Your home is often your biggest investment – and like any other investment it needs to be maintained and cared for. We’ve put together a list of the most basic tools that every homeowner should have in their arsenal for everything from small fixes to big jobs.
Screwdrivers. From tightening and loosening hardware to cracking open paint cans lids, a screwdriver will be one of your most-used tools. At the very least, you’ll need a Philips and a flathead screwdriver, but having a few different sizes comes in handy for different jobs. You can also get a handle with interchangeable tips that can cover a wide range of screw sizes and types.
Hammer. A claw hammer is versatile tool for both pounding and pulling nails, knocking together furniture, and acting as a crowbar. A lighter, longer hammer will help give you more leverage.
Tape Measure. Measure twice, cut once using a good, solid tool like a tape measure. Keep it nearby to measure everything from wall area for buying trim to doorjams to see what furniture will actually fit into your home. Get one that will lock when extended so that you aren’t fighting with it when measuring long distances.
Safety Gear. These items should be at the top of your list – safety glasses, a good respirator or dust masks (depending on your job), and work gloves. You should always wear safety glasses or goggles when using a hammer or any power tool or when mixing chemicals. A respirator or dust mask should be used anytime something might mix into the area, whether it’s sawdust, sanded paint, or chemicals. Sometimes when using power tools work gloves are actually MORE dangerous (as they could get caught) but should always be used to protect your hands from being poked or pricked.
Level. Here’s a tip – you might think that you’re good at eyeballing what’s straight in your house, but your house itself might not always be straight and level. For everything from hanging artwork or shelves to laying a patio, a sturdy level is indispensable for a homeowner. Make sure you get one with a vertical and horizontal bubble tubes for checking that surfaces are both level (horizontal) and plumb (vertical).
Cordless Drill. This is the only power tool on the list because of its adaptability. From drilling pilot holes to driving screws, cordless drills use a variety of different bits. Variable speeds and reverse functions give you the most out of this tool.
Chalk Line. Most home projects are a little longer than your ruler or yardstick can measure, and marking a straight line longer than a few feet with a tape measure can sometimes be difficult. Snapping a chalk line gives a quick, straight line on most surfaces. If you have more money to spend, you can purchase a laser level instead, which will give you plumb and level lines with the push of a button.
Flashlight/Headlamp. Most repairs don’t happen in the greatest of circumstances, so you should always have a flashlight and some batteries on hand. Headlamps are especially useful for jobs changing light fixtures or working under cabinets where there isn’t always space for someone to hold a flashlight for you.
Pliers. There are many types of pliers, but needle-nosed pliers are the most commonly used for holding objects in place as well as bending or pinching metal. Many versions come with a hand built-in wire cutting feature.
Utility Knife. Cutting boxes, shaving wood, cutting and scraping paint, and making marks are just a few of the things you’ll be able to do with this tool. Make sure you replace your dull blades with new ones as needed – like kitchen knives, dull blades are the most dangerous.
Extension Cord. A well-insulated outdoor-rated power cord will ensure that you can use your cord for both house projects and yardwork. Different tools and appliances require different amps of current to power up, so your cord will need to be powerful enough to conduct the required electricity.
Ladder. From changing lightbulbs and fixtures to installing crown molding and painting walls, a ladder will help you safely reach your higher jobs. Make sure that you check the ladder’s duty rating so you know how much weight it will safely support.
Putty Knife. A putty knife can be used for spreading patch, paste, and spackle, scraping paint and glue, and even as leverage for widening gaps, like separating the wall from the baseboard enough for your crowbar to fit.
Adjustable Crescent Wrench. A screw built into the head of this tool adjusts the size of the opening so that it fits almost any hexagonal nut. Use a wrench with a longer handle for extra leverage and a shorter handle for tight spaces.
Digital MultiMeter. Also known as ohmmeters or volt-ohm meters, a digital multimeter is a tool used by electricians to measure voltage (volts), current (amps), and resistance (ohms). If any homeowner is planning on doing any electrical work (even simply changing a light fixture), a multimeter can help measure whether a wire is live or not, test fixture sockets, or even test batteries. Remember to NEVER attempt to perform any electrical repairs on a live circuit.
Caulking Gun. More glues and sealants, like silicones and caulks, come in large tubes that require a caulking gun to dispense. Make sure you find one with a built-in cutter to remove the tip from the tube and a wire for keeping the tube tip from becoming clogged. When you’re finished with your project make sure you properly seal the tube with duct tape or a Seal-a-Tube cap.
Wire Strippers. Wire strippers have several different notches for scoring and stripping the insulation from electrical wire, and a blade for cutting to the proper length.
C Clamps. These clamps can hold together materials when you need to glue, saw, or file them. Using a shim or a piece of cardboard between the clamp and your material will ensure that you don’t leave any marks.
Combination Bow Saw/Hacksaw. A standard bowsaw is used to cut through dry wood and lumber, while a hacksaw is useful for cutting metal objects like pipes, bolts, or brackets. Focus on a sturdy frame and purchase blades suitable for both uses. If you plan on lots of projects that require cutting you’ll more than likely want separate tools (and maybe a circular saw…and a chopsaw…and a tablesaw), but for those looking for an inexpensive multipurpose tool to keep on hand, this is a good two-in-one.
Duct Tape. Last but certainly not least, duct tape is extremely strong and versatile. Originally called “duck tape” (because of its resistance to water), it was widely used in World War II to make temporary repairs to jeeps and aircraft. Now it is most commonly referred to as “duct tape” because of its use in sealing heating and air conditioning ducts (which is no longer recommended). Regardless, this fabric-backed tape is one of the most useful items for quick fixes.