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Painter and Decorator

Internal painting

Congratulations on making that decision to overhaul the colour scheme inside your home! There’s something fresh and exciting about giving the go-ahead for a whole new look; it feels a bit like moving house! Of course, the obvious question is: What next? The best option is to contact James the Decorator if you want the job finished properly. Our decorating service will give your room a professional touch.

If you’re a brave soul and want to try painting/decorating yourself [gulp] – here are some tips. It’s a bit more complicated than it seems. So do make sure you do homework before picking up a paintbrush! Design studies show there are multi-factors involved when it comes to achieving a complete turnaround in the ‘look’ of a room. Pointers include the location of the room, light levels, furniture style, use of room, aesthetic values of the inhabitants – it’s all important. Fine tuning the paintwork is key. If it’s a small room, gloss paint gives a needed spacious feel because of the light reflection it gives. To elevate such a room, consider including vertical stripes on the walls. On the other hand, larger rooms with high ceilings can be controlled with a dark, matte paint. Styles are forever changing but it’s important that you decide on your own taste. These days, people tend to go for subdued and subtle paints to reach a level of sophistication. That’s why choosing the appropriate paint, to complement the surface to be painted, is of major importance.

Paint varieties are marvellous – there’s so much choice! There’s easy-to-use latex (water-based) paints which are odourless; alkyd (oil-based) paints known to be durable and washable; quick-drying enamel; and very-fast drying and endurable epoxy paint. There are also primers for sealing bare surfaces and textured paint, which adds texture to plaster surfaces. An undercoat is a thick, usually opaque paint for filling in small cracks. Special paints should also be considered such as milk paint for a real country feel or metallic paints, which have become more popular.

Preparation is essential – Take out any furniture so that it is not damaged by drying paint. That’s a bit of a hassle but worth it in the long-run. Also make sure that all your floors are completely covered with drop cloths and solidly put up masking tape around all windows. Here’s how to calculate the amount of paint needed: Note the total area figure to be painted. Then divide that estimation by the figure given on the paint can, covering 1 sqm. They’re simple figures, which should provide a clear indication of the litres of paint required to do the job well.

Get the walls ready too – This can take time but you want it done well. Fill in cracks, discard old plaster work and clean-up the surfaces. Replacement plaster may be needed and that takes up to five weeks to dry. It takes patience to be a painter and decorator! You definitely need to be sure the walls are free of damp before the real painting is started in your home.

  • Handy tip – look out for dust segments falling into the paint can!

Painting technique – Check the manufacturer’s instructions but different paints have varying drying times. Dip a third of a brush into the paint can and get rid of excess paint by dabbing it against the can’s inside walls. Don’t scrape the brush though. Beware too of putting too much paint on the brush. Brushing techniques vary but as a general rule brush swiftly across in vertical lines, blending together into solid layers of paint. Finish with light, vertical strokes before moving onto the next section. Using a roller can speed up the process! A roller is also essential when dealing with a ceiling.

TIP: Researching how to paint a room will benefit the homeowner in the long run, giving a paint effect which lasts. If in doubt, call James the Decorator!

External Painting

Painting the exterior walls of a home means tackling a large surface. It’s going to be a long job and you’ll need enough paint to get it done all at once. The effect is also more professional that way and pleasing to the eye.

Don’t start until you’ve researched the material requiring paint work. There are different options like metal primers and adapted masonry paint. The golden rule is that paint type used must complement the surface completely. If you’re not sure, source advice from the shop where you purchase the paint. Even better – employ the services of James the decorator, giving you affordability and resulting in a professional look!

Do the figures to get the right quantity of paint for the surface to be covered. Always use a recommended, high quality brand if possible. Also – scrutinise the colours because you want to be sure they fit in entirely with your design plan.

To prepare – check the weather forecast! If it’s going to rain, chose another date for painting. Don’t let anything distract you once you start. You want to paint from morning to early evening to do the work properly – stock up on the tea and biscuits beforehand!

Take note to clean the walls before painting. That’s crucial if they’ve been previously painted. Don’t start painting until the walls are dry – it’s worth the delay. A tip is to use wire brushes to scrub and smooth surfaces. A fungicidal cleaner and filler are ideal for repairing any cracks. Bare surfaces benefit from the use of a masonry paint primer, which allows for air circulation in the walls.

Never rush painting, do it one surface at a time. Begin at the higher points and work your way down. If you need scaffolding, splash out [no pun intended] and hire some for the large surfaces. Keep safety as your priority at all times. Remember to paint around windows earlier in the project so they can be dry enough to close when night falls and it is colder. It’s sensible to use heavy bitumen paint for damp, when using it on metal gutters and particularly the inside. For nearby areas, brackets and down pipes, use a weatherproof undercoat and gloss and on the gutter’s exterior too. Exposed areas of metal all benefit from metal primers. In comparison, plastic gutters just need a couple of coatings of gloss paint.

Wooden surfaces need a hard-wearing gloss paint. If the previous paint is flaking, that’s important but don’t strip the old paint but smooth it and clean before you apply the new paint.

Also, take care of the exterior walls once the work is completed. Do all your homework so that every aspect is done properly. Short term pain, long term gain! If you cut corners, it will cost you more in the long run.

Tip: DON’T paint bricks – it stops them breathing. A blaster cleaner can get rid of any large areas of painted brickwork. If in doubt, ask James the Decorator.

Plaster Work

Plaster is used as a material covering for walls and ceilings. It seems easier than it is to complete plaster work to the highest form of standards and if, in fact, complicated. For peace of mind, call in the James the decorator team, who have the experience to complete the project and meet the homeowner’s needs. Even so, if you do want to try it, below you will find some top tips to help you out.

There are two methods to use plaster – [1] Backing plaster, which includes Gypsum Hardwall or bonding costs. Apply up to 11 mm thick. You may have heard of Render, sand and cement mixed, but that is less used than it once was. [2] Finish plaster which consists of Gypsum Rock. It requires careful application in preparation for the surface to be decorated.

People have used plaster and mouldings as decorations inside homes throughout history. And for a very simple read on – it makes the room look interesting and especially so when there are artistic flourishes such as mock leaves or flowers. This form of decoration can also be tailor made to suit the homeowner’s design ideas. It’s important to be clear about those ideas and more cost effective too. Once the labour begins, it’s tricky to make changes! However, here are some examples of plaster decoration: cornice, ceiling centres such as rose, columns, arches, dado rails, moulting pillars and brick walls. The possibilities in terms of decorative effect are limitless.

Put time into researching the plaster work you want, with the technique needed, alongside the manufacturer’s instructions. General ideas include trying a little area first, to spark your confidence. Always clean up as you go. It makes the whole job so much easier to do! Firstly, check the ceiling or wall are dry and clean.

Research the plastering technique according to the style of plaster work you want and the manufacturer’s instructions. Here is the general idea: Try a smaller area first to gain your confidence. The golden rule is: clean up as you go. It makes the workload easier! Make sure the wall or ceiling are clean and dry. Blend the plaster mixture with equal parts of water and plaster, stirring with a stick. Add the plaster to the water, not water to plaster. Knead the mixture as though making bread, on a board and taking care to check it is a thick consistency. Get some wooden battens and nail them onto the wall, to act for guidance. Then use a trowel to play the plaster on the wall. Spread this mixture across that wall section. You want a proper coating which also sticks to the surface being applied. Next, take a wet, clean brush and clean off any extra plaster at the edges. If you want to apply further coats, just scratch the first coat’s surface as it dries, keying it in. Use a clean float to smooth it down after 20 minutes. Then polish the last layer with clean water, creating a silky smooth look with the help of a brush.

Tip: Dry lining is an excellent method for achieving a plaster work effect without using the two-coat plaster method. Plasterboard, which is ready-made, is simply applied to a surface. If you are not sure of plaster options – why not call James the decorator and ask for advice?


Hanging up wallpaper can seem like a slapstick silent comedy – you put it on with paste, and it falls down. Then you paste up the next section and it’s not in line with the previous one. Then you run out of paper. The phone rings. The step ladder cracks and breaks when you put your foot on it. Your toddler appears and announces she has been to the loo… on your bed. The dog wanders in and seems to smile as he knocks over everything. You try to concentrate on wallpapering again but realise you’ve run out of paste. . . .

Actually, that’s how it used to be with wallpaper. Not any more! There’s been a techno revolution in the world of wallpaper. Ready-pasted wallpaper, for example, makes the work a great deal easier. You just need the correct equipment and the right can-do attitude to finish the task. If you’re not confident – James the decorator can help. Our rates are affordable and we’ve been pasting wallpapers onto walls on behalf of householders for countless years – so, if you want a flawless job, please do get in touch.

If you still want to try wallpapering yourself – here are some tips:-

Wallpaper is intriguing in that it can dominate the optical field in any room and that works to your advantage if you get it right. Any ugly features (e.g. that awful painting given by your great-aunt, which you can’t bin, in case she visits) won’t be prominent. As a general rule, dark colours and loaded patterns make a room smaller but light varieties with less patterns make it larger. Vertical strips can also make the ceiling look higher. Make sure you buy all the wallpaper needed in advance.  You can’t guarantee the same type will be there if you go back to the shop and then you’d have two different colours.

Tip: Never buy cheap wallpaper. It will cost you more in the long run because cheap paper is more likely to tear. It’s worth spending to get a sturdy wallpaper which will last you for longer. 

Rolls of wallpaper are normally 7.4 m long and 45 cm wide.

Popular choices on the market:-

Hand block printed: Great for the high quality of colours and variety of designs but it is expensive

Foamed polyethylene: A soft, light paper, which is easy to hang

Wood chip: This is typically used for painting. it is off-white and cheaper but difficult to remove

Lining: This is the basic wallpaper normally used before painting

Embossed: Tough and normally with a washable surface, this is hard wearing and available in lovely designs

Machine printed: Easily accessible to buy and in numerous styles, it is also cheaper than hand blocked paper

Vinyl: The typical wallpaper on the market which is the most accessible. There is a great range of designs. It’s easy to hang and remove because the paper is covered with waterproof vinyl, which can be washed.

Equipment for wallpapering: A plastic bucket, sponge, plant mister to soak paper; wallpaper steamer; scraper; wallpaper scorer; size mix recommended by the paper manufacturer; a wooden stick to mix sizing; a large pasting brush; a clean-up sponge and plenty of rubbish bags. Don’t forget the tea and plenty of biscuits!

The preparations for wallpapering are similar to painting. Move or cover any furniture and clean the walls in the same manner. If needed, use a wallpaper steamer to get rid of old paper which has become stuck on the wall. Use a plastic sheet to protect the floor and a drop cloth to prevent any slips – keep safe! Be very aware of electrical points because you will use a lot of water.

Post-cleaning, size the wall to support the hanging of the paper. It will reduce the plaster wall’s absorbency rate. Lining paper helps to smooth over cracks and it’s also perfect for decorative paper.

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when hanging the paper. When you begin, hand from the top downwards and brush into position before trimming with scissors. Make sure the meeting points fit entirely between the ceiling and room. It’s likely there will be an overlap with the corners.

It’s a brave step, wallpapering by yourself. If you’re not sure – call on the very affordable services of James the decorator to give you peace of mind.

Tip: If you’re not sure where to start – don’t wallpaper a big room first! Focus instead on a small project, a little space or room to paper over. Then you will build your confidence.

Artex Removal

Artex is actually a trade name of a registered firm (Artex Ltd), which is typically used to describe a range of sturdy plaster-style paints. They are used often to give decorative flourishes to ceilings and walls.

There was an issue with white asbestos which was used in a powdered form in Artex material until 1984. It was discovered there was a link with this form of asbestos and lung disease and cancer. – A fact which wasn’t known at the time.

This presents the owner of an older home with a question. What can you do if a previous occupant used the older pre-1984 form of Artex? Leaving it alone is believed to be safe but removing/scraping the substance can create the lethal white asbestos powder.

You may still want to remove Artex from your home. James the decorator strongly suggests you do not attempt this work yourself. It can be too dangerous. Give us a call and we can talk the matter through with you. James can use special products to turn the material into a mulch which is easier to scrape off. These products are very powerful and must only be used by professionals.

Tip: The subject of Artex can be very worrying for home owners. Give James the decorator a call and receive some free advice!


If you complete a wallpapering or painting project – well done! It’s not easy. Imagine though sitting down after all the work is completed. And you find yourself admiring your new-look walls. But then… the wooden window frames and doors. Did you remember to do something about them?

Don’t wallpaper or paint them! The technique to employ for the wood is varnishing. It’s perfect for bringing out the wood’s natural grain for that rustic effect. But the polished effect protects the surfaces from atmospheric harm or sticky fingers. You can find varnish in various brown shades, but other colours too and also in clear forms. If you like to go into detail about your design, you can find gloss, satin and matte finishes. Acrylic (water-based) varnish is popular but doesn’t give a yellow effect unlike oil varnish. If you want a hard wearing varnish, look out for products with Teflon.

James the decorator employs precise skills when it comes to varnishing. Call us today to talk through your design project and we can arrange a time convenient for you, to get the job completed.

Here are tips to varnish yourself. Get a brush and lightly dab it, brushing the varnish onto the surface. To achieve a smooth effect, use several coats but rub down with sandpaper in between each layer. Practise with a spare piece of wood before you start, if that builds your confidence. You can find wonderful colours with water-based stains, which can be wiped on with cloth (use a brush with mouldings). Mellow effects can be achieve with oiling, but that darkens the wood. Also bear in mind that oil doesn’t protect against dirt. Wax creates a glossier look than oil but also doesn’t protect the wood. It’s not waterproof either unless it has been previously treated with a sealant.

Tip: Make it easier varnishing a door – take the door down first! Place it on top of a clean sheet on a clean floor. You’ll find this helps when it comes to brushing smoothly without dripping.


Let’s be frank – installing a wooden floor is difficult. James the decorator is experienced in this type of installation work, which will complement your interior design plans. Preparation is essential if you want to do this yourself. Purchase wooden slats a couple of weeks beforehand and store them well so that the wood will be completely dried out. Get rid of any old flooring and clean-up the sub floor. Be sure there is no moisture and be particularly wary of concrete sub floors – check the moisture levels. You’ll need a plywood base for wooden sub floors, before the covering is installed. Apply the appropriate floor adhesive (ask for advice from the shop) and spread it entirely over the space to be covered.

Now – start with the longest wall. Stack the wood slats one-at-a-time right onto the adhesive. Press down hard and squarely! Carry on doing this, working steadily. Take care to ensure the sides of the slats fit tightly together. Remove (fast!) any excess glue before it dries. You’ll need an expansion gap of about 10 mm around the room perimeter. Measure using the spacer, which should be included in your installation equipment. A similar gap will also be needed between rooms, in doorways. You can fix a skirting board over any gaps once the slats are installed. After the work is done, wait for 12 hours then walk around the room on your new floor. Make sure the glue has stuck down the wood properly.

If you want to nail rather than glue the wood – use a nail gun. It will get through most wooden sub floors except chipboard. If you’re not sure, lay down plywood. Also bear in mind there are different flooring options such as laminate, cork and vinyl. Take time to identify the design you want and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions before installation.

Tip: Parquet flooring should be installed from the centre of the room, not the longest wall. You can build up an interesting pattern but buy more than wood than specified in case of mistakes!

If you decorate your home, you may want to change an existing wooden floor. Don’t paint over wooden floor boards. Hire a sanding machine instead and apply varnish once the floor is clean. This also helps bring old wood back to life. Old pine floors can seem dark but varnishing gives them a yellow tinge. Oil-based types take a few days to dry. Acrylic (water) types can be re-coated after a couple of hours. Use a special floor brand though and be sure it complements existing floor coatings. For application, start from the corner, two floor boards at a time. Allow the first coat to dry before further applications. If the room is well-used, allow for five coats.

Staining: Stains are available in a wide variety of shades and colours. They can really suit nearby decorations and in subtle ways. All just by changing the colour of wood. For a dramatic feel, use a commercial stain. Why not make your own stain? Mix up a clear sealer with artist’s colour, with a thinner diluted by a third. Try it on a piece of spare wood first. Then use a rag for the real application, doing it at a board at a time and don’t rush the work. Protect the stains with a sealer.

Bleaching: This is ideal for that rustic, Old Scandinavian look. A chemical wood bleach is ideal, with acid or alkali based. Keep safe though with protective clothing, a mask and proper ventilation. For a simple method – just rub white paint into the wood.

Liming: People used to do liming to get rid of wood bugs. But they noticed it looked good too as a decorative effect. First of all, dampen the wood, then use a wire brush to rub the surface. You can then apply a liming paste over the area. Rub the paste after it has dried. Steel wool is ideal. You’ll see that the wood grain is left limed. For any excess powder, use a slightly damp sponge and then apply a sealant such as varnish.

Tip: Contact James the Decorator to run through your options. The process is simple but labour-intensive. Ask for an affordable quote for the work to be properly completed.

Fence work

Fences are not only decorative but important for safety around the home, especially for children and older folk. There can be an issue with rot though if the fence is not protected properly. James the decorator can treat your fence at a cost effective price.

If you still want to try yourself, here are some tips. It’s possible that no treatment is needed for new hardwood or pressure-treated softwood. Just let this type of wood weather away naturally in its normal lifespan. Untreated softwoods, however, do need a wood preservative. Firstly, use a fungicidal wash and clean the fence to discard any algae or lichen. The original appearance of the fence can be safeguarded via varnish, oil or paint once per year. Also try using a remover to discard flaking paint or varnish. It will take it back to the bare wood. You can sand down hardwood such as teak and oil it (unless it is left to that natural, authentic effect).

Tip: There are different approaches to fence treatments – you’ll find one expert saying always wash with water first and another will tell you that’s not right. James the decorator has been treating fences for years. . . so call James the Decorator for a friendly chat today.


Everyone has the ideal picture of summer – sitting outside and enjoying drinks and a barbecue, using recliner chairs on sturdy decking. It’s horrible to discover the decking is rotten or affected by algae, lichen, or mould. That happens if the decking wood hasn’t been treated properly in advance.

The good news is that the issue can be resolved. Ask James the decorator for a quote to treat your decking wood so that you can enjoy your decking in the spring and summer.

Treating decking is simple but does require a lot of work. Decking cleaner and a scraper usually suffice. Brush away loose debris and read the manufacturer’s instructions before starting work. A stiff brush will be ideal to scrub after the cleaner has been put on and let it stand, according to the instructions given. It’s best for the process to be repeated each autumn and spring. Use a hose and clear water to rinse it off and then leave the decking for a further two days before a protector is applied. You can also use the restorer if the decking looks a but weathered. Just be sure to clean off old substance first.

There are plenty of protectors, stains and oils on the market. If you are not sure which product suits your decking, ask James the decorator!

Tip: Put a ‘check decking’ note in your diary so that you can be sure the condition is checked on a regular basis.


Decorating takes a lot of time and trouble. There’s a lot to plan and think about, and preparation is always key. Rooms need proper refreshing to make them comfortable for living. A decorative trick which will help is called coving. It was known even back in Victorian and Georgia times. So… what is coving? Coving is a decorative mould attached with a special glue between walls in a room and the top edges of ceilings. It’s made of gypsum plaster which has been encase in white paper lining. The beauty of coving is that it’s perfect for hiding any cracks between the wall joints and ceiling.

Smaller coving can be achieved by the householder but larger work does require specialist skill, and especially so when working upon ceilings which are uneven or for mitring corners.

James the decorator offers specialised help with coving. We can talk through the style you desire and arrange for a convenient time to carry out the work professionally and perfectly.  

There are three types* of popular coving:-

Plaster – costs more but the decorative effect is wonderful. This type of coving is usually white with a texture which is smooth. It’s heavy, however, and requires not just glue and priming before painting, but also screws.

Duropolymer – is arguably the latest fashion in coving: affordable, light, no priming required and it is available in a wide range of mouldings.

Polystyrene – the plus side is that it’s cheap and light in weight. It is also fragile and porous so could need replacing in parts at some point. Paint is also needed for this type of coving

*Wood coving is rarely used in the current fashions but is still an option. Ask for details.

Tip: The type of covering will depend on the size of the room. Larger rooms need expansive designs but smaller rooms benefit from narrow coving. Don’t forget to buy a mitre box – they make the work a lot easier!

Coving is available in 3 m lengths so add an extra five per cent to your calculations. Mark out the area which needs coving, a short piece of coving can be helpful as a realistic template. Discard old wall paper and paint flakes. Start at the longest wall, in the corner. Cut the end of coving at a 45 degree angle and smoothen rough spots via sanding. Put the coving glue on the back of the first section and carefully place it between the marked-out lines. Don’t be afraid to assert a little pressure so that the glue does its job. A slightly damp sponge can clean off any runaway glue. Keep repeating this installation process right around the room, part by part. As above, remember to use screws for plaster coving.

DIY work isn’t to everybody’s taste. And even a die-hard amateur can find coving a bit daunting. James the decorator offers an affordable coving service for households wanting to change their interior design. Call us today for a quote.


Painting and Decorating Services in Tunbridge Wells and throughout the South East