UK Plaster Restoration Specialist Loves Vic High
by Linda Baker, VHS 1969
Andy Maguire brought his family to Canada 13 years ago for a better life. And thankfully for Vic High and for us, he brought his 35 years’ experience restoring plaster work with him. We met him one Saturday as he and apprentice plasterer son Declan were leaving the Vic High seismic upgrade jobsite for the day. A friendly request from us, ‘Take good care of our school, won’t you?’, turned into an invitation from him to see his work and learn how it’s done.
Andy’s company, Get Plastered, has four people working on the Vic High project. He and his son concentrate on the moulding and baseboard restoration, while two other crew members work on walls. All exterior brick walls must be plastered on the insides, providing superior insulation over framing, insulation and drywall. In many areas, existing plaster in good condition was left in place and new plaster fills in the gaps.
A few brick interior walls will also be plastered, each area getting three coats of sand cement and lime. Annie Boldt, Vic High Archives and Museum manager could hardly believe the soft, smooth feel of the finish coat. Although Andy adds, “We always leave a few imperfections here and there, to remind people it’s hand done.” Plaster baseboards will be restored in some areas as well.
“So far, we’ve completed about 600 square meters of plaster walls,” explains Andy, “and used about 700 bags of a plaster of paris with fibreglass additive for strength. Originally it would have had horsehair in it.
Andy’s love of historical buildings and plaster restoration began at age 15. “I left school,” says Andy, “and began an apprenticeship with my future wife’s father, a plaster restoration specialist in East London. Eventually I was working on my own, doing restoration of plaster work at many London locations, like Canada House, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci buildings.” Andy works on residences as well, and as you might imagine, he’s definitely a history buff and loves restoring old things.
“My wife is a nurse,” he goes on, “so she got us qualified to immigrate here. We absolutely love it in Canada and we’ve all become Canadian citizens. Once we got settled, I started getting my name out there and have been working on numerous restoration projects since, mainly in Victoria.” The list includes Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria City Hall, and South Park School, the latter a three-week project restoring all the exterior moulding. “I’m the only plaster restoration specialist on Vancouver Island,” says Andy. And he’s very proud his middle son, Declan, is following in his footsteps, the third-generation plaster restoration specialist in the family.
But Vic High has definitely captured his heart, and his pride in making the old new again and leaving his mark on such an iconic building is very evident. “Everything is hand done,” says Andy, “so you really put your heart and soul into your work and leave a little of yourself behind when you’re done.”
The most complex plaster work at Vic High is the replication of ceiling moulding in the south hallway – to be known as the ‘heritage hallway’ – on the second floor. Removal of false ceilings during the demolition revealed original egg-and-dart moulding which Andy and Declan are replicating.
“We start with a piece of the existing moulding,” says Andy, “and create a template of the exact shape of it. Then use that template to run along a freshly-poured piece of plaster to leave the profile of the moulding. Then we make a blue rubber mould of that shape and use that to create the finished moulding.”
The finished moulding has a piece of wood lath embedded along the back, and burlap layered into the poured plaster to give it strength. “Mouldings like this used to have horsehair embedded in them,” says Andy, “but today we use strips of burlap. These mouldings will last hundreds of years.” The moulding is installed three ways: wired to the wall framing, glued, and screwed in place.
“We make the moulds of rubber,” says Andy, “because it will stretch a little and ensure we get an egg in each corner.”
“This is an incredible building,” says Andy. “The original workmanship here was such a high quality – everything level and straight. It’s hard to find that kind of workmanship today.”
Andy and his crew started work at Vic High in March 2022 and will likely be on site till the end of the project. “This building has a really good vibe,” says Andy. “There’s no bad energy anywhere, which is unique in a building this old. And I”ve never met so many nice people on a job. Everyone helps each other, it’s a really good jobsite vibe. You don’t always get that on a jobsite.”
We love that Andy and Declan have come to love Vic High the way we all do. And we’re already looking forward to those tours once Vic High reopens, and the huge smiles on their faces as they show off their handiwork. You’ll always be a part of Vic High, you two. And always welcome anytime.
See more of Andy’s work here. Sites.google.com/view/andymaguire