The Ultimate Guide to Restoration Tools

By Scott Sidler October 16, 2017

restoration toolsFixing 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.

Basic Tools

  • Hammer – I prefer a Stanley 16 oz claw hammer for versatility
  • Multi-Screwdriver – You’ll come across several different size screws so having a multitude of options like this 9-in-1 Irwin screwdriver works great
  • Hand Saw – I like the Japanese tooth saws but anything small enough to carry with you to cut parting bead, stops and other small pieces will work
  • Razor Knife – A sharp utility or razor knife is absolutely necessary for cutting excess paint and caulk
  • Trim Pry Bar – You’ll need slim line pry bar for removing stops and sash without damage
  • Tape Measure – 16′ is more than enough
  • Nail Set – You’re gonna have to set nails when nailing up stops and in lots of other places
  • Nail Puller – I use this for removing or cutting nails when necessary as well as cutting sash rope. It’s invaluable
  • Glazier’s Knife – A stiff putty knife or actual glazier’s knife is a must for glazing your windows
  • Glass Cutter – A simple steel glass cutter will do for minor glass cutting
  • Fletcher PushMate – For setting new glazing points this is the simplest tool to get. If you have a bunch of windows you can upgrade to a point driver
  • Random Orbit Sander – It doesn’t have to be anything fancy but you will definitely be doing some sanding on the jambs, sills and sash so having a decent sander that you can hook up to a vacuum preferably is the best way
  • pro scraper window restoration
    ProScraper

    ProScraper – You need a scraper and while you can buy any old scraper for $15-$25 why not spend just a bit more for one that hooks up to a vacuum to keep the paint chips and dust under control

  • Circ Saw – A circular saw really opens up opportunities for you when it comes to tuning the fit of windows, boarding up, cutting repairs, etc. And battery powered is so much easier to use
  • HEPA Vacuum – HEPA vacuums are expensive but they are the only option when it comes to sanding and scraping lead paint to keep you safe. This is the only real splurge in the basic tools
  • Sash Brush – A basic angled sash brush will get you there, but won’t give a fine finish like a high quality brush

Next Step Tools

  • Purdy Sash Brush – My favorite is a Purdy but you can pick any other high end paint brush and it will make your paint jobs look a million times better than that basic brush
  • Impact Driver & Drill Combo – For boarding up windows and a slew of other reasons this should be the first power tool you get
  • Miter Saw – For cutting molding a power miter saw makes everything faster and finding the right angels much easier
  • Table Saw – Ripping moldings is almost impossible without a decent table saw. A simple jobsite saw with a good fence like Dewalt makes sells for under $300 and works great
  • Carbide Glass Cutter – The inexpensive steel glass cutters where out quickly and can be difficult to cut whereas a carbide glass cutter will last forever and cut perfect every time
  • Multi-Tool – Even an inexpensive multi-tool will give you flexibility to make a variety of repairs and make them better as well as to cut pocket doors in window jambs
  • 18 ga. Nailer – Battery powered is most convenient but nailing stops by hand is for chumps. It’s not 1920 anymore so use the tool your grandpa would have if he could have
  • Heat Gun – For stripping paint on window profiles a basic heat gun can make the work go much faster and look much better. Its variable temp settings let you keep it at a safe temp for lead paint
  • Jiffy Steamer – If you want to start using steam to deglaze and strip your windows buying a JiffySteamer and making a homemade steam box is a great way to go
  • Spring Set – I used nail sets for years before I found this little tool that lets me set nails better and in tighter spaces than a traditional nail set
  • Glazing Point Driver – If you’re glazing more than a few windows the PushMate can be slow and tedious so the logical upgrade would be a point driver which can dramatically speed up the process
  • Crockpot – For cleaning excess paint off old hardware this is a cheap and effective way to go. Just don’t cook your food in it anymore
  • Level – A 4′ level is best for windows to square things off in an out of square world
  • Clamps – Speaking of out of square, a variety of clamps can help you get things where you need them

Pro Level Tools

  • Festool Dust Collector – For the ultimate clean and healthy shop you can’t beat a larger Festool dust collector for their performance, longevity, and warranty service. It’s a lot of money but your health is worth it and it’s especially nice having a tool that just works every time
  • Festool 90 DX Rotex Sander – Can you tell I like Festool products? Their sanders partner perfectly with their dust collectors and you’ll rarely notice a spec of dust when you combine the two plus the flexibility of this sander makes any job possible
  • The Steam Stripper – Marc Bagala at Bagala Window Works makes these amazing stainless steel steam machines that are designed specifically for window sash. They are pricey but if you are doing this as a business it may very well be worth the expense once your business is making money
  • Speedheater Cobra – Infrared heat is faster, safer, and more effective than a regular heat gun and this little tool packs quite a punch
  • Downdraft Table – You can buy one or make your own. These tables keep things clean and are great for stripping sash on to keep all the lead where it belongs, not in your lungs
  • Bench Grinder – For polishing and cleaning hardware a bench grinder works great. You can find either 6″ or 8″ models and attach a bronze wire wheel for the best effect

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.

Basic Tools

  • Hammer – I prefer a 16 oz claw hammer
  • Razor Knife – For cutting felt paper or other underlayment
  • Molding Pry Bar – Get a pry-bar that is a little beefier than the window pry-bar and you’ll have more luck on floors especially since it comes with a cat’s paw on the other side
  • Tape Measure – A 20′ or 25′ tape works better for measuring out whole rooms
  • Nail Set – You’re always setting nails in flooring so make sure you have one of these
  • Nail Puller – As much as you set nails you’ll be pulling them too
  • Random Orbit Sander – For spot refinishing of floors this is the best
  • Hand Scraper – You need a standard steel scraper for scraping finish out of corners as well as a file to sharpen it as the blade dulls. Carbide is usually too tough for floors
  • circular saw for flooring
    Milwaukee Circ Saw

    Circ Saw – To cut out old boards this is a must. Plus trimming new boards to fit starts here

  • Multi-Tool – You can’t make perfectly square cuts without a mutli-tool and wood cutting blades so this is a must for repairing floors
  • Speed Square – You need perfectly straight cuts so a speed square helps you mark appropriately
  • 15 ga. Nailer – You can nail new boards in place using a standard 15 ga. nailer just fine. If it’s battery powered then there is no need for a compressor

Next Step Tools

  • Miter Saw – Make angles and straight cuts faster and cleaner than using the circ saw
  • Table Saw – If you are ripping boards to width this is a millions times easier than using a circ saw
  • Flooring Nailer – For nailing more than a few replacement boards a flooring nailer will be easier on your back and give you better results on your floors
  • Air Compressor – There are no battery powered flooring nailers as of yet so a portable air compressor is a must to accompany your nailer

Pro Level Tools

  • Drum Sander – These are big and expensive but they are necessary to get the bulk of the sanding done when you are sanding full rooms
  • Edger – An edger will help you get all the corners and small spots the drum sander misses
  • Under-cabinet Sander – It’s like an edger but it is designed specifically to fit under cabinets and stairs and other hard to reach places
  • Buffer – You need a commercial buffer or orbital sander to finish off the floors between coats or apply stain to big areas
  • T-bar Applicator – There are several options for spreading your finish on floors and this is a good choice
  • Lambs Wool Applicator – This is another good option for applying finish to floors
  • Backpack Vac – Your floors need to be perfectly clean of any and all dust so a backpack vac works great to clean your way out of the room

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.

Basic Tools

  • 6″ Taping Knife – I use this for scraping a wall smooth and apply spackle or small plaster patches
  • Margin Trowel – This little trowel will help you mix and disburse small batches of plaster
  • 5 ga. Bucket – It’s basic but what else you gonna mix in?
  • Plastering Trowel – Not like a drywall trowel which is slightly concave, a plaster trowel is perfectly flat to allow an even coat of plaster to be applied
  • Drill – A traditional corded drill is necessary for mixing plaster
  • Mixing Paddle – A mixing paddle attached to the drill will help you mix things up thoroughly
  • Sponge – For cleaning up and smoothing out little tweaks to your patches
  • Brush – A tough brush for cleaning your tools and buckets before they turn into limestone
  • Hawk – Some people prefer a tray but for true plaster application a hawk is a better way to go
  • Workbench – Anything you can get to help you reach the ceiling will work, but there are some helpful and easy to use benches you can find

Next Step Tools

  • Stainless Trowel – I hate to see my tools rust and plastering tools are always wet so upgrading to a stainless trowel is great
  • Magnesium Hawk – Magnesium doesn’t rust either and lots of high end hawk are made from this material
  • Plaster Mixer – This tool is designed specifically for mixing plaster and drywall mud and with 2 paddles and it works amazingly
  • Corner Trowel – Get those corners clean and crisp

Pro Level Tools

crows foot brush plaster restoration
Crow’s Foot Brush
  • Plaster Scarifier – For your scratch coat or a variety of other textures
  • Darby – For leveling and screeding large flat walls this helps things be completely level. You can get various sizes to fit your needs
  • Crow’s Foot Brush – Crows foot texture is a popular texture and you can use this brush to dab it on the right way
  • Drywall Gun – To make screwing up plasterboard patches this is much faster than a standard impact driver
  • Baker’s Scaffold – If you are doing a lot of ceilings then a baker’s scaffold will make life much easier
  • Taping Knifes – You’ve got the 6″ and now it’s time to buy all kind of different shapes and sizes to match the complex jobs you get

Painting Restoration Tools

The tools for painting are pretty simple but I wanted to cover some of them in case you need it.

Basic Tools

  • Paint Brush – If you can paint without one please call me and I’ll hire you
  • Paint Key – They’re free and make opening your paint can much easier
  • Drop Cloth – A good canvas drop cloth will last for a long time
  • Roller Cage – Basic or exotic if you are painting walls you need it
  • Extension Pole – It doesn’t have to be expensive but you need an easier way to reach the high spots
  • Random Orbit Sander – Nothing better to smooth out old paint
  • 5-in-1 – For so many random tasks
  • Caulk Gun – Gotta caulk to paint properly

Next Step Tools

  • Good Brushes – Once you are off skid row buy a good quality paint brush and have multiple kinds for different types of paint and size jobs
  • Gravity Fed Sprayer – If you want to start spraying paint then a gravity fed gun and an air compressor is a good place to start
  • Handheld Sprayer – For spraying doors and smaller projects these airless sprayers are great and speed up your progress big time
  • Entry Airless Sprayer – For large projects you can get an entry level airless sprayer for a decent price
  • Mini Rollers – There are bunch of styles and materials to use for everything from fine finish to faux finishing effects

Pro Level Tools

professional grade paint sprayer blue
Commercial Airless Sprayer
  • Commercial Airless Sprayer – These sprayers are about 3-4 times the cost of the entry level stuff but they last much longer and can paint skyscrapers if need be
  • Paint Shield – If you are spraying big projects then a paint shield will keep things cleaner and speed up production
  • Palette – And artist’s palette or something similar will let you mix custom colors for small restoration jobs on murals and for faux finishing
  • Speedheater Original – A great tool for removing large portions of old paint safely from siding and trim.

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