Fixing up an old house requires a lot of different tools. Some of them are easy to find at the corner hardware store and some are more specialty items that are a lot harder to find. Just like picking the right wood filler or choosing the right primer can make or break your project the right tool can be a life saver.
You can probably do everything you need with a hammer, screw driver, and a saw, but it will take forever and make the process miserable! Especially if you have dozens of windows to restore or hundreds of SF of flooring to repair having the right tool can be a Godsend.
In this guide I’ll walk you through the best tools to get for any job broken out into each of the big categories of restoration work like windows, flooring, plaster, and painting so you can start simple and scale up as you need.
In each category I’ll start with a basic set of tools you absolutely need to have then we’ll talk about some next step upgrades before getting into the high end tools that will really up your production times if you are thinking about going pro. You can click on any of the tool links below to see my recommendation of style and brand I prefer.
Window Restoration Tools
Window restoration has a lot of very specific tools that you won’t use in other trades so if you are planning to do more than just a couple small repairs to your windows you’ll need some version of all of these.
Next Step Tools
Pro Level Tools
Flooring Restoration Tools
We’re talking wood floors. If you are doing repairs, installs or refinishing here is the list of tools you are gonna need. I will say that floor refinishing is one job I don’t really recommend homeowners try because it requires a lot of very specific skills and working with some very big expensive tools.
Next Step Tools
Pro Level Tools
Plaster Restoration Tools
Plaster repair fortunately has a smaller list of tools than most trades and they tend to be a little cheaper which is a welcome change from the big sanders above.
Next Step Tools
Pro Level Tools
Painting Restoration Tools
The tools for painting are pretty simple but I wanted to cover some of them in case you need it.
Next Step Tools
Pro Level Tools
'Karndean'; the word I've heard a lot around the internet lately - everyone's talking about it. I'd heard of Karndean before I even knew what the hell it was (flooring!), what it looked like, or what it felt like. So when I was offered the chance to give a test, well obviously I was like YES, I need to see what the hell all this fuss is about and what makes it so special.
What is Karndean?
Karndean is a type of floor covering. It's basically a vinyl floor - but no, not the tacky peel-and-stick kind you might find in PoundStretcher. It's a luxury vinyl floor - a kind of mid-way product, almost in-between Laminate and Lino. It's flexible, but comes in a 'plank' form, it's sound reducing, unlike the hardness of solid floors and it's also warmer underfoot. It's a great imitation product to both wood and stone and has its own additional benefits that can also make it a more favourable and smarter choice to the real stuff - Easy to clean, waterproof and maintenance-free, just to name a few!
How 'Loose Lay' Works
Karndean have a few different types of flooring, but the one I'm trying out is their loose lay floor. And loose lay - is exactly as the name suggests. You lay it loose. No need for glue, no nails, no special adhesive, no ugly trim around the perimeter of the room, nope - you just lay it on the floor and it stays there. By the power of friction and gravity! There's not even any interlocking connections between the boards. It means you spend less on materials, it takes less time to fit and you don't even need to removing skirting boards. AND, even better - you don't have to take up the whole floor just to get one plank out, if boards ever get damaged (although you do need a window sucker to actually get the board OUT). The idea is pretty genius and all made possible by its super friction anti-slip backing (shown below). It really has zero movement and it's fuss-fee easy installation is one of the reasons it's a much loved product.
How to Fit
So I'm going to write a quick little tutorial on how we've fitted our new Karndean floor, DIY style. The idea, is that in order for Karndean to work, you need a nice tight fit throughout every edge of the perimeter of the room. You don't need to remove skirting boards and if you do, you'll actually create more work for yourself as you'll have to ensure a tight fit against uneven plaster/bricks. Being able to get a tight fit means you need to be able to scribe cuts pretty well. Scribing a floor is one of the easiest types of scribing, so even if you've never done it before - it's a pretty good place to start!
For an EXCELLENT video tutorial on laying Loose Lay Karndean, as well as scribing, I thoroughly recommend watching this one from SkillBuilder on YouTube.
Things You Will Need:
Step 1 - Base Preparation
So Karndean Loose Lay flooring only works if the base beneath it is completely level and flat. That means no protruding nails, no dodgy patched concrete, no lumps, bumps, floorboard ridges, dust, dirt - you're getting the picture?
If you have a solid floor (concrete, tiles etc) and it's not very even, you'll want to lay some self-levelling compound over the top. If like us, you have floorboards you'll probably want to lay a sheet of hardboard over the top. We very luckily already had hardboard in the area where we're laying, but we made sure to properly check all the nails had been sunken into the board and we also added some cloth tape over the joins to make it seamless.
We also added a new threshold bar between the inner-porch and rest of the hallway. This will give the Karndean floor something to butt up to where the floor coverings change and it will also allow for a nice floor transition between the rooms too. This is just a slither of wood (same thickness of the Karndean floor) which we've cut to size and nailed into place. Oh and don't worry - that carpet is set for the bin one day!!
Step 2 - Laying Karndean
As shown by the 'tools required' - there really isn't that much involved when it comes to laying Karndean flooring. For the most part, you just lay the planks butted up against once another by hand, no tools, no major bashing or hammering involved to get the boards together (staring at you, laminate!) - just lay one, lay another, lay another - you can get 95% of the room done in literally minutes! The only thing you need just to make sure of, is that each plank is properly butted up against the next. This creates the watertight seal and also ensures the boards aren't going to move.
In order to scribe a cut, you need to translate the angles of the wall onto the board you need to cut. The best way to do this is to lay a board on-top of the closest board to the skirting and then push a second board up against the skirting. Using that as a guide you can then mark-up that cut onto the first board, which will be the board you'll cut. I feel like this is suuuuper awkward to explain, so again I recommend this video to see it in action.
Step 3 - Cutting Karndean
Karndean is cut with just a knife, however you don't slice all the way through the board in one cut, the process is very similar to how you would cut plasterboard. The idea is that you score a nice crisp line along the top of the board and then you snap the board along the scored line - just like you would with plasterboard - and then you finish the cut off by cutting the rest along the back of the board.
It's super easy to do, although you do need to have fairly good knife skills to give an evenly scored line. When cutting our boards, we also made sure to cut up to the line, rather than taking the line off. The snugger the fit, the better!
So the one tricky bit we have to deal with, was cutting around the door frame/architrave. This is obviously a very intricate area and trying to cut a curved sharp and well scribed cut into a material that was quite leathery was just not working for us. We really wanted it to look perfect and not sloppy, so we ended up cutting a little bit of the architrave out with the worx so we could slot the karndean underneath instead. Corner cuts were generally fine - just any odd shapes are a little iffy, so we took the short cut.
For large rooms, Karndean do suggest using a tackifier around the perimeter and every so-many cm into the room as well - this just adds a bit of extra stickiness, but it doesn't permanently hold the planks in place. You can read their official installation guide here.
So this is the final result and what our little inner hallway porch now looks like. You can see I've given the room a VERY quick coat of white paint over that grotty wallpaper. But don't worry - we will be giving it a proper makeover eventually! I think the new Karndean floor is absolutely fab - and needless to say, so so much better than what was here before. It's completely waterproof, so great for use in a mucky hallway and will be MUCH easier to clean over wood. And despite it not being real wood, it does looks and feel really very realistic too. I should also mention this is the 'Providence' Style (LLP108) floor, which is based on North American White Oak - fancy!
Grant actually laid this whole floor himself (yes, I'm the blogger but y'know, small spaces and that ?) but he was super impressed with how easy it was to do. Other than re-doing the cuts around the architrave, the floor took no more than a few hours to lay. And that involved the prep-work and a few tea breaks as well! So it was super quick to fit; no sawdust, mess, no noise(!) and as a product to DIY yourselves, it definitely gets the thumbs up from us! It's literally just a no-nonsense product.
As an actual floor covering, we also really like it too. We never wanted to have floorboards in this little space as keeping them clean in a high traffic (dirty shoes!) area is a definite losing battle! Karndean is much more practical, being fully waterproof and maintenance free. It also doesn't have any creaking sound, which is fab for us considering we both work nightshifts and often creep into the house at weird times in the night! And it's also far more durable - definitely need this one when we're still renovating!
Where to Buy & Costs
We received this Karndean from AA flooring, who stock all types and styles of Karndean and they're also the cheapest online stockist for Karndean as well. In terms of price, I definitely wouldn't be putting Karndean into the category of 'cheap' - it is, after all a luxury floor covering. However comparative to real wood, it is a little cheaper and it has many more benefits that often make it a more favourable choice. There are many different flooring designs for Karndean, but you can expect to pay between £28-£42 per m2, dependant on style.
If we were looking to buy this product, it would probably be out of our budgets for a large sized room - however if you do have the budget to buy, then I would definitely recommend checking Karndean out as a worthwhile contender!
I'd love to know what you think to our new floor. Have you given Karndean a try? Are you looking to DIY-install?
*I received Karndean for the purpose of this review. All words, thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands who support this blog!
If you're a long-time reader around here, you'll know our house doesn't have any form of central heating. The property used to have an old back boiler in the chimney, which we've since removed and replaced with a log burner - which is absolutely FAB - but other than the room the log burner is in (kitchen-diner), the rest of the house is heat-less during the winter.
Living in a house without central heating can be freaking cold at times, it really can. Our old house also didn't have central heating and it didn't have double glazed windows either. Heating the house was a constant battle. Six years on, two heat-less homes and we've now pretty much bossed living without gas central heating - how to retain heat better, how to make heat (affordably), how to dry clothes in rooms without heat. I basically have a whole "how to live without heating" degree ?
I've done a few posts on how we live without central heating (this one is probably the best) but one thing we used in our last house and have been looking to add within this house too, is electric heating. And by that, I do not mean outdated old fashioned storage heaters that cost a bomb to run. Nope - I mean, electric heating that's energy efficient, affordable and one that actually heats rooms without taking several hours to do so. And yes - they do exist!
Why Electric Heating?First things first - why the hell would you want electric heating? Doesn't everyone have gas boilers nowadays? Simple answer: no. For us, we just couldn't afford the crazy installation costs of a gas boiler without forfeiting the opportunity of being able to renovate the rest of the house. But aside from not being able to afford a gas boiler, electric heating does have it's own benefits that made it the right choice for us anyway.
One of the things that I like about electric heating, is the fact that electric is a renewable energy source - which not only makes it greener and more eco-friendly but that also allows you to benefit from free heating if you already have solar panels on the home. Gas prices are rising far more rapidly than electric too - so even if you don't make your own electric, the stats on the current energy price-rises make electric look far more favourable in years to come too.
On top of that, electric heating also allows you room-by-room control. And by that I mean you can just switch on the radiators you actually need - unlike gas heating when it's all powered at once (not that great if you have a large house and barely use any of it - AHEM, that's us!). And with electric radiators, you can install one by one, over time rather than one giant installation cost. Adding radiators to a gas central heating circuit is far less simple, involves a lot of floorboard upheaval, mess, and cost. All of these reasons combined are why we're opting for electric heating and why I definitely don't consider electric heating as a outdated form of heating. It really really isn't. Not all houses are on the gas grid either - and whilst gas may be mainstream, it certainly isn't the be all or end all when it comes to heating.
So, as a long-standing owner of non-gas-heated homes, I've trialled a few different electric heating options over the years; some good, some bad, some 'meh'. So naturally when The Electric Heating Company and PlumbNation offered me a chance to review one of their ecoSave radiators, I was pretty excited to do so. We've never settled on a definitive "this is the one" radiator, and I was really keen to trial their ecoSave radiators specifically, as they're WiFi control-ready and being a bit of a tech geek, that is a huuuuuuuge attraction for myself and something I've never come across with electric radiators before.
Modern Sleek DesignSo this is what it looks like. It's modern, sleek in design and fits really well within our home and it's style. You can see we're actually using this in the conservatory - partly because this is the next 'finished' room that needs heating in the house and partly because I wanted to review the radiator in a conservatory setting, knowing lots of people with conservatories opt for electric heating in there anyway.
From first appearances, it doesn't look too much different from a normal radiator - unlike many electric radiators (which are ugly as hell) - this one is inoffensive, simple and can work in literally any space. Whether you're rocking quirky patterned floors like us, or have a much more traditional country home - it's neither 'too modern' or 'too old-fashioned', it's just simple in style and it works. And in total truth, appearances matter a lot to me. This could be an amazing radiator, but if it had been super ugly, I probably wouldn't have given it the time of day. Yes - I'm that house vain!
If you're wondering about those pipes showing underneath the radiator - they're actually our water pipes; they go through the wall and feed the tap in the kitchen, completely irrelevant to the radiator, as much as they kinda look connected from these shots.
Installation Costs - There Aren't Any!We've had a few electric radiators in the past and one of the greatest things about this particular radiator is that it requires absolutely no electrical installation and it just simply plugs in. Which of course means zero installation costs - no need for hardwiring, no "must be installed by a professional" guarantee issues, just a simple plug and two DIY wall brackets to fit. The radiator is also reaaalllly light, so it can be installed on drywall as well, unlike a different water-filled one we've used in the past, which weighed an actual TON.
Digital DisplayThe ecoSave radiators also have an actual digital display, showing you it's exact temperature the radiator is running at. This may sound silly, but previous electric radiators we've used just had settings of "1" "2" and "3" which does not translate very well into knowing what temperature your radiator is actually running at. It also means you can directly control the temperature by actual degrees and you're not limited by just a few different unknown heat levels. And separate to that, I also think the digital display makes it look much more quality as well. Plastic knobs, just don't do it for me.
Even Heat DistributionDespite being electric, it works in pretty much the exact same way as a regular convection radiator. The heat is pushed out the top of the radiator and is designed to give even heat distribution circulating around the room. And it certainly seems to be working - even in a not-so-great insulated conservatory, we noticed a big difference to the temperature of this room compared to adjoining rooms without an electric radiator! So it does actually work as well as it looks pretty ? I should also mention how quiet this is whilst running, it's almost silent - there's no 'boiling' noise or weird buzzing - it just runs without you even noticing!
24/7 ProgrammableA simple and yet brilliant bit of technology - you can pre-set a timetable for the radiator so that it automatically comes on throughout different times of the day. If you work 9-5, you can get it turn on at 4pm and be ready heated for your arrival home, or if it's in a bedroom, you get it to heat up an hour or two before bedtime. If you're forgetful (like me!) this is actually awesome. I can't tell you the amount of times we've come home and been standing in front of (other) electric heaters, waiting for the room to warm up in winter. Well, not anymore! There's also some really handy YouTube tutorials to take you through a step-by-step to set this up. Which I much prefer over length manuals.
WiFi Smart-Home TechnologyMy personal faaaaaavourite thing about this radiator is that it can be controlled right from your phone, in a very similar way to the 'Nest' or the 'Hive' with gas heating. You do need to buy a separate WiFi pack for this to work, but you only need one WiFi pack regardless to how many radiators you have. It turns any ecoSave radiator into a Smart-Home ready radiator that can be controlled from literally anywhere, right from your phone. So, if you're running late getting home, you can delay the start up of the radiator so you're not heating the house unnecessarily; you can check the temperature on-the-go if you have rebellious teens romping up those bills whilst you're away (that was totally me as a teen!); and whatsmore, you can wirelessly control each radiator individually - unlike gas heating where you'd just have a basic one-time thermostat throughout the property. So, if you want your kitchen to be 20 degrees and your living room to be 17 degrees, that is totally do-able and the app allows you to see how all your radiators are running at once. It's freaking brilliant!
The additional WiFi pack isn't the cheapest at £250, but as I said - you only need one regardless of how many radiators you have. It's basically a little box that plugs into your router via an ethernet cable and then connects all your radiators to the network. It's really easy to set up and can really help to save money in the long run.
Easy to Use AppSo with the WiFi pack, you also get an app and this is what it looks like from the home page - you can see we just have the one radiator called 'Conservatory' but if you have more than one radiator, these will also appear here. From this page, you can select each radiator individually to change their temperatures. (I've blocked out our address on this photo, for security reasons.)
There are two main settings to the app - 'Manual' which allows you to control the heating in real-time and you can change the temperature at any point, and 'Auto' which enables you to pre-set the radiator to a 24/7 timetable - just like you can on the digital display, but in a MUCH easier to see/change format. You can also switch between the two settings whenever you like - so if you want to manually control the radiator for an hour, but then revert back to the pre-set timetable, you can totally do that and no settings will be lost.
This photo below shows the radiator on Manual Mode. You can see both the 'current temperature' as well as the 'desired temperature' and this can be changed by simply pressing the + and - buttons. The little symbol above that (the kinda wavy one) pulsates when the radiator is powered and heating, which is when it's using electric. When it's not pulsating - you know the thermostat has kicked in, it's already at its desired temperature and the power will only come back on when the temperature drops by 0.1 of a degree. So you can literally keep tabs on how often it's being powered versus it being in "sleep mode" so to speak. And whatsmore, the app keeps a record of this, so you can visually see how much electric you are using over days, weeks, months and even the year.
The second setting is 'Auto' - which allows you to programme the radiator to a weekly timetable, just the same as on the digital display but in a much much easier to see way. There are 3 different temperatures selections; "frost" "economy" and "comfort" which you select for every hour of the day. These 3 settings each have a different temperature, but you can tailor them to your own requirements. So "economy" for us is 17 degrees, but if you want that to be 20 degrees, you can change it. You can then use these three different temperatures to programme it to a daily timetable, according to whether you want the radiator to be off (frost-protection mode) or at a comfort desired heat. I personally prefer to use this setting over Manual, as it's basically fuss-free and you don't have to think about it. If your working schedule (or when you're away from the home) isn't very predictable then the Manual setting is probably better for you.
100% Energy Efficient
As well as being more eco-friendly than gas heating, these ecoSave radiators are also 100% energy efficient, which means every inch of energy that is used is converted into heat. There is no energy 'lost' so to speak. In very simple terms, that means every single penny spent on powering this radiator is actually turned into heat. (Not like our old back boiler, where 40% of the cost went straight up the flue - true story)
Running CostsOK, so let's get to the nitty gritty - how much does it cost to run? Well, of course this depends on a lot of factors - how much your electric costs per unit - how well insulated the room is, how much heat loss you have within the room (dodgy ill-fitted windows etc) - you get the drift. BUT, I can tell you how much it cost when running per hour, based on our own specific energy prices of 11.4p/kw. At that price, this radiator cost 6p per hour to run. We have a 'background' energy usage of 2p/hr (which is mainly from the fridge) so this 8p showing below accounts for that as well.
HOWEVER, it actually doesn't cost that much - because once the radiator has heated up to the desired temperature, the thermostat kicks in and shuts off the power. So in the reality of one whole single hour, for us in a conservatory setting, it actually cost around 3-4p each hour. Which in even simpler terms, is equivalent in our house to 3/4 lights being left on for the full hour. Cheap as chips.. Literally!
By comparison of other electrical running costs, our electric underfloor heating costs 9p/hr and another comparable electric radiator we've used previously cost 10p/hr - so this is by FAR the cheapest of the lot when it comes to electric heating and I was actually really pleasantly surprised with that. It's genuinely affordable and if you are going to have more than one radiator running at a time, the last thing you want is to be racking up massive bills because they're all costing 10p an hour.
In terms of how long the radiator takes to heat up, we found on average it took between 17-30minutes to raise 2degrees in temperature. Yes, I went all science-geek on this stuff and literally sat there taking readings over the course of a few days! Obviously though, this is just for our conservatory - if you have a more insulated room, it may well take less time, with less heat loss etc. So only take this as a very rough guide!