Rendering

How to give your property a facelift with rendering.

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cement render

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Do you want to transform the look of your home but cost is a concern? Rendering might be an option to consider. It's a cost-effective solution that doesn't require a team of different tradesmen for the task.

Find out how rendering works and how much it costs to see if it's right for you.

Why should I render my home?

The popular reason for rendering is to transform the look of a surface, for example, a kitchen splashback, pool area, gazebo, living room feature wall or even an entire house. Rendering can breathe new life into a tired-looking area at a comparable cost to painting and cheaper than a complete renovation.

You can render just about anything if the original surface allows, but make sure to consult a qualified tradesman or check the manufacturers specifications. Common surfaces that can be rendered include:

  • Brick
  • Tile
  • Concrete
  • Acoustic panels
  • Besser block
  • Blueboards
  • Fibre cement (FC) sheets
  • Polystyrene

Rendering as an alternative to painting has the added benefit of providing a unique texture to the finish. It can redefine the look and feel of a surface while improving the structure's durability and functionality.

Functional benefits of rendering include:

  • Improved fire-rating
  • Waterproofing
  • Thermal and sound insulation
  • Greater energy efficiency
  • Improved structural integrity and durability
  • Increased property value

The Housing Industry Association's Executive Director - Building Policy Simon Croft explains that there are no set standards for rendering so it's important to follow the manufacturer's guidelines.

"These guides and requirements will differ from product to product depending on the type of render used. For example the Concrete Institute of Australia, as well as Cement, Concrete and Aggregates Australia do publish guidance documents for cement-based render," Croft said.

There are also quality requirements which vary depending on which state or territory you live in. These quality controls govern all plastered or rendered finishes, as well as covering defects and blemishes.

Simon highlights that "render must not impede the functionality of damp-proof courses (a horizontal barrier in a wall designed to prevent moisture rising) or subfloor ventilation, and must not cover movement control joints in the wall – any of these would be considered a non-compliance."

How much does rendering cost?

The cost of your rendering project will depend on the render products you choose, the type and size of original surface being rendered and your location. A qualified renderer will typically quote per square metre. Keep in mind that a more experienced renderer may charge a higher rate for the superior workmanship.

The price range for rendering is between $30 and $150 per square metre (the higher rate of $150 psm is for 'insulating render') .

A good starting point is to get quotes for the job. Ensure you have the location, property type and project details including the area size and photos handy when obtaining a quote.

The Housing Industry Association's Executive Director - Building Policy Simon Croft suggests that a licensed tradesperson may be needed if the total value of work exceeds a certain amount, which will vary from state to state.

How can I finance my rendering project?

The amount of rendering you need will determine where the finance comes from. For example, if you're rendering a single feature wall, you might only need $800, which personal savings or a credit card could cover. To finance a complete house project where you might be looking at costs exceeding $10,000, either a personal loan, mortgage redraw or refinance might be appropriate.

rendering cement

The step by step process for rendering a house

Rendering is a relatively straightforward process, and while it's not advisable for the complete novice, it can be a DIY job too.

  1. Select your materials/finish. This includes choosing a pigment (colour) and texture (finish).
  2. Prepare the surface. The substrate (surface you're applying render to) must be cleaned. Depending on the surface, you may need to soak it with water or add a base coat.
  3. Mix the render. Your chosen render type will need mixing with water, and/or pigment or oxide and substances such as aggregate for the texture or finish.
  4. Apply the render. Using appropriate tools, apply the render according to the prescribed thickness and allow it to dry and cure.
  5. Finish the render. Numerous decorative finishes or textures can be achieved by changing the tool used on the final coat.

Whether you're rendering a house or rendering a wall, you have the choice of:

  • Cement render
  • Clay render
  • Lime render
  • Plaster render
  • Acrylic render
  • Polymer render

Your choice of render product may be guided by the surface you want to apply the render to.

How long does rendering take?

The time your rendering project takes will depend on the size of area being rendered, the type of render you've chosen and, believe it or not, the weather!

The following timeframes are estimates only:

  • Cement render – wall (1-2 days), whole house (1 week)
  • Lime render – wall (1-2 days), whole house (1 week)
  • Acrylic render – wall (2-3 days), whole house (2 weeks)

How to choose a renderer

A good starting point when choosing a renderer is of course a Google search. From the list of results, you can see who is nearest to your project's location and read any reviews left by their clients. Beyond this simple first step, you can:

  • Obtain quotes for comparison
  • Request a portfolio of images of previous work and references
  • Ask for physical addresses of completed projects to view
  • Confirm any licensing and qualifications relevant to your state

How to find professionals to render a house in Australia

Aside from a basic Google search, check websites Licensed Trades, Oneflare, Hipages, ServiceSeeking, or Service.com.au to find a professional renderer for your project. You can also find professional renderers in business directories like White Pages.

What questions should I ask a renderer?

Critical questions to ask a prospective renderer could include:

  • Have you done similar projects? If yes,
  • Do you have references for them?
  • Do I need to undertake any repairs prior to the work beginning?

Expert tips about rendering

By Chris Stead, Finder's expert DIY and home renovations writer
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Should you do a DIY render?

It's certainly within the realms of most people's skillsets, but don't expect it to be an easy job. There's significant prep to do in cleaning walls, especially external walls. Getting all the ingredients in place requires a lot of heavy lifting, too. And once a mix is done and you've started, there's no stopping till it's done, no matter how tired you get.

Trowelling, floating and sponging a wall can be taxing on necks, shoulders and wrists. Plus, sections of certain walls – and obviously second storeys – will require ladders or scaffolding, presenting a safety hazard. These are the things you need to consider.

For me, it comes down to the size of the space being rendered. Single walls or relatively small areas are worth a crack, but anything serious – like the entire outside of a building – is full-on and best handled by professionals. If it's the second storey that needs scaffolding, forget DIY. Scaffolding is super expensive to hire, so just get the pros to come in and knock it over as quick as possible.

If you do decide to go ahead and render, here's a vital tip. Get a trailer and go and pick up sand in bulk from a local supplier. Buying by the bag is incredibly expensive, whereas getting a tonne of sand dumped into your trailer is dirt cheap. And depending on your rendering job, you're going to need a lot of sand.

For people who want to DIY a rendering project, what are the main pitfalls or mistakes to look out for?

One of the biggest mistakes many of us will make occurs before we even begin rendering; preparation. It's easier in internal rooms, but external walls are a pain to keep clean and ready to accept render. You don't want dirt, dust, spiderwebs, bird poo, ash, paint, grease, mould or any building materials on the surface. Gurney it and then before more crap can come back, key it up with a dash coat or rendering primer in order to get the best possible bind.

Be prepared to remove some items in your way, too. Downpipes, water tanks, bike racks and furniture are prime examples of objects that are going to make getting a consistent, good render tough.

Being that we live in Australia, your biggest pitfall though is likely to be temperature fluctuations. We can have some extreme variations in our seasons depending on where you live. As a result, your structure will expand and contract; it's inevitable. As such, you need to make sure your rendering mix isn't stronger than the surface it is going onto. That way, when the wall expands, the render can move with it. If the mix is stronger than the wall, the render will just crack.

That's not the only reason to err on the side of caution when putting your mix together. Not only does cement draw up moisture, but it can crack easily as well for no apparent reason. So, don't go too hard with the cement and stick to at least a 6:1:1 ratio – that's six parts sand, one-part cement and one-part hydrated lime.

The lime gives the cement elasticity and a creaminess that allows it to self-fill in holes and cracks over time. Lime is ideal in the topcoat, but you can get away in the base coat with just a plasticiser if you want. And of course, that's plastering sand, too, which is much finer than builder's sand. Always use the correct sand.

How do you know when your mix is the right consistency to render? Put it on your hawk tool and then turn it upside down. If it sticks to the tool, you're good to go. If it drops off, the mix is too wet, and you'll need to add some more ingredients to dry it up a bit.

Temperature will also impact how long your mix stays workable, giving you time to finish off the render once it has been trowelled on. It's ideal to work wall-by-wall on hotter days, doing one wall per mix and finishing it off before moving on.

On bigger walls, you may have to work in multiple sections. This is not just because you want to render before the mix goes off, but also because you'll need expansion joints every five to six metres.

In these instances, you may want to consider hiding the join between the two rendered areas as it rarely looks great. One idea is to use draw marks whereby you hold a straight edge at the join and do a deliberate line into the wet render. This ends up looking similar to the line between two courses of bricks, and because it is deliberate, it doesn't look bad.

The final tip I have for rendering is to make sure you always use the same brand cement, sand and lime for your mixes. If you change brands at any point, you could end up with two different colour shades to your render - ugly!

When is it too hot to render?

For obvious reasons, heat is a problem for render. Cold isn't too great either if there is a risk that you might get frost or snow overnight. You also want to avoid potential storms where rain may hit the side of the render hard while it's still setting (making it look like a golf ball full of little dents). But back to heat…

In many places in Australia, waiting for a day under 27-degrees – something of a ceiling on optimal rendering temperature - could mean months. Yes, life is easier in the mid-teens to mid-twenties, but you can still render on days that exceed 27-degrees. The key is to get started at the crack of dawn so you can get a good lead on the work before the heat of the day comes in. And then to start on those walls that will get hit by the sun first.

Then, if you need to continue into the heat of the day, keep the mix a bit wetter and give the walls you're going to work on a good soaking before getting started.

If I want a natural and durable render for the purpose of a green star rating, what type of render would you recommend and why?

You can render without cement, which is far more environmentally friendly due to the carbon emissions of the cement creation process. Lime-based plaster is the way to go, as lime not only does a great job of letting a rendered surface breathe, but it actively absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as well as impurities in rainwater.

There are some interesting recipes you can find online if you want to go full eco-friendly. One of my favourites is a mix that adds lime and sand to horse manure (I'm not joking).

Should you render a new brick home?

Obviously, there is a lot of personal preference in the answer to this question, but I will say that rendering is final. It doesn't come off. With that in mind, when I renovated my house, the bottom story was brick – a mix of the old house brick and new brick to account for the additional extensions. Instead of rendering, I decided to paint the brick, which was considerably cheaper. This doesn't negate me rendering in the future and it looks fine in the interim. But had I rendered and not liked it, there was no way back.

About Chris Stead

Finder's expert DIY and home renovation writer, Chris Stead, spent two years as an owner-builder. He was involved day-to-day from the groundwork up in constructing a two-story family home with a pool and separate granny flat. Working alongside every trade on the journey, tools in hand, he went through all the successes, failures, stress and financial decision making required to renovate in Australia.

Pros and cons: Is rendering a good choice?

Pros

  • Increases the longevity of the substrate (the surface being rendered)
  • Improves the aesthetic and market value of the house (for a house render)
  • More affordable option than a full renovation
  • Increases resistance to climatic elements including wind, rain and sun
  • Improves thermal performance
  • Increases water resistance
  • Potentially increases fire-rating

Cons

  • Poor quality render and cracking could diminish the value of the property
  • Hides the aesthetic of original brickwork
  • Potentially requires ongoing expensive maintenance
  • Discolouration/staining of render over time

Bottom line

Rendering is an affordable option to revamp your home or a section of your property. The choice of rendering products on the market give you almost limitless aesthetic options. With the added benefit of better performance against nature's elements.

The Housing Industry Association's Executive Director - Building Policy Simon Croft concludes that while rendering can be a DIY job, it is a difficult task which requires the right equipment and skill, and can be very time consuming.

"If you aren't aware of the design and location of damp-proof courses (a horizontal barrier in a wall designed to prevent moisture rising), ventilation features, or movement control joints in your wall it is very easy to compromise these components. Which would lead to long-term issues such as render failure, or build-up of damp within the walls resulting in mould growth," says Simon.

"Issues such as these can be much more costly to rectify than the cost of paying a professional to do the rendering job in the first place. It is recommended that you engage a suitably skilled and experienced renderer as it will likely save you time and money in the long run."

Frequently asked questions about rendering

What can I render?

Almost any substrate (surface) as long it's structurally sound and able to hold the weight of the render.

Can I paint render?

Yes, just ensure the paint is compatible with your chosen type of render.

Does render need ongoing maintenance?

Your render may need repairing or maintenance over time depending on the quality of the materials used and the workmanship. General exposure to elements such as water may increase the need for repairs.

What do I need to consider before rendering?

Ensure any cracking or missing mortar on the existing substrate is repaired before rendering.

Should I DIY or not?

Unless you have successfully undertaken a rendering project, it is not recommended that you attempt rendering your property.

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