What Tools Does a Decorator Need to Start a Business?

Updated May 15, 2024 | Posted Nov 9, 2023 | Professional insight, Tool Insight | 0 comments

If you’re starting up your own Painting and Decorating business, there are tools you will need to make it a success. In this article we’ll focus on the tools you need to complete a typical decorating job, rather than the “starting a business” angle.

And of course, every job is different, from wallpapering Mrs Johnson’s spare room to spraying the cladding on the outside of a warehouse, from renovating the drawing room in an 18th century manor house to painting newbuilds. There isn’t room to cover every tool you’d need for every decorating job, so I’ll assume that if you’re just starting out on your own, you’ll probably start small…


Protection Tools a Decorator Needs


Painting is not just about getting the paint where you want it – it’s about not getting the paint where you don’t want it. As well as protecting your customers’ property, you need to think about protecting yourself (PPE):


  • Workwear.  Yes, you can still be a great painter in an old ACDC t-shirt and a pair of baggy jogging bottoms, but if you want to look the part and be taken seriously as a Decorator, you will need to invest in some proper “whites”. It doesn’t have to be a traditional bib’n’brace if that’s not your style, but white work trousers/shorts and a white polo shirt (with your logo on) is going to look better, for longer, and make your business appear more professional.
  • Robust white trainers are ideal for light domestic work, but you’ll need proper site boots if you’re decorating on building sites or commercial jobs.
  • Eye protection
  • Disposable gloves
  • Face mask (the quality/spec will depend on the type of work you are doing)


Access Equipment a Decorator Needs


Sooner or later, you’re going to need to paint something that you can’t reach standing on the floor. For large jobs you may need to buy or hire scaffolding towers, scaffolding or a cherry picker, but for smaller jobs you will probably need the following at some stage:


  • 2-3 step step-ladder or “hop-up” for easy access when cutting in along ceiling lines
  • Stair Ladder, which can be used as a traditional “A-frame”, and in “off-set” position on stairs
  • Longer ladder to reach first floor windows, soffits, fascias etc
  • Ladder platform to provide a solid base when working off a ladder on stairs or other areas that aren’t flat – the one I use is made by a company called Hailo, and it’s a really solid piece of kit


My recommendation for anything to do with access equipment is to spend the money on something that is really solid, well-built and (if possible) lightweight, but definitely well-built – These are the most important tools you need as a Decorator because your life literally depends on it.


Prep Tools Every Decorator Needs


We’ve all heard it a thousand times – “it’s all in the prep”. So, the tools a Decorator needs includes good quality prep equipment. I’m going to break these down into three sections: hand tools, power tools and “consumable” materials.


Hand tools

I have a “kit bag” bulging with the pieces of kit that I use most often; I find it handy to keep them all in one place, and the items I use less regularly are in a separate storage box in the van.  My kit bag includes:


  • Filling knives – I keep the smaller sizes (which I use all the time) in my kit bag (1”, 2”, 3”), and the larger ones in the van. I love these ones from Axus Décor!
  • Scrapers, including a glass scraper
  • Stanley knife, scissors
  • Paint tin openers
  • Paint stirrers
  • Cloths
  • Dusting brush
  • Spot Drops
  • Hand sander
  • Rubber door stops (they always come in handy!)
  • Caulking gun (plus a spare in the van)


You’re also going to need screwdrivers for taking down shelves, removing door furniture etc, and a hammer and set of nail punches because apparently chippies these days don’t know how to use them.


Power Tools

I guess the only “power tool” you really need when starting up is a decent robust vacuum for cleaning up after yourself.  I find an electric screwdriver handy on occasions, but you could survive without.

I survived for years without a dustless sander, but I wouldn’t be without mine now. It’s a huge expense (probably more than everything else in this article added together!), but the benefits in terms of smoother walls, faster prep, healthier working environment and happier customers are huge too.



Also in my kitbag are the following:


  • Sandpaper of various grades
  • Caulk
  • Fillers – I tend to keep small tubs of ready mixed wood filler (Toupret) and lightweight filler (also Toupret) handy in my kitbag.  I also have a bag of Easi-fill powder filler in the van, and some two-part wood filler for bigger repairs.
  • Stain block – I have an aerosol stain block in the kitbag for “quick fixes”, and a tin of shellac-based primer (either Zinsser B-I-N or Fiddes Full Stop) in the van
  • Wipes
  • Tac cloths
  • Disposable gloves
  • Masking tape (various different sizes and ranging from hi-tack to low-tack)

Equipment a Decorator Needs for Painting


So that’s quite a bit of gear already, and we haven’t even started painting yet!  When it comes to actually getting paint on walls, you’re going to need the following:


Kettles in various sizes

Brushes. You will end up with a collection of different brushes for different situations. There is too much choice to go into detail here, but make sure you choose a brush that’s appropriate to the job you’re doing and the paint you’re using, and in time you will find the brushes you like and that suit your style

Similarly with rollers, you’ll probably end up with more than you expected. Different roller sleeves suit different tasks.  You’ll definitely want a rad roller, not just for getting behind radiators but they’re also useful for reaching other awkward spots. As most of my work is small domestic projects, I find I use 9” and 4” rollers the most, the larger ones only come out for larger ceilings.

Trays or skuttles – always a subject of healthy debate among decorators! Use whatever works for you, but you’ll obviously need different sizes depending on the different rollers you’re using.

Spraying is a whole different game, and the additional cost for both equipment and training will put many people off.  However, there are huge benefits to be had in terms of both speed and finish, particularly in some situations – it depends to some extent on the type of work you will be doing.  Because of the set-up cost involved, I’d recommend you research it thoroughly before taking the plunge, and think about how much you’ll actually use it.


Wallpapering, again, is a whole different ball game. Many painters choose not to do it and simply turn down (or sub out) any jobs that involve wallpapering. My wallpapering kit includes:

  • Pasting table – more and more papers are “paste the wall”, but it still gets regular use
  • Pencil (and pencil sharpener)
  • Tape measure
  • Pasting brush and/or roller
  • Various cloths/sponges for wiping down with
  • Lazer level – expensive, but worth it in my opinion
  • Good quality shears and knife – I use Axus scissors and Olfa knives
  • Straight edge for cutting along
  • Paper smoothers/brush
  • Seam roller
  • Paste

I’m sure there’s probably loads of things I’ve forgotten. It’s only when you try to write it all down that you realise just how much gear we decorators carry around with us!

Updated May 15, 2024 | Posted Nov 9, 2023 | 0 comments

About the Author

About the Author

With years of decorating experience, Robin set up his own business – Wokingham Decorating Services – in 2007, carrying out mainly domestic work. He enjoys trying out new products and learning as much as he can about the decorating industry


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