Essential Decorating Tools And Equipment

Once you have planned your home, decided on the various surface treatments and chosen the colour schemes, it only remains for you to get down to the ‘chore’ of decorating! It can be a very enjoyable and rewarding chore, so long as you ‘start simple’ and work up to the more difficult jobs. Do not try to do anything in too much of a rush – always allow plenty of time, buy the best tools you can afford, and hire those you do not want to buy. Remember, too, that new decorations must be applied to properly prepared surfaces; the time and labour involved will seem well worth while when you step back to admire the result.

The starting-offpoint for any decorating is an adequate supply of basic tools. This you can add to as and when you can afford it, or as your expertise grows and you are ready to tackle more complicated jobs. Always buy the best quality you can afford; save on decorating materials rather than tools if you have to economize.

If you are working to a very tight budget or storage space is a problem, you can hire most decorating tools from neighbourhood decorating hire shops; these are also useful if you don’t know your capabilities as a do-it-yourselfer, and want to ‘test the water’ before investing in your own tools.


Most tools for painting are best bought outright rather than hired. You will need:

Paint brushes

Assorted sizes, 12 mm, 2 mm, 50 mm, 75 mm brushes for woodwork; a 100—150111111 brush for painting large areas of walls and ceilings. Buy the best quality you can afford – top quality brushes have bristles of varying lengths which taper to a helpful wedge when loaded with paint. The best bristles are hog — others are made from a mixture of natural and synthetic fibres or just from synthetics.

Paint rollers are made from plastic foam, lambswool and mohair, and some have removable ‘sleeves’ so that you can replace or change them when they become worn or you need to use a different type. They are much faster in use than a brush and therefore most convenient if you have large areas to cover.

Roller trays

The roller is used in conjunction with a tray, which is sloped so that you can load the roller then remove the excess pamt by working it up and down the slope. Plastic trays are easier to clean and do not rust, but metal trays usually have flaps underneath which means they can be hooked securely to the stepladder while you work.

Paint pads come in various shapes and sizes and have a felted fibre surface backed with foam attached to a handle. They are dipped 111 paint, and the loaded pad is then drawn across the surface to be painted. They are useful for getting into awkward corners, and really come into their own it you want to stencil a pattern onto a wall.

Paint sprayers cut down decorating time and they are ideal for use outside if you have large areas to cover, but the surfaces all round the area being painted have to be masked. Sprayers are not often used indoors because they release a fine spray into the atmosphere; for this reason it is wise always to wear a mask if working inside with a paint sprayer. You can hire paint spraying machines, and this is the most 80 practical thing to do if you want to try out the technique, or want to cover a large area very quickly. Aerosols do the samejob and are a sensible buy if you want to spray a small area such as a radiator, or a piece of fitted furniture, but they work out prohibitively expensive for large expanses of wall or woodwork.

Paint kettle

This is an optional item but important it you are using emulsion paint. Paint is transferred to the kettle from the can and stirred well. Paint kettles have a wider top than a can, so they are practical if you are using a large brush, and they have a handle which hooks conveniently onto a stepladder.

Cutting-in tool or paint shield

Another optional item, this ‘masking’ tool prevents paint getting onto glass and other surfaces adjacent to the area being painted.


Most decorating jobs involve climbing up and down, so a stable stcplad-der is essential. Buy the folding type with a platform at the top. When using ladders, safety must not be overlooked. If you buy a secondhand ladder or hire one, make sure that it is in a good state of repair, with firm treads. The same safety check is important if you have not used your ladder for some time and it has possibly been stored in a damp place. To check the treads, particularly of long ladders , lay the ladder on the ground and walk along the treads.

Apart from these basic essential tools for painting woodwork, metalwork and walls, further equipment may be needed if you are painting a ceiling or large wall area. You will also need the following tools for the all important preparation work:

Scrapers, strippers, shavehooks for scraping walls or woodwork to remove old, perished or flaking paint.

Blow lamp/torch may Lie needed if you are going to burn off a lot of old paintwork, but this is a tool which can be hired.

Sanding block and abrasive paper for rubbing down paintwork, to give a smooth surface for repainting. The abrasive paper is wrapped round the block and held firmly in place by strong clips to make the job easier and avoid sore hands and broken nails. You can, of course, improvise with a small oftcut of wood in place of a block but those clips are very helpful.

Filling knife for filling small holes and cracks or for renewing and trimming putty.

Sponge for wiping up small spills and removing paint from window panes and so on.


Strong rubber gloves, old newspapers, heavy cotton or plastic dustsheets and a supply of old cloths will also be useful, unless the painting job is a very minor one. You will also need paint thinners, removers, strippers, brush cleaners and proprietary cleaner for washing down old paintwork and/or walls.


This latest innovation in painting equipment is a completely self-contained, portable powered painting system which makes painting blissfully simple and clean. The specially formulated paint , comes in its own plastic container with a plugged lid. You just shake the paint, place it- container and all – in the Paintmate drum and close the lid. Then you insert a transparent ‘delivery tube’ into the plug hole, fit a specially designed roller, pad or brush onto the control handle, fit a soda syphon bulb into the carrier, press a button and the head is primed with paint via the ‘delivery tube’. Heads are interchangeable and pads/roller sleeves can be thrown away if you don’t like cleaning, although the paint will wash out under the tap. A roller, three paint pads and two brush heads are-available with the kit, or can be bought separately. There is a clip so that the machine can be attached to belt or steplad-der, and a handle so that it can be carried over your arm.

This ingenious system can be used for painting walls, ceiling, metal and woodwork, inside and out.


When decorating it is essential to clean up as you go along, and to keep your tools clean and in good working order. Paint brushes need not be cleaned every evening, it you are painting again the next day -instead, store them upright in a jar of water, just up to the shank.

When the job is finished, wipe excess paint off brushes or rollers onto old newspaper. It you have been using emulsion paint, simply wash the brushes or rollers under the tap, carefully squeeze out excess moisture and shake dry. If you used oil-based paint with easy-brush-care properties, work the brush up and down in a solution of water and detergent, repeat with fresh solution, rinse out in warm water and shake dry. Rollers can be cleaned by working vigorously on the corrugations of the tray, filled with a detergent/water solution. Rinse and shake dry. It you use traditional oil-based paint, clean the brushes with turps, turpentine substitute, white spirit or proprietary paint brush cleaner, then wash them thoroughly, rinse and shake dry. Leave in an airy place to dry , then wrap brushes individually in newspaper, greaseproof, oiled paper or polythene, and store flat to avoid crushing the bristles – to preserve the pile on rollers, they are best stored hanging up.


Many of the tools listed under Painting -indoors can also be used for exterior decorating, but you will need some additional items.


You will probably need a set of long, extending ladders. It is more practical to hire these unless you are likely to use them frequently. Sometimes neighbours club together to buy a set. which they can all use.

Ensure that ladders are at least 60 to 90 cm taller than the highest point to be reached, after allowing for at least a 3-rung overlap once the ladder is extended. Make sure that they are safely positioned before you start climbing- slant about 30 cm away from the wall to every 1.22 m of ladder height, and wedge the base firmly. Always store long ladders in a locked garage or shed when not in use, padlocking them to a shelf, bracket or other fixed item so that burglars cannot make ‘climb-and-entry’ use of them. Don’t be tempted to stretch too far from the top of a ladder – it is safer to get down and move the ladder; otherwise you may arrive at the bottom in a sorry, crumpled heap.

Scaffolding or tower platform

If the exterior painting job is extensive , a simple scaffolding or tower platform is much more sensible than a ladder – you can get these with jacking feet’ which ensure a level base on which to construct the platform. It is nearly always better to hire, than buy this type of equipment. Get quotes from several hire companies, since they can vary. At the same time, check whether they will arrange delivery and collection of the hired equipment if it is large, heavy – or both! If you don’t know how it works, ask for instructions.

Wire brushes for removing rust, corrosion and loose material from metal and walls.

Extra paint brushes – these may well be needed, especially a large, strong-bristled wall brush or bannister brush if you plan to paint the walls with masonry paint.

S-Hook for hanging the paint kettle or can from the ladder.

Trowels for repair to rendering, filling large holes and repointing brickwork.


Again some of the tools will already be in your basic tool kit, but you may well need these extra items.


When papering ceilings and walls, it is frequently necessary to have two ladders with a Scaffold board positioned between them, so that you can balance on this while working at ceiling height. These can be hired.

Paper holders

These are optional, but helpful if you are papering a ceiling for the first time, and do not have a helper. The paper is folded up, concertina fashion, and placed on the flat tray at the top of the holder.

Special platforms

If you are decorating the stairway and hall and the ceiling is very high, you may need a special platform to reach. Some can be balanced on the stair at one end and scaffold tubing at the other. It is best to hire this type of equipment.


Also optional, this is a wide two-step mini platform ideal for reaching awkward corners, like the area above and over the bath. A reasonably handy person can make one, but they can be bought or hired.

Scrapers and strippers

These are necessary for removing old wallpaper.

Steaming machine. You may need one of these if the paper has been overpainted , or is a varnished washable one, or layers of paper have been built up over the years. These machines are powered by cylinders of bottled gas with a tube-like attachment and a flat rectangular plate which has small holes on its sole. The plate, or iron, is pressed against the paper, and steam released through the sole peels the paper. You will need to work hard to strip off the old paper, and these machines make rather a lot of noise. They can be hired from most decoration hire specialists.

Wallpaper pasting table

These usually fold up and are light and easy to carry round. You can use a kitchen table instead, so long as its surface is large enough, but it is not sensible to cut and paste wallpaper on a good dining table – even if you do protect the surface – as accidents can happen. If you are using a ready-pasted wallcovering it is still useful to have a table 83 for measuring and cutting the lengths, but not essential. Pasting tables can be hired, but they are fairly cheap to buy and are a worthwhile investment if you plan to do a lot of decorating. Alternatively, you can improvise by using a flush door, taken off the hinges and laid over a table or across two chairs.

Wallpaper scissors and trimming knife

Buy the best you can afford, and get proper paper hangers’ scissors as these have long blades which make cutting much easier. It you are using a hand-printed paper or specialist imported wallcovering you may need a Wallpaper trimmer, to remove the ‘selvedge’ edges, although scissors can be used. It you have never decorated before, try to persuade your supplier to trim the paper for you if you buy this type. Most ordinary wallcoverings are sold prc-trimmed.

Rule or measure

This should be made of wood or metal as fabric tapes stretch in use.

Pencil to mark wall and/or paper.

Plumb line or plumb-bob and piece of string to ensure that the paper hangs vertically.

Paste bucket and paste brush

The bucket can be metal or plastic, but must be wide enough to allow you to dip the paste brush in easily. Tie a piece of string across the top of the bucket to wipe excess paste off the brush. Always use a proper pasting brush for paste. It you are using one of the wallcoverings where you paste the wall you may prefer to use a roller to paste the wall, preferably a foam plastic one. Buy a new one, or a new ‘sleeve’ and keep this specially for pasting; the paste can be poured into a roller tray if your bucket is not large enough to take the roller, or you find it difficult to control the amount of paste collected.

Seam roller

A small, firm roller used to smooth the join when two pieces of wallcovering have been hung edge-to-edge. Do not use a seam roller on an embossed or textured wallcovering as it flattens the surface and the joins become obvious.

NOTE: you can buy firm, slightly wider, heavier ‘smoothing’ rollers for use with contoured vinyl wallcoverings. The roller smoothes over the entire strip of material once hunt;;.

Paperhangers’ brush

A special wide, short-bristle brush with a hand grip rather than a handle; this is used to brush out the strips of wallcovering after hanging to ensure they adhere smoothly to the wall without air bubbles.

Sponge for wiping paste off the front of the wallcovering and woodwork.

Water tray/trough

If you are hanging a ready-pasted wallcovering you will need this to immerse the cut lengths. These trays are usually supplied free with the ready-pasted product, but it not, they can be bought cheaply from do-it-yourself and decorating shops. You may still need a little paste and small brush in case the edges of the wallcovering don’t stick firmly, and you have to apply extra paste. If you prefer to paste the wallcovering rather than immersing it in water, you can -just apply paste in the same manner as you would for normal paper.


You will need a cleaning agent to wash down previously painted walls and glasspaper to ‘key’ the surface I.e. make the wall slightly rough so the paper adheres to it more readily. You may need size, to seal previously undecorated wall surfaces. You may also like to brush on a coat of wallcovering release agent, before you paper, as this makes subsequent stripping easier; it is especially helpful if you are papering over plasterboard.

Then, of course, you will need wallpaper paste. There are several kinds available, so make sure you buy the right one for the wallcovering you want to hang. Most manufacturers recommend the appropriate paste on the hanging instructions included with each roll, or your supplier will advise. Most ordinary wallpapers simply need a conventional wallpaper paste of the type you mix with water, although some come ready-mixed. Heavier wallpapers need a heavy-duty paste which is usually ready-mixed. For washable and vinyl wallcoverings the paste must contain a fungicide, since this type of wallcovering does not ‘breathe’ and otherwise mould could grow on the wall behind the covering. Some speciality wallcoverings, such as hessians and grasscloths, must be hung with special pastes which will not spoil the surface if they seep through the wallcovering -follow the manufacturers’ instructions to the letter. 84

Essential Decorating Tools And Equipment

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