Putting together your first toolkit is virtually a rite of passage, but it’s also a pretty smart way to cut back on costs around the home. With the right tool for the job, many small repairs can be handled with aplomb, saving you money on contractors.
Most people acquire their tools piecemeal, adding a wrench or a screwdriver as life calls for it. But there are a couple of problems with this approach. First, it’s not going to ensure that you have what you need on hand to make a quick emergency adjustment. And it’s certainly not fun to have to run to the home improvement store every time you want to start a project. Of course, on the other hand, you don’t necessarily need to buy out the Home Depot, either. Some of your more specialized tools you can get as-needed for projects—that way, you won’t spend a wad of cash on products you may or may not ever need.
Either way, there’s no denying that a few essentials can come in handy to manage your basic repairs and keep your home in working order. Here are nine of our favorites to add to your beginner’s toolbox.
A Screwdriver Set
Every household should have a selection of flat- and Phillips-head screwdrivers on hand. These useful tools can help you with a range of jobs, like removing an outlet cover or prying a can of paint open. So if you don’t have a couple lying around, you should really make the investment. Kits typically include several screwdrivers in different sizes, or you can opt for a multipurpose screwdriver with interchangeable heads. The bits in these can swapped out on a single handle, keeping storage at a minimum. Whatever you do, don’t go cheap. It’s worth the extra expense to not have a tool break on you at a pivotal moment. Look for brands that have extended warranties or lifetime guarantees, or just go with one of these sets recommended by Business Insider.
A Claw Hammer
Even if you don’t plan on doing a lot of carpentry, claw hammers are a useful piece of equipment to have around the house. They’re good for taking care of everything from a popped porch nail to hanging a picture, and are absolutely essential for many DIY projects. Here again, quality counts. Seek out trusted, well-reviewed brands—even if you wind up spending a little bit more than the economy model, it’s worth it. Choose a “smooth face” hammer with a steel or fiberglass handle and a straight rip claw for a good, general-purpose tool that will handle most any project you can throw at it.
An Electric Drill
Sooner or later, most homeowners need to drill a hole in the wall or fix a loose screw. A quality electric drill in your toolkit will help you handle these jobs—but with the right bits and attachments you can also sand, grind and mix paints and finishes, along with many other functions. That makes your drill one of the most versatile pieces in your toolkit. When selecting one, you’ll need to decide whether you want to go corded or not. Cordless drills offer the obvious convenience of working untethered, but these models are sometimes less powerful than corded drills, and obviously have to be charged before they can be used. For the best results, look for a model ranging between 12 and 18 volts, which is more than enough power for most repair jobs.
A Tape Measure
We understand if you’re not crazy about power tools, but there’s no excuse for not having one of these somewhere in your house. Tape measures are necessary for everything from cutting wood for projects to hanging blinds to measuring whether that new sofa you have your eye on will fit in your living room. Pick one that measures about ¾-inch by 16 feet, which is a good standard size.
Whether you’ve got an overgrown tree branch on your hands or a too-tall Christmas tree, a hacksaw is your go-to tool for cutting it down to size. While more advanced DIYers may want to look into a full-service power saw, a hacksaw is good for home repair one-offs and those random odd jobs that pop up every once and awhile. Go for one that has at least a two-foot-long blade that can be replaced after it dulls.
A Set of Pliers
Pliers are amazing little hand tools, able to twist wires, cut fasteners and grip and clamp metal pieces in awkward, difficult spaces. There are tons of different types, but all you really need are three basic pairs to get your toolkit started: a set of 8-inch needle-nose pliers, a set of 10-inch groove-joint pliers and a pair of locking pliers. The needle-nose pliers are useful for twisting and cutting small wires and cables, as well as drawing out nails and screws in hard-to-reach spaces. Groove-joint pliers will help you turn nuts and bolts and get enough torque to loosen pipes and connections. The locking pliers act as a handheld vice, which makes them handy for removing frozen or broken screws, nuts, bolts, staples, nails pins—basically if you need to get it loose, these guys can help.
Need to put in a new sink? Fix a leaky faucet? Then these wrenches will be your best friend. They have a curved head that helps turn pipes and fittings. You can buy them in a three- or four-piece set, which should get you squared away for most small plumbing repairs around the home. Look for a set made from aluminum for a super-sturdy long-lasting addition to your toolkit.
A Staple Gun
Staple guns are great for everything from hanging Christmas decorations to repairing upholstery and everything in between. Regardless of how apt you are at home repairs, you’ll no doubt find plenty of uses for one of these in your life as a homeowner. Opt for an all-purpose manual carton stapler, and try the trigger before you settle on it. You want a staple gun that you can operate without too much effort—a sore hand is not a good look for any home handyperson!
A Utility Knife
A good utility knife has tons of uses—cutting into packaging, undoing plastic zip ties, and breaking down boxes, just to name a few—so it’s safe to say every homeowner could use one of these in their toolbox. Ideally, your utility knife should have replaceable blades, plus safety features like a nonslip handle and a retractable tip. Get enough blades and you can basically survive a zombie apocalypse!
If you want to go for extra credit or have several DIY projects in your future, you may also want to add a level, a hand sander, an adjustable wrench, a chisel, a putty knife, and a handsaw—or any other extras you think you might need along the way. Now, congratulate yourself! You’ve just leveled up your homeownership!