How the Decorating Industry has Changed in the Past Twenty Years

By Mike Cupit


I wrote a blog recently in which I predicted how the decorating industry will change in the next ten years. In that blog I predicted some massive changes!! That got me thinking; I’ve been a decorator for 20 years, so what’s changed since I started out? I thought I’d jot down the changes from my perspective.


Decorators Themselves


The biggest change to the industry has got to be the way decorators operate, and indeed our standing amongst other building trades. When I started out twenty years ago, we’d get all our work from walking onto a building site and offering the foreman a backhander!! Either that or talking to people in the pub.


Speaking of the pub, we’d be in there wearing whites almost daily. Either at lunch for a “quick pint or two”, or on our way home from work, still wearing whites!! We’d also nip outside for a quick cig when at work too.


The modern decorator is far more professional. We understand marketing and the importance of appearance. We look smart, do not drink during the day (hic), and from what I can see, the days of backhanders are way behind us.


Trim Paint


Internal woodwork used to almost always be oil-based gloss. We’d all have Hamilton pure bristle brushes which we’d keep in a kettle of water.


Nowadays oil-based gloss isn’t as good as it used to be. Restrictions on VOCs mean white gloss turns yellow within weeks of being applied. Some people still use it, but to me, oil-based gloss has had its day.


It’s all about satinwood now, which contains less oil, so doesn’t yellow as quickly. In fact, most decorators now use water-based paints, which we’ve seen improve massively in recent years. Now you can buy water-based satinwood which has the finish and durability of oil but is a lot quicker to apply and much better for the environment.


Dust Free Sanding


I used to spend days on end hand sanding when I was learning my trade. My fingers would bleed and my nails would be worn right down!! The worst thing would be the dust which got in my clothes, hair and on my chest!!


Not now, I think most decorators are dustless and understand the benefits of dust free sanding. Prep is a lot cleaner, quicker and more thorough. This is a massive step in the right direction and one of the best changes to the industry!!




British decorators can be frustratingly slow when it comes to adopting modern techniques. No one sprayed when I stared out, now I’d guess around 40% of decorators spray, which is still a lot less than reason suggests it should be. Some decorators have misconceptions about overspray and when you can and can’t spray.


They don’t even cover the technique properly in the NVQ assessments. Thank god for training academies such as PaintTech and the Dulux Academy who do deliver extensive training and help the modern decorator take steps into spraying.

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How the Decorating Industry has Changed in the Past Twenty Years