Whether you’re building a new home or buying an older resale home, chances are, you’ll want to put your own personal stamp on your home and make it your own. That usually means taking on some home improvement projects. To safeguard your investment and protect the resale value of your home, you’ll also want to stay on top of the basic home maintenance tasks that will keep your home looking good and running smoothly. Taking care of the small things as they arise will help eliminate the need for major repairs later. This will involve time, some good old-fashioned elbow grease and a well-stocked tool box. Having the right tools on hand will make the job both faster and easier.
Essential Tools for the Homeowner’s Tool Box
If you don’t already have a set of tools, you’ll need to build a basic tool kit to handle those home maintenance tasks and home improvement projects around the house. If you already have a tool box, you may want to check the list and stock up on any items you may be lacking. Having the essential tools on hand will save time and eliminate emergency trips to the hardware or home improvement store; you’ll be ready to handle almost any job you’re confident enough to tackle – from hanging artwork to unclogging a drain. The recommended tool list varies from expert to expert, but these are the tools that professionals most consistently recommend for the homeowner’s tool kit:
* Screwdrivers – Phillips #1 and #2 sizes, Flat – small, medium and large from 1/8 to 1/2 or consider a multi-screwdriver which has a regular screwdriver handle with a socket for inserting various types of drive bits. Many jobs involve tightening and loosening screws like assembling furniture, tightening knobs, mounting shelving or heavy artwork and small electrical jobs.
* Hammer – 16-ounce for men or 14-ounce for women, either wood or fiberglass shaft with a claw end. A hammer is essential for a variety of jobs including hanging artwork, installing moldings, and driving and pulling out nails in small building projects.
* Cordless Drill/Driver – a 14.4 volt model should be suitable for home use and provide plenty of torque for most projects. You may find that you’ll reach for your drill more often than any other tool. Besides drilling pilot holes and installing wall anchors, your drill can be used with driver bits to drive screws for heavy artwork, mirrors and shelving.
* Drill Kit with various twist and masonry bits and square, torx and hex tips.
* Tape Measure – 25-ft. retractable tape measure to measure for window treatments, mirror/art placement, small building projects and outdoor projects.
* Level – basic torpedo level indicates horizontal and vertical plumb. A must for hanging artwork, mirrors and molding straight and leveling outdoor hardscaping/paths and porch railings.
* Combination Square – for marking measurements, drawing and cutting perpendicular lines.
* Pencils – for marking and figuring dimensions
* Pliers – needlenose, slip-joint and 12 lock-jaw pliers. Pliers act as an extension of your fingers – only stronger. Use them to grasp and hold objects.
* Adjustable Wrench – 12 and 8 crescent wrenches, pipe wrench. Wrenches are used for turning bolt heads or nuts. You may need one for tightening the kids’ toys or the legs on the kitchen table.
* Allen Wrenches or Hex Keys – 2 sets, one standard and one metric. Often needed for putting together bicycles and unassembled furniture or storage pieces.
* Clamps – assorted types, basic-C clamps, 2 – 4 bar clamps with squeeze clutch, a small portable vise. Clamps are made for holding parts together while the glue dries.
* Utility Knife with Sharp Blades – for opening boxes, cutting dry wall repairing window screens and removing old caulk.
* All-Purpose Knife – folding, locking pocket knife for cutting, opening, marking, scraping, trimming, whittling, scoring and puncturing.
* Razor Knife with Replaceable Blades – for scraping paint off of windows.
* Scissors – heavy-duty scissors for cutting rope, cording, small gauge wire and plant stems.
* Knife Sharpener – simple carbide-V sharpener to keep the blades of your cutting tools sharp.
* Crosscut Wood Saw – cuts across the grain of the wood for a smooth edge – use for cutting plywood, hardboard panels and making mitered and angled cuts.
* Hacksaw – used for cutting metal, plastic and pipes.
* Metal File – for sharpening large blades.
* Flashlights – handheld lantern-style light and snakelights that wrap around and hold themselves up. Flashlights are vital for emergency lighting in a black-out or if power must be shut off for electrical work, plumbing repairs and seeing into dark cabinets, closets, attics and crawl spaces.
* Non-contact Voltage Tester – safety device for use in electrical projects will flash or chirp when it comes near a hot wire.
* Stud Finder – will help identify where the wall studs are located inside the walls for mounting shelving, closet organizers, cabinets, etc.
* Electrical Tape – for repairing exposed wiring or electrical cords.
* Wire Stripper – removes insulation from electrical wires so they can be twisted together and capped – handy for simple electrical projects like replacing a light fixture.
* Outdoor Extension Cord – an outdoor cord is more versatile since it can be used outdoors and indoors if needed.
* Safety gear – safety glasses and work gloves should be worn for any project involving cutting, sanding, scraping, filing, or chemicals/solvents.
* Plunger – flange plunger for unclogging drains or toilets.
* Vacuum Cleaner – a 6-gallon wet-dry shop vac for cleaning up messes after projects like stripped wallpaper, saw dust, spackle dust or plaster, scraped paint, etc.
* Shop Bucket – large bucket for catching leaks, mixing goop and heavy-duty cleaning jobs.
* Shop Rags – for wiping hands and cleaning up tools and messes after projects.
* Putty Knife – for filling cracks or nail holes.
* Broad-Blade Scraper – for scraping off loose paint
* Sandpaper – an assortment of grits
* Duct Tape – great for temporary repairs of all kinds.
* Wood Glue – for repairing wood items like picture frames and for small building projects.
* Instant Adhesive (Crazy Glue) – all-purpose for adhering a variety of surfaces to one another (plastic, rubber, metal, leather). Watch your fingers!
* Fastener Assortment Kit – organizer containing nails, screws, wall anchors, nuts, bolts, washers, picture hangers, etc. A starter kit will handle a variety of jobs, but you may still need to purchase individual pieces or packs for specific jobs.
* Tool Container – consider a 5-gallon bucket with an apron/organizer to hold tools and removable trays that fit inside to hold smaller items. They’re great for organizing the tools and toting them around.
* Ladder – if the budget allows, purchase two ladders: one light-weight aluminum or fiberglass 2 – 4 ft. stepladder to pull out for quick indoor jobs, and one multi-position ladder (13 ft.) that can be adjusted for use as a staircase ladder indoors and an outdoor extension ladder for painting or roof access.
Granted, this is not a short list, and if you’re a new homeowner, you may not have a lot of extra resources available right now. If that’s the case, and you can’t swing all the items on the list, invest what you can in a good quality set of screwdrivers, a claw hammer, tape measure, level, pliers, an adjustable wrench, a utility knife, cordless drill and drill kit, fastener assortment kit, flashlights, plunger and a ladder. And don’t forget the tool bucket and organizer to keep them in! Then add a new tool to your kit as you can afford it, or on an as-needed basis. I’ll bet that within the first year living in your new home, you’ll have a need for every tool on the list (and maybe a few more).
A special thanks to my personal friend, home improvement consultant and handyman extraordinaire, Handy Hans, for his advice and expert opinion on which tools should make the recommended basic tool kit list! I’d recommend his business and give him a plug, but he tells me he has all the work he can handle right now. And so it goesthe best ones are always busy!