English words and phrases for renovating, decorating and cleaning your house

Many people in the UK like renovating or “doing up” their houses to keep up with fashions and trends. Here are some useful English words and phrases to describe this.


give something a lick / a coat of paint = paint walls

hang / put up wallpaper = to attach new paper to the walls

fit / put up blinds or curtains = cover the windows either with curtains (fabric hanging across the window) or blinds (strips of plastic or fabric that cover the window)

throw out / replace the old light fittings = change the lights

go for a (name of fashion) effect = recreate a particular look

put the finishing touches to = complete the decoration with the final details


have an extension = build on to the existing house to provide more rooms

put in a conservatory / a fitted kitchen / a new bathroom = to install a conservatory (room between the back of the house and the garden), a fitted kitchen (where the units are connected, rather than being single pieces) or a new bathroom

convert the loft (have a loft conversion) = convert the attic into a liveable room

turn the dining room into a spare bedroom = convert a room into one with a different purpose

knock down a wall = demolish a wall

knock through from the kitchen = demolish the wall from the kitchen into another room

build a patio = build a paved area around part or the whole of the house

rewire the house = put in new electrical wiring

install central heating / solar panels = put in a new heating system

re-plaster the ceiling = take off the old plaster (covering the bricks) and replace it with new

re-tile the bathroom = put new tiles on the floor and walls

Other useful expressions

diy = Do it Yourself (doing maintenance and building works in your house)

be handy around the house = to be practical and able to do jobs in the house

draw up plans = to make technical plans before you do building or renovation work

get planning / building permission = to get authorisation from the town hall to do work on your house

Cleaning vocabulary

Here are some useful words and phrases to talk about cleaning your house.

Everyday / weekly cleaning

Tidy up your house, by putting away things in their right places. Use a soft, dry cloth (a duster) to remove the dust from furniture. Then use the vacuum cleaner (or hoover) to hoover the floors, rugs and carpets. Use different hoover attachments for different types of hoovering (i.e. one for the floors, another for the furniture, etc.)

If you have wooden or tiled floors, you can also sweep these with a broom. For smaller areas, use a dustpan and brush to sweep up dirt, dust, or broken glass, for example.

Every so often, you can clean the floors with water. For this, you can use a long-handled mop and bucket (for the water.) If you have wooden floors, you can also wax them (a sort of protective liquid that will make them shine.)

If a surface is particularly dirty, you might have to scrub it with a scrubbing brush (a wooden brush with stiff bristles) or scour it (with a tough scouring cloth) to get rid of the marks or stains.

Disinfect the toilet with toilet duck (a special cleaning product that contains bleach.)

Use window cleaner to clean your windows, and oven cleaner to clean your oven. Use furniture polish (a type of wax) to clean and protect wooden furniture.


Many people spring clean their houses When winter seems to be finally over. Spring-cleaning is a thorough clean, from top to bottom! Here are some words to describe this:

Polish your silver (such as silver cutlery) with silver polish.

Declutter = get rid of extra things you don’t need.

Wash soft furnishings (take down the curtains, or take off furniture covers).

Touch up the paintwork (paint the places where the paint has come off, or where there are dirty marks.)

Get into all the corners of your house, and clean them thoroughly – i.e. behind heavy furniture where you wouldn’t normally clean.

Get rid of any mould on the walls, or on bathroom tiles, for example.

Clean high up or difficult areas to reach. Remove cobwebs (spiders’ nests.)