Outdoor DIY Tools & Materials

To undertake the projects in this section you will need most of the tools in your basic tool kit, as well as a few more specialized ones, some of which can be hired.

  • Measuring and marking accurately always play a vital role in DIY. Outdoors, often because of 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 levels even for bricklaying, concrete laying and for erecting 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 shed, a carport or garage, a garden wall, laying a paved area such as a patio or path, or erecting fences 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 power tool – 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.
  • Other specialized 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 extensively. 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 brooms, both for finishing the surface of concrete paths and 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. Make your own ‘dressing tool’ from a piece of iron rod about 10mm (2/5in) in diameter.
  • Some types of fence posts can be erected using metal spikes; in other instances, a hole has to be dug or drilled with an auger, into which the post is placed and then cemented or concreted into position. Augers are basically large corkscrews. You can hire hand-operated ones that you twist into the ground by sheer arm strength alone, but if your ground is very hard, or you have a large number of holes to drill, then it’s worth hiring a power-driven auger. Some companies hire out such machinery with the option of hiring someone to operate the machinery as well. If you decide on this, you will have to prepare your site in advance, clearly marking the positions where you want the drilled holes.
  • Once erected, fences and other wooden structures outdoors need to be treated with timber preservatives to extend their life. These come in a range of colours and finishes that you can co-ordinate with your house or garden scheme.

Outdoor DIY Toolbox

  1. Rubber-headed mallet
  2. Masonry bits
  3. Phillips screwdriver
  4. Hammer
  5. Mallet
  6. Protective gloves
  7. Bricklayer’s trowel
  8. Saw
  9. Circular saw
  10. Builder’s square
  11. Spirit level
  12. Pick axe
  13. Sledgehammer
  14. Brick cutters
  15. Hawk
  16. Frenchman
  17. Auger

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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