Knowing all the angles
Leaving an enduring legacy and imparting years of knowledge to his son is high on the agenda for James Runcie, managing director of J&J Runcie Plasterers Ltd.
Plasterer James Runcie, 54, was born and raised in Stranraer, Scotland. He started his apprenticeship aged 16 and has built a strong reputation for high quality workmanship and service. He has since scooped several industry awards along the way.
Tell us about your business and how you started out.
I started a three-year plastering apprenticeship in 1984 when I was 16. It was a natural step. I received good schooling from some ‘old school’ plasterers who imparted years of knowledge – it was back in the day when plaster was mixed, and we used shovels.
Once my apprenticeship was completed at Robinson and Davidson Builders Ltd, I remained with the company for seven years and then started up on my own as a sole trader – just one man and a van! I employed more plasterers, and my business began to expand. In 2008, we were incorporated as a private limited company and we’re still going. Today, we have 10 people working for us.
We offer a range of services including machine-applied plastering and rendering, tiling and cement work, and external wall insulation. We cover the south west of Scotland, mainly on commercial jobs with a mix of domestic clients.
What do you love most about your job?
The satisfaction of leaving on a high note, knowing we’ve done a great job. We are often trying to solve problems for people and that feels satisfying. My philosophy is to treat people’s houses as if they were my own.
Can you sum up a typical day?
Watching forecasts, getting materials ready, and planning. One of our biggest challenges has been the adverse weather. It can interfere with drying times and be stressful when you’re trying to meet deadlines.
Any highlights during your career?
Winning awards is always fantastic for us. In 2021, we scooped the EWI & Render award at the 38th Annual Johnstone’s Painter of the Year awards for our render work on a new build home in Slouchlaw Bay, Stranraer. We also won an award for the same build at the 2021 INCA (Insulated Render and Cladding Association) Awards. I was so proud of our team and their work on this project.
We understand you have a ‘vintage’ Gyproc tool in your kit? Do tell more…
Yes, I bought a Gyproc mitre tool in a builders’ merchants (today it’s a Jewson branch but has changed hands over the years) in the small town of Newton Stewart around 25 years ago.
Do you remember why you chose this?
I opted for this one because the other British Gypsum mitre tools didn’t seem to cover the Gyproc corners, but this product covered four- and five-inch coving - it fitted directly onto the shape of the corners. It has honestly been the envy of many tradespeople over the years. It’s a wonder tool. It only cost me £5.99 – money well spent.
Is the tool still in use?
Absolutely! I mislaid it for a few years and it’s impossible to replace as they don’t exist, but I was finally reunited with it not long ago – I found it in an old toolbox. I might not use it for a few years and then something crops up. It’s so handy.
How important has this tool been and on how many jobs do you think you’ve used it?
Oh, wow, I’d say hundreds of jobs over the years! When we worked on several private sector health centres and hotels around 10 years ago the mitre was used a lot. It is irreplaceable – I should get a blacksmith to copy it! I will pass it down to my son, who is currently on his plastering apprenticeship. I also worked on the Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery in Eskdalemuir, Dumfries. That was memorable – the monks even helped to clean up for us.
What do you like about this enduring tool?
I love the ease of it. You just take measurements, mark with a pencil, put the mitre on the coving, put the saw against it and cut. Nothing could be simpler and quicker.
Artex continue to release relevant and long-lasting products to the industry. Easifix Universal Mitre Block link? cuts 100mm and 127mm cove, and 135mm cornice (available in pack of two).
Do you use any other Artex products?
Yes, the Gyproc joint fillers, primers, sealers, and corner beads. We use Artex Textured Finish (ready-mix) for patching existing walls and ceilings after water damage or cut outs caused by electrical trades. The Artex Sealer is another staple in my toolkit. We also use the Gyproc FibaTape Xtreme (orange) to reinforce plasterboard joints - some of the other cheaper brands are not as thick and don’t have the adhesive properties of the Xtreme tape. Artex is a great, trusty brand and one that’s been around for a long time.
Your son has joined your business. What does it mean to pass on your knowledge?
James, my 18-year-old son, is in the second year of a plastering apprenticeship. I love sharing my knowledge. He is a very good lad and he’ll take over the business one day. It’s great knowing it will be in safe hands.
It has been tough in the last few years as I have been diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. My condition was spotted about two years ago and I was told it is stage four – the most severe stage of cancer. I am training James as quickly as I can and imparting as much as I know. I am passing on a legacy that I have built up for 38 years. Some days are tough, and I need to take time off.
One in two people can develop cancer during their lifetime and that’s crazy. I take each day as it comes – I have good and bad days. I know it’s time to slow down and hand over the reins.
If you or someone you care about has been diagnosed with cancer, Macmillan offer support and information as well as an online community to share information and ask questions. Macmillan also offer multiple ways to get involved from donations and fundraising to volunteering. You can find out more here.