then we come back and just patch little bits. The paint flashes and you can see where we’ve been. Often we’re working over carpet by this point. Decorating is just the poor cousin to other trades and the only concern of everybody on site is the work they need to do. They don’t give a stuff about anybody else’s.

So, the work is sh1t, the conditions are sh1t, we get treated like sh1t and we’re the lowest paid trade on site. Not only do we put up with all of this, but then we go on Facebook in an evening to be accused of not being a proper decorator!! It’d just a product I produce to fit the market. I don’t decorate like this in my own house!!

 

Final Thoughts

 

There have got to be easier ways to make a living than site bashing, but you just get used to it. Badly run building sites, or working when there is a rush on to get plots completed is horrendous, but it isn’t always like that. There’s nothing better than locking the door on a plot and being left to crack on. I stick my ear pods in and listen to my tunes as I go. I know the work is rough, but I’m only bashing out a house…I don’t need to live there!!

Blog written by Mark Williams – Professional Painter and Decorator

Updated May 9, 2024 | Posted Oct 5, 2020 | 8 comments

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Cupit has been in the decorating industry since 2002 and has mostly worked as a Trade Decorator in the domestic sector (peoples’ homes). Self-proclaimed “product geek”, Mike has a passion for paint and decorating tools. Mike now spends most of his time testing paint products and tools, comparing them to similar products on the market, and blogging about the industry in general.
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8 Comments

  1. richard

    Its not right but you just as quick sweep yourself saves getring labourer time he comes yaks to you and others etc.. Tip get a massive 18/ 24inch sweep brush. 3 min a room if that.
    18inch purdy tray angle scuttle thing for roller ceiling, forget cheap skuttles far too slow time u ajust roller.
    Handy 2 cheapos for carry your kit though.
    15inch for the walls.
    Site work hard graft for crap money, breaks few and brief you gotta crack on, try and get a method of working though. If chippys in living room stay up stairs if possible, do walls till they chippies get finished you will waste more time messing about than save time moving wood etc.
    More chance could fall out dont want any more grief bad atmosphere.
    Try and deffo coat kitchen b4 installed.
    Site work has no akward customers watching is always one bonus.

    Reply
  2. John

    Been at the decorating game for 40 years now including apprenticeship.and I have to agree with every thing that you said.a personally cannot stand site work new build is as you pointed out the pits absolute shite.they are still primitive backward shite holes.run bu numties or. As they want to be known as now site managers. Or project manager fancy title nothing more.

    Reply
  3. Kev

    Surely the gloss will just sink in to the contact emulsion as this is skimping undercoat?
    Understand you on extremely tight schedule crap price, needs must..
    Site work crap winter. Damp o cold dark.

    Reply
  4. Mark Gregory

    Feel your pain! Thats why I no longer do site work!

    Reply
  5. James

    I disagree with lowest laid trade on site. I can get around 170 180 somedays on price, chippies dry liners get similar to this.

    Reply
  6. Nick Bussey

    Agree with everything said. Haven’t worked on new builds for about 15 years but sure it hasn’t improved! And unfortunately one the worse thing’s I found about working on site’s was the other decorators slagging each other’s work off you always find that one decorator who thinks he’s number 1 best decorator in the world!!😆

    Reply
  7. Vince Robinson

    Funny this should come up. I’ve just seen this ad for a painting job in Leeds.

    ‘1 Bed: £60 mist coat + £460 decorating
    2 Bed: £70 mist coat + £620 decorating’

    Any takers? 🤔

    Reply
  8. Jane

    Aww thanks for your time n effort writing that up. I now know what my son goes through as a painter n decorator. Keep calm n have another brew. ☕️

    Reply

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