DIY Building Tools & Materials

To undertake most of the projects in this section you will need most of the tools in your basic tool kit, as well as a few more specialised ones, many of which can be hired from your local tool hire shop, or trade centre.

  • Measuring and marking accurately always play a vital role in DIY. When building, particularly outdoors due to the scale of most projects, large measures are inevitable. A builder’s square is useful for this type of DIY work. Always use the same measuring tool throughout and write measurements down clearly. Then double check everything by measuring again.
  • To get even levels for bricklaying, concrete laying and for putting up fence posts you’ll need a spirit level, while, to make sure everything is in a straight vertical line, use some string to make builder’s lines.
  • Some outdoor DIY projects such as building a carport or garage, a garden wall or laying a paved area such as a patio or path will require you to do a certain amount of excavating. You can break up the ground or existing paved areas with a pick axe or sledgehammer, or you could hire a pnematic drill – and even an operator too – to do it for you. Don’t forget that you’ll have to make arrangements to dispose of the waste material when you’ve finished. Skips and half skips can be hired, and the firm will deliver and pick up the skips when it’s convenient for you. This can often be more practical than risking breaking the suspension on your car trying to do multiple trips to the local dump.
  • Other specialised equipment that can be hired includes brick cutters (or you can cut them yourself with a bolster and club hammer), levelling machines for tamping down blocks and bricks on paths and driveways, heavy rollers for compacting the ground, and circular saws for cutting through paving slabs.
  • While ready-mixed cement is good for small jobs, it’s too expensive to use for extensiv building work. To mix your own, you will need: two 9-litre buckets (keep one for cement only); a firm, level base for mixing on (a piece of 19 or 25mm/1 in plywood is ideal); and two shovels, one for handling the cement and the other for sand, aggregate and mixing. You could hire a mini cement mixer, if you like. You’ll also need some stiff bristled brooms for finishing the surface of concrete paths, and also to tidy up the areas after you’ve finished.
  • For brickwork you’ll need a hawk, a brick-laying trowel and a pointing trowel. For a perfect professional finish, you could use a Frenchman, which is simply a metal strip bent and filed to a point at one end and used to skim off excess mortar and leave a neat finish. You can make your own ‘dressing tool’ from a piece of iron rod about 10mm (2/5in) in diameter.

Safety Tips

  • Where high-speed drilling and cutting are required, it is vital to wear goggles to protect your eyes and a dust mask to stop you breathing in fine particles. If you are operating power tools for a long time, you should use a pair of ear protectors as well.
  • Any power tools used outdoors should be plugged into an RCD adaptor or RCD socket outlet.
  • Seek advice from your local authority on the safe disposal of waste materials. On no account should paints, primers, solvents or any other chemicals be discharged into drains or water courses.
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