How the Decorating Industry has Changed

Updated Feb 17, 2024 | Posted Nov 16, 2021 | Professional insight, Life of a Decorator, Miscellaneous | 1 comment

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 how has the decorating industry changed since I started out? I thought I’d jot down the changes from my perspective.


How Decorators Have Changed


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.


How Woodwork Paint Has Changed


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.

We even have hybrid paints now, which aren’t oil-based, but they’re not quite water-based either. It’s funny to thing how paint chemistry is changing the industry. New developments are still happening all the time.


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.


Additional Training and Specialist Decorators


I couldn’t write a blog about how the decorating industry has changed without mentioning the additional training that is available today. There are academies popping up to help support decorators and help them progress in the industry. The Dulux Academy being the biggest and most accessible.

Not only can a decorator brush up on the basics like wallpapering etc, but they may decide to look at a specialist branch of the trade so they can maximise profits. Digital wall murals, kitchen spraying and Silk Plaster are great examples of this, but there are plenty of others.

How the Decorating Industry has Changed in the Past Twenty Years – by Mike Cupit

Updated Feb 17, 2024 | Posted Nov 16, 2021 | 1 comment

1 Comment

  1. richard

    I can still smell the water needing changing once the old Hamilton brushes in it.. Threw half old brushes out as well.
    Washing brushes out turps going through loads of it now hardly buy it.
    Van and clothes stinking turps

    My late father could paper with a cig in mouth he rested cig alight on the small groove on the Hamilton paper brush while making a cut etc.
    Stabbed cigs out corner wooden steps along with numerous wooden DIY step repair s 😂


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