DIY Decorating Tools & Materials

To produce a professional result in home decorating, it is essential to use the right tools for the job.

  • A stripping knife - one with a blade around 75mm wide (3in) - is used to strip off paint from flat surfaces. For awkward corners and around decorative mouldings, triangular or shaped shavehooks are useful. Hot-air strippers can save time but don't use them near glass or plastic.
  • You'll need abrasive paper to rub down the surface and a filling knife to repair cracks.
  • Professional decorators use paint kettles but any container with a handle will do. Tie an old nylon stocking over the top and pour the paint through it to strain out bits of dust and paint skin that might spoil the finish.
  • Most indoor decorating jobs can be done with 50mm (2in), 25mm (1 in) and 12mm On) brushes, but for walls and ceilings you'll need a larger 100mm (4in) or 150mm (bin) brush, or you could use a roller. There are 'cutting-in' brushes with angled tips for painting difficult places like window frames. A crevice brush has a long wire handle, which can be bent to different angles.
  • Paint is quicker to apply with a roller, and often gives a more even finish. You can buy rollers with diamond or diagonal grooves cut into the surface, which allow you to create textured finishes. Corner rollers and pipe and radiator rollers are also available. You'll need a tray for your paint and a stepladder with a platform at the top on which to place the tray.
  • Paint pads come with disposable foam pads and you can buy sets of different shapes and sizes. These sets normally include a paint tray, which should have a built-in scraper. Other pads have paint wheels, which govern the amount of paint that can be loaded. Paint pads can also be used to apply glue size when wallpapering or for soaking wallpaper prior to stripping from walls.
  • Wallpaper requires just a few basic tools. While a purpose-made paste brush is preferable, an ordinary large paintbrush can be used. Professional decorators use a collapsible papering table but you can improvize by using any wipe-clean table or a flush door laid over a kitchen table. A bucket to hold the paste will also be needed: tie a piece of string across the top on which you can rest the brush and wipe off any excess paste. For smoothing the paper, a paper-hangers' brush made of soft bristles is essential.
  • You'll need measuring and marking tools, a pair of scissors (there are specialized wallpaper scissors available, but a pair with rounded ends to the blades will do just as well) and a plumb line so that you can achieve the true vertical. You'll need a trimming knife with a sharp blade for cutting away excess paper and a seam roller for gently rolling the seams where the sheets of wallpaper meet.
  • When tiling, a spirit level and a plumb line are essential, as is a gauge stick, which you can make yourself from a length of wood. A metal or plastic tile adhesive spreader is useful for working on small areas, but if you are tiling a large area, such as a wall, a notched trowel is best.
  • Tiles will often have to be cut to shape and for this you'll need a tile cutter, along with a straight edge. The simplest form is a tungsten carbide-tipped scriber, but now there are lots of 'complete kits' available, which include radius cutters (for cutting circles out of the middle of tiles). There are also tile pincers and nippers, which are used to 'nibble' away at the corners of tiles so they fit around taps and switches. A carborundum stone is useful for smoothing off any rough edges. To drill through a tile, you'll need a drill and a masonry bit.
  • When it comes to applying grout, nothing works better than a sponge, while a neat finish is best achieved with a small wooden stick with a rounded end - the sort of stick you find on an ice lolly is perfect. Use the right adhesive for the job in hand: thin bed adhesives on smooth, level surfaces and waterproof, flexible and heat resistant where required. Where tiles are exposed to running water, the grout must also be waterproof.
  • You will need protective clothing, and dust sheets to cover the floor and any furniture or other items that can't be moved.


  1. Wallpaper brush
  2. Cutting-in brush
  3. Paint tray and roller
  4. Measuring tape
  5. Filling knife
  6. Spirit level
  7. Sandpaper
  8. Paintpads
  9. Stripping knife
  10. Hot-air strippers
  11. Paint kettle
  12. Paintbrushes
  13. Stepladder
  14. Paper-hangers' brush
  15. Tile cutters, pincers and nippers
  16. Carborundum stone
  17. Dust sheets
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