Day rates in the capital have reached £120 a day, and many contractors fear they will climb to £150 before the end of the year.
A source at one major contractor said: "Plastering prices have gone through the roof because of the time of year and the millennium.
"Everybody wants to get their buildings open, so finishing trades can demand what they want." An estimator with another contractor said: "There is no doubt there is pressure around and it is causing a bottleneck. In certain instances the rate for a plasterer or dryliner could get up to £150 a day." At the end of last year, plasterers and drywall liners were charging between £80 and £90 a day in the capital and South-east.
The estimator added that clients such as hotel chains want to ensure buildings are open for the new year holiday period, so they can cash in on valuable business.
The price increase is exacerbated by an acute shortage in plastering and drylining firms and skilled labour. In some cases, plasterers' rates are now higher than bricklayers', even though, as another estimator explains, bricklayers' rates are traditionally higher because of the higher skill factor.
The estimator added that on one recent project, he received only one enquiry to tender when usually he would have expected bids from up to six firms.
George Martineau, managing director of Shepperton-based Martineau Plastering, confirmed the soaring cost of plasterers and dryliners.
Everybody wants to get their buildings open, so finishing trades can demand what they want
He said good-quality plasterers were demanding £120 a day and agreed the rate could reach £150 a day before the end of the year.
"Harry Enfield's 'Loadsamoney' could return for good-quality plasterers," he predicted.
Martineau added that the current shortage of plasterers was partly because of the approaching millennium deadline and partly because many plasterers left the industry during the last recession.
He also said that the growth in construction in Ireland had affected supply.
"We used traditionally to import labour from Ireland, but they are all going back because of the building boom over there," he said.
But major contractors expect the price of plasterers to fall once the millennium deadline has passed.
"It will tail off next year when all these projects are completed," said one source.