Decorating for beginners

Decorating your own home can not only save you money but will give you a feeling of satisfaction, and with so many helpful tools on the market, it's easier than ever before.

Painting and decorating tools for beginners
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Essential painting equipment

It's worth spending a little extra on the basic tools such as brushes - opt for the cheap and cheerful variety and you may find bristles falling out before you've finished a room. The same goes for paint - the cheaper options often require more coats, making them a false economy.

Ideally, a synthetic brush is best for water-based paint such as emulsion as it does not absorb the paint, while natural bristles are advised for oil-based paints as they will need to be cleaned with white spirit.

For the main expanse of a wall or ceiling, however, invest in a roller with a long extension pole. Be sure to choose a short pile sleeve for smooth walls, medium for uneven walls and long pile if you are decorating the external walls. Foam rollers should be used for oil-based paint and to make life easier, mini rollers are available for use on woodwork.

Essential wallpapering equipment
Quality is not of such great importance when it comes to wallpapering - aside from the paper itself, a bucket, wide pasting brush and paste are obvious essentials and a pasting or trestle table will make life a whole lot easier.

A cutting guide and trimming knife (with replacement blades to ensure bluntness doesn't tear the paper) will allow you to easily remove excess paper from the skirting board or coving and a paper-hanging brush with soft bristles should be used to ease out air bubbles and creases. To be sure of a neat finish, use a sponge to wipe off any excess paste and a seam roller (not advised for embossed papers) to ensure that the edges of each length are stuck firmly to the wall.

Handy tools for an easy life
DIY is now so popular that there are always new innovations and tools designed to make life easier for the amateur decorator.

For example, if the spray, sponge and scraping method of removing wallpaper is not your idea of fun, a wallpaper steamer may the answer. This simple, plug-in, hand-held tool emits steam that loosens the adhesive holding the existing paper in place. These can be hired from most tool hire shops.

If you are painting, Dulux have come up with a handy little gadget that is useful if you are painting the whole house. The PaintPod (£59.99) plugs into the mains - with a 'pod' of your chosen emulsion (there are 34 to choose from) inserted into the vacuum cleaner-sized machine, a simple flick of a button will send the paint flowing directly to the roller for an even coverage - and it has the added advantage of automatic cleaning, so you can switch colours. If you are not bothered about the self-cleaning facility, the Compact version (£34.98) is a smaller, cheaper alternative.

And for those of you who dread washing out your brushes with white spirit, worry no more - the Brush Mate (usually available at painting and decorating merchants such as Brewers) is a box that emits vapour to keep your brushes soft and pliable without the need to clean (ideal if the majority of your woodwork is white) and prevents the bristles from hardening.