Owning a home is a big responsibility. As with anything of value, you must provide the right type of care and maintenance for your home. If you are a homeowner who likes to do their own repairs and maintenance, or for those simple everyday tasks around the home, having a well-stocked tool kit with essential tools will help you with these tasks. You might be asking yourself, what tools do homeowners need? Here is a list of some basic tools you will need for those typical home repairs, tasks, and maintenance.
What Must-Have Tools should be in every toolbox? A well-stocked toolbox will help you handle most day-to-day repairs to your home. The products listed here can be found at various retail stores, local home centers, and online retailers like Amazon.
The first items to invest in for your tool kit are some basic safety items. This includes eye protection, ear protection, and gloves. A face mask and respirator will be needed for certain projects. If you will have a helper, be sure to have the proper safety items for them too.
Flashlight or headlamp
Battery-powered or rechargeable, that’s your preference. Whatever you chose you will find this to be one of the first tools you grab after your safety gear.
Typically, four screwdrivers are all that most homeowners need. 3/16” and ¼” slotted and #1 & #2 Phillips head will be the most common and are available as a set or can be purchased as needed. Screwdriver sets of up to 10 pieces are available on Amazon.
Pliers are needed to get a good grip on many different items. The most common are 4 types: large tongue-and-groove adjustable pliers, diagonal-cutting or wire cutter pliers, wire strippers, long-nose or needle-nose pliers, and the smaller slip-joint pliers.
A retractable tape measure will be used to measure the size of rooms and walls to determine the square footage for paint purchase, lineal feet of lumber needed for a project, the size of lumber and materials, and a host of other home improvement needs. Various lengths of tape measures are available; the most common for homeowners is a 25-foot tape measure.
A 16-ounce smooth-faced, fiberglass handle, angled claw hammer has the ability for driving nails into wood, or the fastener to hang that picture frame or shelf. The angled claw is useful for pulling out nails.
A utility knife is useful for many tasks, opening boxes, sharpening pencils, scribing drywall, marking mortises, shaving wood, etc. Get a utility knife with a comfortable ergonomic handle and a sturdy locking blade. Most come with some replacement blades, but you should purchase extra to have on hand.
Use for spreading and scraping various materials; spread drywall compound to patch a small hole, scrape off paint or wallpaper, remove glue, etc. A flexible two-inch blade is typical, and other widths are available.
Use for cutting lumber, molding, or other wood items. A comfortable ergonomic handle, short blade, 14” with 11 or 12 TPI (teeth per inch) is all that is needed for typical home maintenance projects.
Tighten plumbing connections, nuts, and bolts, and much more. A four-piece set of adjustable wrenches will include adjustable wrenches with 6, 8, 10, and 12-inch handles.
Toolbox or tool storage bag
With all these tools, you need a handy place to store them and keep them safe. Choose from a toolbox with a handle, a zipper bag with a handle and/or strap, or the bucket liner for a 5-gallon bucket. Size depends on the number of tools you have and your own preference. When selecting the tool storage type and size, keep in mind you will most likely be adding more tools to your collection over time. What works today might not be large enough next year.
A step ladder is a type of ladder used in construction, maintenance, and repair work. Step ladders are typically made of wood or metal (usually aluminum) with three to six steps, although some models have as many as 10. Most are foldable for easy storage. Step ladders come in various lengths.
Other Essential Tools to add later
As your skills develop or you decide to tackle more complex projects, additional tools will be needed. Below is a list of some more tools to add to your tool collection.
Power Drill & drill bits
A power drill is a versatile tool that can be used to drill holes as well as drive and remove screws. Corded drill or cordless drill? Battery-powered cordless drills are the best value, most portable, and most available. The most common drills will handle bits up to 3/8”. The battery size should depend on any other battery-powered tools you will purchase so the batteries can be interchangeable. Drill bits should be the type for metal and wood. Twist drill bit sets are the best buy and should range in size from 1/16” up to at least 3/8”.
Like the drill, the impact driver can be used to drive screws with various types of heads, but with an adapter for sockets can fasten nuts and bolts. Many times, manufacturers offer the power drill and impact driver as a set and can use the same battery
This is useful for finding studs when you need to anchor that heavy shelf or picture frame into something solid, and not just drywall. The technology today allows options to scan at different depths to not only find the stud but if plumbing pipes or electrical wires are in the location.
A socket set with a ratcheting handle speeds up the assembly for anything held together with nuts and bolts. The kit should include sockets of different sizes, including American and metric, and an extension bar, adapter, and carrying case.
A level is needed for hanging pictures, installing cabinets, scribing a line, or laying a patio. Various lengths of 1’ torpedo level, 2’, 4’, and 6’ are available. Depending on your project, the longer the level the more accurate the job will be.
The extension ladder is used for reaching high places such as attics and roofs. Ladders come in various heights and styles. Most ladders are designed to be portable so they can be moved easily from one area to another.
Laser Leveling Systems
The Laser Level is a more advanced device that creates plumb and level lines. It can be used to check for levelness, measure changes in height, and determine whether an object is at the correct height. A typical laser level emits visible red light that creates a visible line where the surface is plumb or level.
Look for a battery-powered circular saw that can use the same battery as your other cordless tools. Circular saws use a round blade for making straight cuts, but many can make bevel cuts as well. These saws are typically used to cut wood; however, blades are available to cut other types of materials. Circular saws with blade sizes from 4.5” up to 7.25” are available. The size of the saw and blade you select should depend on the size of material you will typically be cutting. The larger saw blade will cut reliable bevel cuts versus the smaller blade sizes.
A miter saw or miter box is a type of power tool used to cut and shape wood, crown molding, metal, plastic, plasterboard, glass, tile, stone, etc. It consists of an adjustable table with circular blades that rotate around a vertical axis. Miter saws are usually equipped with a fence that guides the user while he or she makes precise cuts. Some miter saws also feature a sliding guide rail which helps align the workpiece precisely. Size ranges from 10" to a 12" blade.
A hammer drill is a power tool used to drive fasteners, such as screws or nails. It consists of a chuck that holds the bit and a handle with an electric motor. Hammer drills are often used for drilling into hard materials like concrete, brick, tile, or rock.
The Random-Orbit Sander is a handheld vibrating sanding tool. The Random-Orbit Sander can be used for all kinds of surfaces: wood, plastics, metals, ceramics, leather, paper, textiles, rubber, paint, wallpaper, and even concrete.
Multifunction Oscillating Tool (MFT)
The multifunction oscillating tool (MFT) or Multi-Tool, is a tool that can sand, cut, slice, and grind with easy-to-control, back-and-forth rapid oscillations. This oscillating tool kit typically comes with multiple blades and sanding pads and can be used on various materials. Depending on the type of blade installed, a multi-tool can cut into wood, metal, plastic, and other materials. The MFT can be powered by either air pressure or electric power, and it may have a variable speed motor. It is commonly used in construction, maintenance, repair work, carpentry, and home improvement
Where and what to buy
The common tools discussed here are available at a wide variety of stores such as Home Depot, Lowes, Amazon, and even Walmart in some cases. Caution - do not buy the cheapest thing around just because it's cheap. You get what you pay for. You most likely do not need the professional version.
Should I buy a fully stocked tool kit?
Some of the pre-assembled tools kits can look tempting at first. Give this some serious thought and thoroughly review the list of contents in the kit. We have found that many of these kits contain items you may never use. This depends on the kits and what the buyer is looking for. Some basic kits with the basic tools listed above may be ok. Again review the kit's contents thoroughly before purchasing.
New to home improvement or not familiar with construction techniques or repairs? You don't have to own a home or plan to do any remodel projects to need a basic home toolkit. Anyone who intends to hang a picture, tighten cabinet hardware, put up a shelf, or change out a light bulb needs a selection of entry-level hand tools. Even a college student in a dorm room needs tools.
If you already have a basic toolkit and you think your current tools aren't cutting it, you probably do not have any need for a better version of a pre-assembled kit. The next step for you is to begin investing in better tools, and we have suggestions listed above on what tools to get next if you're ready to take on or plan to do bigger projects.
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