Whether you rent or own your home, having a good set of tools is essential.
Depending on your skill level, professional help may be necessary for many projects, from installing flooring to plumbing problems. But there are plenty of things you can do around the house with virtually no skills. All you need is a little help from DIY videos, and a few simple tools. Here are 11 that everyone needs.
Useful for everything from hanging a picture to taking out your frustrations, a hammer is the foundation of every toolkit. While wood handles are cheaper, fiberglass is stronger, lighter, more shock absorbent and safer. The typical hammer is 16 ounces, and has a curved claw on one side to remove nails and pry things open. Look for the words “drop forged” – they’re better made.
You can find a good quality hammer for around $15.
The next most-used tool is the screwdriver.
Phillips and flat head — also known as “plus” and “minus” for the shape of their tips — are the most common. But since sets are cheap, you might as well get a bunch. You can get a six-piece set for around $18, or a kit with one ratcheting handle and 20 different bits for around $12. Ratcheting handles allow you to turn the screwdriver with less turning of your wrist. It’s a nice labor-saver.
For both comfort and safety, insulated handles are nice. They are easier on your hand and safer for electrical work.
Whether you’re hanging a picture or installing shelves, keep everything on the level. Levels come in an almost infinite variety of sizes and types, but you can easily find a decent torpedo level for less than $10.
You’ll use these for tightening nuts and bolts, removing nails from a wall, holding and bending stuff, and a million other things.
Pliers come in lots of forms: A “slip-joint” allows them to change the position based on the thickness of what you’re working with. Needle-nose gets you into tight spots. Channellock pliers open wide. And dikes come with a wire cutter, handy for electrical work. You can get sets for around $23 that will cover most of the bases.
5. Duct tape
From emergency repairs on a leaky pipe or hose to making a prom dress (yes, really), duct tape can do almost anything. This tape is thick, extra sticky, strong and cheap — around $8.
Anyone living in a snowy climate should have a transfer or square-nose shovel around. A round-nose (or digging) shovel is a must for cleaning up your garden, dirt, debris or even cutting small roots.
Like hammers, shovels come in both wood and fiberglass handles. Also like hammers, fiberglass is stronger, lighter and more expensive. Still, you can pick up a decent fiberglass-handled shovel for as little as $20.
If you live in an apartment, this tool may not be necessary. However, homeowners know the value of a ladder. A ladder is a necessity for everything from getting on the roof to putting up Christmas lights. For apartment and condo dwellers, a small stepladder can help when it comes to changing a light bulb or adjusting decor.
If space is at a premium, you can find telescoping ladders for around $100 and up.
Want to cut the price of your ladder in half? Share one with a neighbor. It’s rare when both of you will need it at the same time. Neighbor co-ops like this are the single best way to save on all manner of household tools from chainsaws to lawn mowers.
8. Tape measure
It’s an old saying: Measure twice, cut once. There’s no end to the things that need measuring, from shelves to rooms to waistlines. I keep small, cheap tape measures in my car and a drawer at home. I also keep a 25-foot, better-quality one in my tool box. You can find one for less than $10. These are also frequently featured in home improvement stores’ Black Friday sales.
9. Utility knife
Tired of using your steak knives to open cardboard boxes? Get a utility knife with retractable, replaceable blades. It’s always sharp, safer than a regular knife and necessary to do everything from stripping wire to cutting open that ridiculous sealed plastic packaging. You can get one for around $10.
10. Hand saw
There are saws for pruning branches, cutting wood, going through metal and many other specialized uses. You can get one with interchangeable blades that will do most of what you want for less than $20.
11. Power drill
If you’re only going to have one power tool, spring for this one. While obviously useful for drilling holes, a 3/8-inch variable-speed reversible drill can also function as a power screwdriver, buffer, grinder and even sander. Models with cords are cheaper and lighter, but cordless drills are more versatile and less hassle to use.
They come in all prices, but you can buy a decent one for less than $50.
Did we leave anything out? Tell us about your preferred tools and projects in comments below or on our Facebook page.