5 Items every renovator needs in their DIY toolkit | House renovation

This is a guest post written by Neil (the only one in this house patient enough to research the best DIY tools!)

*Contains affiliate links but all tools are tried and tested by us


After a couple of years and five rooms refurbished, by now we've done our fair share of DIY. For many people DIY isn't always fun, but with a few tips from what we have learnt we hope you'll improve your efficiency, the quality of the job and who knows, you might even start to enjoy it more!

We made mistakes buying cheaper equipment so the key learning point was that if you get great equipment you'll be set up for a long time.

So without further ado…

1. Use a DeWalt drill and use good drill bits

We spent a few years prior to the renovation using cheaper drills and bits and they just led to the same frustration of blowing out huge holes in the plaster and brick. In the end this led to us feeling quite nervous about picking up the drill through fear of failure. Even now, we could perhaps attribute a lack of pictures on the walls through this historical lack of confidence.

When we started using this DeWalt drill, it was a bit of a game changer as they have the power and quality that improve your chances of first-time success. However the problem was that we still had a few old drill bits in our collection and so we learnt the hard way - they're cheap and they're just not strong enough. In the end we also acquired a set of decent drill bits and we haven't looked back.

*Tip* Before using your drill, always check your drill bit turns around perfectly, if it wobbles side to side at all, it means that it was bent on a previous task and will create a bigger hole than you need - avoid this disaster by checking the bit first.

2. Those Dremel things are as good as they look

We've all seen the sales pitch fir Dremels; "you can polish, sand, cut, drill" etc and when we bought this we suspected it was going to be a bit of a gimmick really - use once and then it just sits on the shelf.

Although this Dremel Multitool will not be something you are constantly using, it certainly does things that no other tool can do. It's great for situations where you need to trim something down, smooth a rough edge or get into nooks and crannies that a normal sander would not be able to get.

Learn from our mistakes and pay for the real/branded Dremel refilling parts. We bought cheaper replacement sanding tubes which are tempting, you can buy big bags of these cheapo knock off alternatives, but quickly found that they were oftentimes faulty, of much lower quality and led to stress and poor results. Pay for the real thing or don't bother at all.

3. Filler

We've used plenty of wood and wall fillers but there's two particular ones that we think a sizeable quantity of our house is now made of!

We used this Polycell Polyfilla primarily for plaster-work imperfections, although it can be used for wood too (in situations where it doesn't need to be particularly hard wearing). In fact we avoided having to re-plaster our office through the use of it. (Well done Fiona!) It will last for ages and although it does require the small overhead of mixing, once it is sanded down the result is smooth and lovely.

For wood we used this Ronseal High Performance Wood Filler. This stuff is no joke! The pot comes with a little 'activator solution' pack and when you mix it up you have 30 minutes to do your work with it. When it sets, this stuff is unbelievably strong. It's great for when you need the job to be particularly hard wearing like on floors.

4. Mouse sander

Our trusty Black and Decker Mouse Sander has made our lives a whole lot easier. Because it is so light, it makes sanding a real breeze and the size of the unit and shape of the sanding pad (and the supplied attachment) means that you can get into those tight fitting corners and spaces really easily. Due to it's effectiveness in small to medium jobs it can be tempting to use the mouse sander for larger sanding jobs and having done this we would recommend getting something a little more robust.

There's really three different levels of sanding that you might want to do in a general refurbishment

Black and Decker Mouse sander - use for light sanding for plaster and woodwork

Black and Decker Orbit Sander - Use for bigger sanding jobs e.g. large areas of wood like panelling

Bosch Belt sander - Fantastically powerful sander for stripping doors etc back to wood - watch your fingers with this one.

Tip: Make sure your doors are actually wood before attempting to sand with this! We found out that the middle panel of our lovely traditional doors were actually plastic - when we'd spent many hours sanding the many layers of wooden sides back, the middle panel melted within seconds (facepalm emoji)

5. Gamechanger for cutting in

Cutting in is the process of creating clean lines where two different paint colours meet e.g. where the wall meets the ceiling, or the wall meets skirting. After spending many hours of mistakes and almost bursting into tears (yes, really), we learnt that you should NOT cut-in with a normal brush. You 100% need a Hamilton cutting in brush which makes the job approximately 150X easier. The other approach you can also try in some scenarios is using masking tape but paint bleeds through sometimes so it's not great. Really the cutting in brush is one that just needs to be in every DIY painter's brush set.

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