Handy hints on decorating

Written by    Last updated: August 28, 2007

Do‐it‐yourself hints on decorating your home. Find out great tips like how to wallpaper behind radiators, strain paint using old tights and how to stencil on walls…

decorating tips


  • Buying: when buying wallpaper, make sure all rolls have the same batch number. Always buy an extra roll of wallpaper. If you don’t use it, you can usually return it. Leftover wallpaper can be used to line drawers.
  • Positioning: never stretch paper to follow a guideline. Always ease it off and reposition it. Use a plumb line (a string with a weight on one end held against a wall with the weight hanging down) to give a perfect vertical line.
  • Pasting: Here are some essential tips for pasting wallpaper:
  • Allowing the paste to soak into the paper before hanging helps to prevent bubbles.
  • Pour any leftover paste into a screw‐top jar and keep it for sticking down any loose seams.
  • To keep the paste bucket clean, line the bucket with a clean plastic bag secured with tape. When finished throw the bag away.
  • Use your finger wrapped in a handkerchief to flatten wallpaper seams.
  • If you do not have a trough, soak read‐pasted paper in the bath.
  • A glue stick is very handy for gluing edges.
  • Allow wallpaper at least 24 hours before replacing wall fittings.
  • On stairways hang the longest length first
  • Radiators: you don’t have to remove radiators to wallpaper behind it. Cut paper to align the back of the radiator and lower the paper allowing the cut to fall on either side of the bracket.  Make a radiator roller with a broom handle wrapped in a clean rag.


  • Protect: when decorating, wear an apron with big pockets; it’s very handy for carrying tools, etc. Wear a shower cap when painting ceilings to keep paint off your hair.
  • Plan ahead: prepare surfaces before you begin painting – both the area to be protected from the mess and the area to be painted.
  • Tricky corners: to smooth filler into edges and corners, use a wet finger.
  • Straining paint: to get rid of skin or debris on an open tin of paint, strain it, using an old pair of tights stretched over a paint kettle or tin.
  • In one go: try to do a whole wall at once without a break.
  • Paint: non‐drip emulsion is more expensive but saves time and mess. For short breaks when using emulsion, wrap the brush or roller in kitchen foil to prevent the paint from drying hard. Non‐drip gloss can be removed from a roller or brush with soapy water if you act quickly.
  • New paint roller: prepare a new roller by soaking in soapy water for a few hours, to release odd bits of fibre. Rinse and dry before use.
  • Brushes: soften stiff old brushes by boiling them in vinegar for a few minutes. Don’t use very old brushes; they’ll shed bristles into your paintwork.
  • Overnight: to leave brushes overnight when using oil based paint, wipe off as much paint as possible, place the brush in a sealed plastic bag and lie it flat. When storing brushes, wrap them in kitchen paper and lay them flat.
  • Paint check: to check whether gloss paint is dry, run your fingernail across it.
  • Matt vs glossy: use a matt finish to disguise bumps and hollows – a shiny emulsion will highlight faults.
  • Picture hooks: to prevent plaster from cracking when hammering in picture hooks, stick a piece of masking tape on first.


Add a personal touch and spruce up walls with stencils. You can make your own stencil or choose from thousands of readymade designs. Stencils can also be made to order and can be enlarged or reduced according to your needs.

How to stencil: mark out a square on your chosen surface with masking tape, then place the stencil, made of polyester film, in the square and fix it into position.
Paint over and then carefully remove the stencil.
Allow the area to dry.

Cleaning stencils: immerse the stencil in hot water and let it soak for a few minutes in a flat‐bottomed basin. Rub gently with a brush to remove the paint from the holes. Store your clean, dry stencil either flat, or rolled interleaved with paper if you have more than one, and it will be ready to use again.

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